The Commuter Club
Read this article by Haania from our Bristol campus about her experiences as a commuter student.
After 4 years of living away from home for university – one of those all the way in Australia – I decided that I wanted to do my GDL and LPC while living at home. During all my vacation scheme and training contract interviews, this was something I would float to my interviewers – that I wanted to return home before beginning training in London.
So, as the God of all things does, my prayer was accepted and in October 2018, I began my thrice a week commute to University of Law Bristol. It took me almost 5 hours a day at first; I was new to the area, so did not realise that the extra hour was due to railway construction (which only last 2 weeks), and had quickly begged student services to switch me to 2 days a week.
Within a few months of commuting around 4hrs a day, 2 days a week, I had a few realisations: that I wasn’t made to attend 9am lectures in undergrad (and I certainly hadn’t turned over a new leaf in this postgrad stint); that it was slightly harder to make friends as I had to leave at certain times for the trains (it just made me more adamant and plan my time well); and that living with my parents again, as an adult with fully-fledged opinions, was different to being a stroppy teenager at home (even if I was, occasionally, still given to strop).
So I made a few adjustments – I stopped attending those godforsaken 9am lectures (don’t try this at home, kids) and instead went in to university early to study by myself; I reverted to my usual habit of bouncing between friend-groups to expand my network in Bristol; and on the parent-front, I prayed for patience and also thanked God for all the Pakistani food mama made for me daily.
Fast-forward to spring, and I had my routine down pat. I would leave my house around 8am, drive and park at the station, and get the train to Bristol. I would return anywhere between 5pm and 8 or 9pm depending on workload, social plans, my mood, and the trains’ mood. I had a wonderful colour-coded Google Sheet on which I inserted things up to 2 weeks in advance, and, on the train, I prepared for workshops on my way in as well as consolidating and making exam notes on my way home. On days where I had just one class, I would drive down instead (having pre-booked parking), and cut down my commute by around 2 hours (this seldom happened, as I usually had multiple classes, and I liked using the time on the train to study).
The original plan was to stay in this arrangement for a year and then bounce over to London for my LPC. However, on results’ day, when my firm congratulated me on my grades, they also said they didn’t mind me staying in my tiny village down South. So I stayed, and continued the commute, and spent more time with my parents (it’s almost like raising children, once they get past a certain age) and enjoyed my time as an ‘only child’ for the first time in my life.
Some questions I constantly get about this arrangement are:
“Doesn’t it get difficult, living with your parents?”
I would say that living with anyone, after a certain point, tests our sanity. Whether they be flatmates, siblings, parents, or partners – there are disagreements and arguments, but the resolution depends on your priorities. As much as I have, at times, found myself scrolling through flat for rent listings, I also know that the whole point of me being at home is to make sure I can help my parents when needed, and provide companionship. It might be a result of my Pakistani Muslim upbringing, but I feel a certain responsibility towards them (even on the days I get very frustrated and behave like an angry teen). And I have certainly seen a lot of my friends from other backgrounds commuting to ULaw Bristol from their parents’ houses – and only 50% of them are doing so to the save money!
“Why don’t you drive to uni?”
ULaw Bristol, like most other ULaw campuses, is very central. For Bristol, this means parking spaces are essentially gold dust. For my sanity, this means not driving in unless I am really in the mood. I also really do enjoy my morning email-catchup, Financial Times reading, and some last-minute workshop preparation on the train. I have also found myself missing these commutes because it gave me time to listen to many educational and immersive podcasts like Serial and Simon Sinek. Incidentally, (and owing, partly, to my extraverted nature) I have made multiple very interesting contacts on my commutes into university. Currently, I am in the process of setting up a meeting with one of them via email to see demo for a top-secret project.
“Do you miss out on the social aspect?”
Honestly, the answer is yes – at times. For example, in winter when the days are very short and I don’t want to be stuck on the 9pm train back with the dodgy lot (as I call them), I will split from the group early. However, with the GDL, everyone was sort of swimming in the workload together so a lot of socialising happened in the library and between classes. With the LPC, our cohort is much more ‘social’, and by this time I was a veteran commuter. It’s all about managing your time well and prioritising. A lot of my other commuter friends stay longer than me if it’s an activity they enjoy, whether it’s heading to the pub or to the Climbing Soc’s social climb or Mooting or social sports with other local unis. I would also say that, living at home, I split my time between uni friends and home friends. So, there were days I missed uni socials and hanging out, but I was able to get home and spend time with home friends. Also, I made a lot of friends at other local Bristol unis by joining group chats and getting to know people. This might require a certain level of extraversions but, honestly, I would be lying if I said I am always energetic and social. If I can go make friends with random people from Bristol Pakistani Society, so can you!
“How do you study at home?”
I think this can vary for each person. Fortunately for me, I can study anywhere as long as my brain knows I have to do it. The pressure – and not my physical environment – matters to me. E.g. I have studied during hospital visits, on buses, trains, and planes, in coffee shops and retail shops, in cars an gardens and my bedroom, in bed and (sometimes) in the library. I guess it’s all about what works best for you. For me, I enjoy being able to get up and get started right away and am comfiest in my pyjamas most days. There are certain tasks I enjoy doing having dressed smartly, so I bow to those inclinations when they occur.
One thing I have learned in this last year and a half is to listen to myself and be flexible (despite having a colour-coded Google Sheet with two weeks of plans) and that would be my advice to any of you. It definitely is a very enjoyable and different experience, to be able to live at home again, and my biggest reason for doing so is I know once the training contract starts, I will likely have flown the nest permanently.
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