My freshman year of college I made the decision to commute due to financial reasons. It was a very tough time for my family and I, so paying to live in the Residence Halls was not an option for me. At first, I was very disappointed to not be able to have a “normal college experience” as I felt that I was going to miss out on many things by not living on campus. I also hated the idea of having to drive 3 hours everyday, specially during storms and other severe weather conditions. I was also scared that I would not make any friends in school, as I would not have the chance to hang out with anyone outside of class.
My opinion on commuting, however, changed quickly, starting a couple of days before classes began during the University Honors Laredo Taft Retreat…
I was walking from an off-campus parking lot (as I did not have a parking permit yet) to the convocation center. I remember taking the longest possible route as my phone was not working and I had no idea where I was going. It was a very hot summer day, and I was carrying a backpack, a sleeping bag, and a pillow across campus. When I finally arrived to the Convocation Center, I was covered in sweat and decided to stand under the shade of a small tree to cool down. It was under this tree that I made my first friend at NIU, and that is a memory I will never forget. I was standing in the shade when this person came up to me and began talking to me. We talked for a while and then rode the bus together, spending most of the retreat together. It was then that I realized that I was going to have a great time in college, regardless of where I was living.
Once classes started, I had already made a few friends and I felt very confident I would make more. I turned out to be right and I made a lot more friends that first week of school. I was very lucky to have signed up for the Calculus and Physics Themed Learning Community (TLC), which meant that I would take physics and calculus with the same group of students. This allowed me to get to know the people in my TLC very well and I feel very lucky to have done so.
I definitely recommend any first-year student to sign up for a TLC, specially if this student is commuting. Not only did I have the chance to make very good friends, I also had the advantage to work together with others and getting to know my professors.
For my second year at NIU, I decided I wanted to live in the Residence Halls, Grant D to be specific. One of my buddies from my TLC had asked me to be his roommate and as we got along really well, I thought it would be a good idea. Living at the Res. Halls is really convenient. Having my classes so close to me is a huge benefit and it helps me get a little more sleep each night. I am also able to be more involved and get to know even more people on campus. Not having to worry about food, dishes, and cleaning is also very convenient as it gives me more time to focus on other things.
I personally enjoy living on campus, and would recommend this to any student regardless of age, grade, or major. Grant D proved to be the perfect fit for me and I am very glad I decided to live here.
To summarize, I had a somewhat “nontraditional” first year at NIU, but I still made the best out of it. I would recommend any student who is not living on campus to get involved with a TLC and with other program on campus. This will help you make connections and meet new people. I would probably have hated my Freshman year if I had just being going to class and right back home. Staying after class for meetings, events, and even homework really made a difference for me and it opened the door for me to make lots of friends. I also encourage EVERYONE to live on campus at least one year and take advantage of all the benefits and perks that come with living in the Residence Halls. One way or another, you should try to make the most out of your college experience and take advantage of all the resources NIU has to offer. You are coming to a great institution that offers Undergraduate Research, an honors program, diversity centers, student organizations, and many more programs you can get involved with. Don’t waste your first two years and get out there and grab these opportunities! You only have four (maybe five, or six, or more) years at NIU, make the best of them!