“I can’t stay out, I have to make it for the last bus,” and “No, I have to run for the train in 15 minutes.” Everyone who does not live within a close distance of campus endures this. According to the 2016 census, over 16 percent of students need to travel over an hour to get to college in Dublin. Of course, this number has only been rapidly increasing ever since. Perhaps your friend is a commuter. Perhaps you yourself are. When I say commuter, I don’t mean arriving on campus by the end of the duration of two songs, I mean arriving on campus by the end of two whole albums…
From an outside perspective, living at home can be seen as the best of both worlds. You get to go to college every day and still have the comfort of your own home by the end of it. The familiar support network that you’ve had all throughout your life is still there. It eases the transition between secondary school and college. It saves a heap of money and spares the worry of securing and affording student accommodation.
Although, what about the commuter’s student life? Coming from a personal opinion and one shared amongst fellow commuter friends, we are completely burnt out. The majority of our days are spent travelling. If we have only one lecture during the day, double that class time will be spent on public transport. While everyone experiences the dreaded College timetabling with the 4-hour gaps between classes, those who commute do not have the luxury of heading back to their accommodation for the gap when they feel tired, unwell, or just want to rest. They have no choice but to stay in the library or a café, as time drags by.
“After spending the day on campus from 9am till 4pm, the last thing a commuter is going to want to do is hang around another 6 hours to then have a night out in Diceys”.
Nights out are another issue. Do you fork out the cash for a taxi or do you get the last bus home when the night hasn’t even properly started? Some people’s bus services run a 24-hour service while the majority of other routes only operate til midnight. After spending the day on campus from 9am till 4pm, the last thing a commuter is going to want to do is hang around another 6 hours to then have a night out in Diceys. In a study conducted by TUD Head of Campus Life, Dr. Brian Gomley states: “international literature indicates that students in student residences have a higher level of engagement than students in other living arrangements.” It is nearly impossible to have the same engagement level as those living on or near campus. By opting to live at home, commuters are automatically at a disadvantage.
People often have a stereotypical view of college that it will be the best years of your life. However, does this factor in every college student? It cannot be denied that there is a divide between the student that lives a 15-minute walk from campus and the student who has to catch the 6.30am bus every morning to scrape it in time for their 9am. There’s a considerable difference between the person who has got the recommended 8 hours of sleep and the one struggling to stay awake on 5 hours. At times it can feel that your own energy levels, personal capabilities and strength — not to forget a significant intake of cans of Monster — are the determining factors.
“Yet, Irish commuter students are in a state of limbo where they are living an independent life at college but as soon as they arrive back home it feels as if they have never left”.
Many European countries don’t face this issue. College is seen as a time of growth and independence. Often this indicates moving out of the home and living independently for the first time. This transition is pivotal in every young person’s life. Yet, Irish commuter students are in a state of limbo where they are living an independent life at college but as soon as they arrive back home it feels as if they have never left. They are living two different lives. It goes without saying no one can balance out the challenges that come with these two alternating existences. Sometimes it can feel like it is more effort than it is worth. While every country has its own problems, the lack of student housing in many European countries is not as severe as it is in Ireland, specifically Dublin. In a study conducted as part of the EuroStudent Social and Economic Conditions of Student Life in Europe 2018-2021, Ireland ranked third highest in Europe for accommodation costs by the size of study location. Irish college students notice this especially when abroad, if they decide to go on Erasmus for example. The culture shock to be seen is immense.
It might be asked why don’t commuters look for student accommodation in the city centre? If it is so bad then why put up with the commute? Why would they sacrifice their social life? Most commuters do not have a choice. It is the expectation that if you live in Dublin or the surrounding counties (AKA the commuter belt) to travel to and from campus every day. The fact that this is a given in Irish society is a stark reminder of the housing crisis. While the isolating impact of commuting can have a dire effect on students’ well-being and socialisation, this is only one issue of many. Students have frequently spoken out about their individual and collective injustices. The National Student Walkout carried out on October 13 is the most recent example. As thousands across the country left their classes in throngs, the demands have shown to be stronger than ever. Caps on rents need to be enforced that are affordable to all college students. An increase in purpose-built student accommodation needs to be seen too. Perhaps then and only then, by giving all college students the option — an equal student life can begin to come about.