Life at Royal Holloway as a Commuter Student

Amal Abdi talks about life as a commuter student at RHUL.

Student who commute to university from home are growing in number. But, their specific experiences are often ignored in the student narrative. It might be difficult to understand why people choose to commute but for me and many of my friends, growing up in London, the idea of moving out for a university was not even something to contemplate. Of course, commuting is far cheaper than living on campus, especially with the scrapping of the maintenance grant now becoming a loan.

The reality is that many students from working-class backgrounds, simply cannot afford for many reasons to leave their family homes and be straddled with so much debt. There are also cultural reasons for commuting, as some children are expected to stay at home throughout university.

I commuted to Royal Holloway from West London in my first two years. 9 am lectures were my worst enemy,  especially when I had to travel just for one lecture or seminar. It was demoralizing to make all that effort – waking up early, making a 3-hour round trip – just for a 50-minute seminar. Not to mention travelling at rush hour on crowded trains, which

were often inevitably late. 

Between my classes, I was not able to go home like peers but instead had to cower in the library looking for a seat where I could watch Netflix and quietly eat the overpriced sandwich I bought from the SU shop.

Much of university life isn’t for everyone. Clubbing and drinking had never appealed to me, so missing fresher’s week was never an issue. However, I can understand the frustration of not fully enjoying your night out of fear for missing the last train. It doesn’t help that social media exacerbates all the FOMO feels with people flaunting themselves all over Facebook and Instagram.

But, commuting is not all bad. Despite Royal Holloway being in the middle of nowhere, I was surprised to find that many other students also commuted. Befriending fellow commuters gave me the chance to chat to other students experiencing university the same way I was.

Truthfully,  commuting to university is not as much of a hassle as people would imagine. In my second year, I only had classes two days of the week and was able to spend the rest of my week at home in London. This meant I could maintain part-time work for the whole year, instead of just the holidays.

The smart thing to do is, of course, to acquire a railcard that gives you a third off of travel. I’m known for preaching about that great podcast I listened to on the train: buying a good pair of headphones is a great investment, as well as always carrying a book in your bag.

With good organisational skills and building up patience for the ever disappointing train service, being a student commuter becomes very manageable and sometimes even enjoyable. •