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To balance school, work and my social life, I split my time fifty-fifty, and I couldn’t be happier.

The On-Campus Commuter Life

Calling Two Houses Home

To balance school, work and my social life, I split my time fifty-fifty, and I couldn’t be happier.

By Kara Mercer, Northern Illinois University


I didn’t start college with the intent of visiting home frequently; I wanted college to be my home.

I imagined myself living on campus, studying at the library, going to weekend events and working an on-campus job. I could live at school and come home only during breaks or when I needed to, but life tends to get in the way of your plans.

For the first two years of college, I got as close as I could to living away from home during school. Freshman year, I lived with someone who was in winter guard with me. Our rehearsals and shows were only on weekends, so I’d ride with her, and she’d take me back to school when the weekend was over.

Sometimes, I would go home when I didn’t need to, but more often than not, I stayed at school until I had to go to rehearsals or shows. I’d spend one night at home and go back to school for classes Monday through Friday. Once the winter-guard season ended, I’d go home, but not as often as I do now.

Before my sophomore year, I decided to audition for the color guard at Northern Illinois University (NIU). I knew the activity would keep me at school most weekends and keep me busy with rehearsals. I had met some people on the color guard, and I was at a point in my life where I needed to be busy, and boy did it keep me busy. I spent my weekends on campus with late-night football games and long away trips until my winter guard season started back up again.

The On-Campus Commuter Life
Image via SUMblog

I got to feel what it was like to stay on campus, and I went a couple weeks at a time without seeing my parents, which wasn’t always a good thing, but I was learning to be my own person. Now, I go home every weekend, and I probably spend more time at home than I do at school, yet somehow, my nickname at home is “the wind” because I breeze in and out of the house.

For some students, traveling to and from school on weekends is impossible. I didn’t decide to go to an out-of-state or far-away university, and I have a car. The stars had aligned in my favor. Junior year, I managed to finesse my schedule, so I didn’t have class on Fridays.

I started going home Thursday nights instead of Fridays and Saturdays. Now, I return to school on Mondays after work, since I have mostly night classes. I spend three nights at school and the rest at home. I have an apartment for the three nights I spend on campus, so I technically don’t commute to class, but I commute every Thursday and Monday back and forth between school and home. Sometimes, I wish I could stay at school like I used to.

Since I’m not on campus during the weekend, I don’t have a lot of time to do homework. I come home to work, rehearse and repeat. Working on Fridays and until I go to practice on Saturdays doesn’t leave much time for assignments. If I stayed at school, I’d be able to spend more time on assignments and pace my workload instead of spending the week trying to get ahead.

When I worked at the newspaper, going home on the weekends prevented me from applying to be an editor, since I would need Sunday off, and Sunday was a production day for the paper. I could never meet up with friends on weekends or work on group projects.

Though my car isn’t as expensive to fill as it could be, the hour-drive every weekend drains a quarter tank, but I make up for it by working. And the only road going back home from NIU has nothing to look at, just mundane flat farmlands with the occasional patch of trees. Glancing at nothing does not make a fast ride, let me tell you.

The On-Campus Commuter Life
Image via Every Mile’s a Memory

My bed at home isn’t as comfortable as my bed at school either. All my preferred blankets and clothing are at school, and I can only drag home so much at the end of the week.

There are benefits to commuting to and from school on the weekends, though.

For one, I get to see my cat. I’d bring him to school with me in a heartbeat, but my apartment doesn’t allow pets, and I’d hate to stress him out by carting him to and from school. Oh, and I get to see my family too. Priorities, right?

During winter guard season, it’s hard to make time for friends, my boyfriend or my family. I spend November through April doing what I love, but it takes time away from the people I love. Some competitions are out of state, so not only do I travel home, but I travel to different states as well, which doesn’t leave time for much else.

Since I commute home to go to rehearsal, I’m able to continue doing what I love. The winter guard I’m with is not a part of my school, so it’s not something I would be able to stay at school and continue.

Commuting home when my winter season is over gives me an opportunity to spend the time I miss with my family and friends. My schedule opens, and I can fill up the four nights I spend at home making up for lost time.

Sure, I’ve missed out on some weekend campus events, football games and parties. Some weekends, I want to pull my hair out because of how jam-packed my weekends are, but going home gives me the opportunity to see the people (and cats) I love, continue to do the things I love and experience on-campus life while still keeping up at home. Finally, I can have my cake and eat it too.

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