Confessions of a Big City Girl Attending a Small Town College

College Downsizing

What do you mean by “no subway”?

By Jasmin Suknanan, Stony Brook University


You’ve probably realized this by now, but for some, college is the time when you indulge in experiences that you wouldn’t otherwise try.

It’s college—it’s supposed to be the best four years of your life, so fuck it, right? Get out of your comfort zone; consider the options you’ve never considered before. That’s kind of what I did.

I guess I’m not exactly from the bustling, get-out-of-my-way-with-your-$2-coffee New York City that’s often depicted in the movies, but I grew up in a part of Queens that’s still very different from the Long Island town I’ve created a nest in over the last three years.

If I walked out of my front door, I could stretch my left arm out to my side and touch the wire gate that separated my front yard from my neighbor’s front yard. My neighbor backing her navy blue Subaru Outback into her driveway sounded like she was backing it into our driveway.

Confessions of a Big City Girl Attending a Small Town College
A cramped building in Queens, NY (Image via NYT)

But Long Island isn’t quite like that. More often than not, there isn’t even a gate separating your front yard from your neighbor’s. Sometimes there’s a row of bushes or a driveway drawing the line between two properties. If you relish the security that comes with your yard—flowerbeds, ugly lawn gnomes and all—being physically fenced off from another person’s, this is something to be aware of.

That’s not to say that if you don’t have a fence you don’t have safety, but some people just like not being able to see their neighbor’s flowerbeds from their yard. I personally feel that it’s refreshing to not have to wave to my neighbors through the holes of a rusting metal gate.

No matter how many times I complain about the public transportation running through Queens, nothing beats my annoyance every time I am forced to use—or attempt to use—public transportation around my college’s neighborhood.

In Queens, if I had to meet my best friend at the Jamaica LIRR Station and I was running late, which, oftentimes, I was, I could bolt through the front gate, speed walk to the end of my short block and catch the Q9. I could be at the station in 20 minutes or less.

If I missed the Q9 because a faulty boot zipper made life unnecessarily hard for me, or because I went on a scavenger hunt through the house to find my parents and brother to kiss them goodbye before stepping out, I could usually catch the next one in 10 minutes or less. It was usually less.

The same thing usually applied when using the subway. If you missed your train, the next one would pull up in more or less 10 minutes, if the train was running with delays.

But Suffolk County public transportation is weird. There is no “I’ll just catch the next one really soon” if you miss the 11:20 a.m. train. You won’t see another one heading to your destination for another hour, if you’re lucky.

You won’t have that much luck with the buses here, either. I’ve been stranded at the mall 15 minutes from my school more times than I would like to admit because the bus schedules are very sporadic. What makes it even better is that there aren’t many bus options for getting from any location in the neighboring town back to campus.

Purchasing tickets for the LIRR also introduces a strange type of nervousness to me. Why is there only one ticket machine on each platform? What if there’s a line of twenty people waiting to purchase a ticket to board the oncoming train?

I watch patrons tap the screen. It sounds like a tap dance, and even though I’m not the one dancing, I’m sweating. I wonder if they even read all the options on the screen? How do their eyes zip through all the information in less than a second?

My dance is more like a funeral procession. I read everything on every screen twice to make sure I’m not accidentally selecting the wrong town as my destination, or that I’m not accidentally making myself pay a peak-hour ticket if it’s off-peak. I still can’t discern when exactly those times are.

Confessions of a Big City Girl Attending a Small Town College
NYC Subway (Image via Wikipedia)

If I had eyes in the back of my head, I’d probably see the people behind me checking their watches impatiently and glancing past me down the tracks to see if the train was coming. I’m way more used to just going to the corner store, asking for a $30 metro card and going about my way to catch the train. If I don’t spend all $30 on the card in one day, I can use it up until the expiration date; no need to purchase another one.

My first time taking the metal demon home was the result of an impulsive decision. I’d need about an hour to gather everything: my dirty laundry; my books and materials for homework; my hair and beauty products for the weekend.

But, I had completely forgotten that the LIRR runs on a strict schedule; if you missed it, you weren’t getting to the city anytime within the timeframe you had set. I had about 25 minutes to get dressed, get packed, run down the road to the on-campus station and purchase a ticket.

Sometimes I’d much rather see rows of tightly mushed together bakeries, pharmacies and ninety-nine cent stores instead of bushes and ponds. Don’t get me wrong, the ponds make a gorgeous backdrop for profile pictures; I definitely can’t find a pond anywhere near the elementary school in my neighborhood.

Pro tip: Wait until the leaves are baked and grab your camera and a friend for a beautiful fall photo shoot. But be warned, you’ll be blessed if you don’t break into a sneezing fit or if your asthma doesn’t stitch your chest together during allergy season.

When I’m at home and I feel like indulging in a bag of the unhealthiest chips or the sugariest cookie, I can breeze through a five-minute walk—sometimes less because I walk fast—to the deli in my neighborhood. When I’m away at Stony Brook, my appetite for junk food is lost by the time I get halfway there. Is it even worth it anymore?

I guess that’s a good thing if I’m trying to kick my habit of reaching for sweets. I say this in complete seriousness: I hope my future holds a nice, suburban house with a grassy yard in Stony Brook for me.

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