In 84 days I will be a Webster University graduate. Aside from being, well, terrified, I’ve been distractingly nostalgic lately. I’m compelled by a sense of social responsibility to leave some wisdom behind, so my fellow commuter students, this one is for you.
There is one question that I have continually asked myself since day one of becoming a Gorlok. Was I missing out on the “college experience” by living at home, 20 minutes away from campus?
When I think about it now, I answer the question with a shrug and a ‘well, sure.’ It would have been a very different four years of revolving roommates, on-campus dining, doing my own laundry and partaking in resident events, but I’m not sorry. Rather than being thrown into a community, I found my own. I call them my Webster families.
As a commuter, there were two things that were emphasized to me during orientation: 1— get involved on campus and 2— there is a cozy gathering place on campus designated just for students like me. It was appropriately labeled the Commuter Lounge (though uninspired).
I think the creation of the Commuter Lounge was well-intentioned, though somewhat misguided. If I’m being honest, I would suggest you do not hang out there at all. From my experience, there is no family to be found there, only quiet, the occasional bad television program and the smell of whatever someone passing through has just microwaved.
My search for on-campus community took me to some interesting places. I attended one Student Education Association meeting, a couple of Collaborative Media Board meetings, a handful of Amnesty International Meetings, the photo club, Freshman Council and Campus Crusades for Christ. I have—mostly— no shame in admitting my attendance at meetings for these groups was highly motivated by food. Egg rolls or not, I did not stick around at any of the meetings for long, taking my search elsewhere.
Friends I made at orientation and in my classes kept me from doing the dreaded commuter shuffle during this time. I stayed on campus and ate with friends, as apposed to going straight home after class. Sometimes we hung out in their dorms or apartments after classes. The library is also a nice place. I highly suggest it.
In the end, I found my two families in Sverdrup Hall after changing my major from education to journalism. I had been on the staff of Webster’s student-produced magazine, The Ampersand, since my freshman year, which turned out to be a family all along. I met two of my best friends there and got close to many others. When —after five semesters on staff, two as editor-in-chief— I had to say goodbye, I bawled like a baby. But I was moving to a new family: The Journal. Two semesters with this hilarious, talented group of people will hardly be enough, but the reason I emphasize the importance of finding a Webster family is because you’ll always be a part of it.
The Journal family extends years back. Former members return to visit, or share their successes on the group’s Facebook page. Many of them are still close friends and “children” of our dedicated adviser. Every semester, former members of The Ampersand request a copy of the newest issue to be mailed to them. I may not know all of my “extended family members,” but our involvement in and love of the program(s) that connect us is a bond we will always share.