A few years ago, I went with my sister to tour her future college,, Barnard. She was one of only about 15 commuters from her class and many expected her to have little to no social life on campus. When I began at Fordham, I arrived with the same expectations.
We have all heard the stereotypes: not a lot of commuters, no social life, etc. But how many of them are true? My own experience has been completely opposite of almost every stereotype I have heard about commuting at Fordham, but maybe I am wrong. To get to the heart of the matter so we can change commuter stigmas, I asked several students about their experiences commuting to Fordham.
Perhaps the biggest stereotype about commuting to a university is that students have no social life. “This is due to time spent commuting which takes time away from school work and being away from campus regularly unlike most Fordham students who live on campus or in the surrounding community.
Analisa Blanco, FCRH ’17, claimed that her experience has been quite the opposite.
“I have multiple close knit friends that are commuters and residents alike,” Blanco said. “Just because I have to wake up an hour earlier than most students in order to catch a train does not mean I don’t have a social life.”
Gaetano Migliaccio, FCRH ’15, a commuter assistant, expressed similar sentiments, explaining that commuting has not really kept him from getting involved.
“Commuting has its ups and downs, like anything else, though,” said Migliaccio. “Scheduling is essential and time management is a major key to success for being a well-rounded, involved commuter. There’s always the knowledge in the back of my mind that my time at Fordham is limited for the day, so I need to be efficient for the time I do have. That being said, it is the only real disadvantage I have found about being a commuter.”
A key factor in getting commuters in touch with each other and forming a sense of community akin to dorming is the
commuter lounge in the basement of McGinley, according to Kevin Adams, FCRH ’14, another commuter assistant. The lounge is technically available to all students, but has really become the meeting ground for every commuter on campus. It is home away from home.
“Originally yes, it was called the commuter lounge,” Adams said. “They changed it to the student lounge because they wanted more residents to come in. It definitely is … a haven for commuters…It’s definitely just a place where everybody can hang out.”
Another stigma about commuters is that many of them only commute to save money. For me, this was simply not the case. Simply put, I am a little big for a twin bed, so it wasn’t really worth paying extra tuition to sleep uncomfortably, but that’s just me. Blanco and Migliaccio, however, expressed similar feelings about their choice.
“I actually enjoy being a commuter,” said Blanco. “Plus I really don’t think the dorm life is really for me…I prefer my dad’s home-cooking and my own bed.”
Migliaccio summarized his opinion quite succinctly.
“I had the option of indicating that I wanted to reside at Fordham when I applied,” Migliaccio said. “I declined it then, and I’d decline it again now.”
Beyond simply providing commuters with a place to hang out and a few friends right off the bat, the commuter assistants and the CSA (Commuting Student Association) provide multiple opportunities and events for commuters to gather and have fun on campus.
“CSA hosts lots of events every year,” Migliaccio said. “Their two main events are Thanks-Give-Away and Commuter Week, though they host numerous small-scale events, often in the Student Lounge. I’ve gone to TGA and Commuter Week and a couple of the evening events.”
Adams pointed to more ongoing projects that the CSA is engaged in for commuters.
“Well my colleague Joe Diegas is working on a program with the residence halls called the CA-RA program, basically,” Adams said. “He gets the residence assistants to talk to their freshman about some of the events that we have, and we talk to them about some of the events that we have…We’re just trying to get the two populations to come together.”
The interviews and the vibe I get in the lounge indicate a pretty happy commuter population. However, the work of a CA is never done, in the eyes of Migliaccio. He feels that the CSA has a lot of work to do to change the image of Fordham commuters.
“The attitude regarding commuters needs to be entirely changed, and that’s not going to be quick, nor easy,” said Migliaccio. “Commuter Assistants are currently doing what they can to expose commuters to campus life and get them involved with more residents, but I think a lot of work needs to be done on the side of ResLife. RAs are not trained to know about what Fordham offers for commuters, and commuters are often overlooked if you are a resident. It may seem expected, but if Fordham is trying to propagate the sense of a family, there is a large group in this family that needs more inclusion. I hope that the CA initiative to create ties with ResLife works out, and ideally I hope that each CA is paired with a freshman RA with whom he/she can create programs and create further mingling between the students.”
Migliaccio did indicate that the situation is slowly improving. “The CAs are already a big step in improving the commuter experience, but we can only do so much,” Migliaccio said. “As I said, it takes a major change in attitude toward commuting and commuters, and the way any student can start is to be more open to the commuter experience and respect commuters as fellow Fordham students.”
Commuters do have a strong sense of community and a thriving social life. After my first semester at Fordham, I had about 40 new phone numbers, most of which belonged to commuters. Commuting has given me the best of both words. Commuters get to spend the day on a beautiful campus, but they can also go home at night and study in the peace and sanctity of their own homes with their own beds and their own cooking.
So, before you echo the stereotype that commuters do not have a great experience at Fordham, think again. Perhaps they have it made.
Michael Dauber, FCRH ’15, is a philosophy and communication and media studies double major from Franklin Square, N.Y.
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