Updated: Jul 10, 2020
By Ambreen Khalid
One of the first things that comes to mind when you imagine the traditional university experience is living away from home, an appealing choice for many students. However, once my place at university was confirmed, it was a hard decision to make; deciding between living at university or commuting from home. I had many questions- whether I would get the full university experience living at home, how I would balance medical school with commuting, if I would miss out on anything important or even if it would make it harder for me to make friends as I wouldn’t be living in halls.
But speaking as a student who commutes to university, I can honestly say that despite my initial reservations, I have the best of both worlds. Commuting shouldn’t be seen as a barrier from making the most of the university experience, I’ve still been able to make amazing friends at uni, join many societies, go to countless events and also work at university alongside my studies.
From the beginning, the University of Manchester was a favourite of mine, and I just so happened to live close, a 15-minute train journey into Manchester, followed by a further 15 minutes on the bus to the university, so there really wasn’t any point in me moving out.
There are, of course, some downsides with commuting, such as unreliable train times which adds more time to my travels and can be very frustrating. You also have to consider that you will probably be required to wake up earlier to get to university and will often get home later than someone who lives near the university. Commuting can also be time consuming depending on where you live.
The pros of commuting have certainly outweighed the cons for me: staying at home has allowed me to save a lot of money, enabled me to spend more time with my friends from school and college and most importantly family- it’s great that I don’t have to miss out on much from home.
Commuting also allows for a better work/life balance, it is beneficial to have that time away from the university setting, particularly when things get stressful. On the plus side you don’t have to think about grocery shopping, washing clothes, cooking meals, so you definitely have more time to spend with friends and fit more activities into your busy medical school schedule.
On the other hand, studying as a medical student can be slightly different to someone who’s living at university. Studying as a commuting medical student essentially means thinking more strategically regarding how and when to study. As the typical medical school timetable is often busy, using free periods between lectures, PBL and other sessions to study are useful, especially as commuting can be so time consuming. Setting realistic goals to complete during the day is helpful. Knowing when to switch off is also important, you don’t want to overdo yourself, as commuting can be tiring. It’s always worth making sure you have a good study environment at home without any distractions.
Some of my top tips for commuting:
Knowing the train/bus timetable – downloading relevant travel apps with the bus and train times so that you’re not wasting time such as TrainLine, National Rail etc
Learning the shortcuts
Use your journey to study and learn on the commute (if you’re lucky enough to not have a packed train at rush hour!)
Use a student rail card to get a discount on rail fares. (If you open a student current account with Santander, you can get a free 16-25 rail card which gives you a 1/3 off rail travel).
Consider getting a seasonal train ticket which allows unlimited travel between stations specified, you can often get a combined train/ bus seasonal ticket
Yearly bus passes are also useful
Parking is often expensive and hard to find on campus, but look out for monthly or yearly car parking deals for car parks nearby as these often work out to be cheaper
Have a good work-life balance- know when to switch off
Make time for other activities outside of your medical studies, join societies- a great way to meet new people outside of your course
Go to freshers- another great way to meet new people
Try and plan social events around your university timetable
Stay organised and use your time wisely so that you can spend more time on extracurricular activities or going out with friends
Overall just remember whenever your experiencing some sort of FOMO, don’t be afraid to get stuck in, you can definitely have a social life and enjoy the university experience by commuting. Since you’ve literally invested in going the extra mile, and have chosen to travel to university, definitely be more willing to take advantage of the various opportunities that university life gives you.
But most importantly remember to WORK HARD and HAVE FUN!!!