by Erica Ly

(If you haven’t already, check out more Commuter Struggles you can relate to in PART 1.)


1. Delays. When the weather just isn’t helping.

Struggle Level: 10/10
So you have an exam at 1pm and you know that if you take this precise train, you will get there perfectly on time. But while you’re waiting for the GO, you hear the announcement that “Due to inclement weather, trains will the running approximately thirty minutes behind schedule” – and the panic ensues. Should you take the subway instead? The bus? The car? What about the traffic jams? What hasn’t been delayed except your exam time?!

Never underestimate a Canadian snowstorm. We may have the heaviest snowfalls but we also have the least school closures in elementary and high school because of a snow day (“5 feet of snow? School’s open, you’re going.”). It’s no different in university; there’s only increased stress because your grade (and life) is depending on this 50% final.

The painful truth: if you know there’s going to be even the slightest chance of flurries, move that schedule up and get to school an hour earlier. At least then if something happens, you have potential time to work with and find an alternative. Without a doubt, that is much better than crying to your professor when you didn’t have enough time to finish the exam or missed it entirely.


2. The Great Divide: When your friends live on campus but you don’t.

Struggle Level: 7/10
Inside jokes that you can’t comprehend, conversations recalling events that you can’t contribute to, group dinners that you can never attend – it’s no surprise that it’s hard for a commuter to remain relevant when their friends’ friends are living in the same residence and the commuter isn’t.

  1. Solution
    When (more like “if”) you have time in between classes, go out for coffee (or hot chocolate ^.^) and catch up. Remember that hanging out with your friends should be out of pure enjoyment and “fun”. When it starts feeling like going out of your way to meet up with your friends once a week is comparable to attending another university course, consider option b).
  2. Make commuter friends. First of all, they can relate to your struggles. Secondly, if they are going the same way as you, you’ll never miss your stop on the subway again because of a nap. (Also, check out New College’s commuter communities, where you can get in touch with fellow sufferers!)


3. “Starving” on the way home.

Struggle Level: 7/10
A “first world-problem” at its finest. So starving is an exaggeration: think about having to get on the train or subway home at odd hours like 11am, 3pm, or 7pm. Do you have a meal before you get started with your commute? Do you save money and wait until you get home, hungry and tired like a limp noodle? Either way, you end up relying on a contorted, unintended “diet plan” that turns into the norm and has your friends raising eyebrows (“Let’s go out for lunch.” “…But it’s 3pm?”).

Bonus: If you have 6pm to 9pm classes, you’ve probably gotten used to eating dinner at 5pm or 10pm by now…I know I have.

Since “The Commuter meal plan” is still non-existent at U of T, stock up on snacks or make a lunch from home for a healthier alternative. You can even plan a sum of money as your maximum budget for the week. This reminds you to save up and stop impulse purchases like that dollar store cat eraser that you just “had to have”.


4. Events, extracurriculars and school participation? What’re they?

Struggle Level: 10/10
It’s no secret that employers are paying a lot more attention to extracurricular participation in potential hires. However, if you’re a commuter student with classes spread out all over campus, topped with weirdly placed break hours in between day to night courses, and a desire to actually go home that day, when are you supposed to have time to participate in anything? Moreover, you wouldn’t want to go through your tedious and expensive commute to school only for one extracurricular event on your day off…

When planning your timetable, try to plan what clubs or extracurriculars you intend to join as well. Find out from the club presidents when the meetings usually are, and organize the times as if they were your courses. Immediately, you will be able to see which clubs you can join, without losing too much of your off-campus time. Unfortunately, if you are majorly dedicated to a club on your day off, you’ll simply have to evaluate what you prioritize more.


5. There are actually some great things you’ve seen while commuting though…

(Photo: Erica Ly)

Waiting for the train

(Photo: Erica Ly)

Awesomeness level: 10/10
I can’t be the only one who has seen how the lit-up bridges over the highway look when taking the Centennial GO Bus home after a 6-9pm class.; or the small, clear streams that flow from the most unexpected industrialized parts of downtown, while looking out the window on the train; or the way the sun rises and reflects off the glass shelters while waiting for the bus in the morning.

Sometimes after a sluggish day of school, you’ll be surprised with pretty great free-samples of warm soup or full-sized bags of popcorn and chips while heading to the train station. The bubbly personalities tend to rub off on you and your melancholic day may even get a bit better too.

The truth is I wouldn’t have been able to experience any of that if I hadn’t been a commuter with the oddest hours, and the most hectic transfers from one moving vehicle to another.


Maybe there is more to commuting than meets the eye?
(And if all else fails, at least we get to catch up on sleep on the ride to and from school.)


What other struggles have you experienced commuting? Any that have made your day better?