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Opinion

Commuters must take an active role in getting involved on campus

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December 9, 2015

Going to college is strange for me.

I have been driving the same route to go to school for the past five and a half years now, seeing the same scenery, the same people, the same streets and businesses every day. Today, when my foot holds down the break at the lights by the Dairy Queen I drive straight through them, past Mariachi Loco, and into the roundabout, to search hopelessly for a parking spot. A year and a half ago when my car idled at those same lights at the same Dairy Queen, I would turn right and drive past the purple tooth dentist, and the hockey rink, and into the parking lot of the high school, a place where I always found a spot to park. I commute to school every day because I live here, and have lived here my whole life. I didn’t even apply to any other colleges besides the UW-River Falls, as the conveniences associated with going to college just fifteen minutes from my house far outweighed the list of pros any other university could have.

My life is predictable, mundane and maybe too settled for some, but I like that I see my parents every day, that I climb the stairs to my real room, not my temporary dorm room. But college is strange for me; I almost feel like a visitor to campus sometimes. I don’t know many people, because at the end of class I run to my car to go to work or home and I take my lunch with me, getting used to eating alone was something I had to adjust to last year. For me, going to college in my hometown is practical; I am here to graduate with a degree and to get that first job out of college that I don’t dislike too much. But, at the end of my freshman year of college, I realized that the whole year had flown by and I had little to show for it. I had “participated” in some clubs, I had a job, but that was it. I hadn’t done anything spectacular or something to challenge myself.

Sophomore year had to be different. I couldn’t let myself just attend class, go to work, and then go home. And this year actually was different, and sometimes scary. Upon the guidance of my advisor I enrolled in a six-credit introductory journalism class, that seemed like it might be fun but also a lot of work (six credits!). Turns out I loved it, creating projects in lab, learning about ethics, and even math for journalists was interesting to me. I finally and actually became involved in life on campus by becoming a columnist for the Student Voice, putting me and my words right out there in print for anyone to see and judge. I declared a second major in journalism – a major that demands that you be involved on campus and be comfortable with public speaking, and broadcasting your voice and your work out into the public.

Sophomore year is also the year for bigger opportunities that put me far outside my comfort zone, such as traveling abroad. Living for three months with so many strangers might be the only “real” college experience I will have, as if I were to actually live in a real college dorm room- that just happens to move all around Europe. This year I will have physical proof that I was an active member of the UWRF community, that I did more than just school, home, and work. But I am still working, actively now, to find a place for myself at college. I hope to do many more things that make me nervous and uncomfortable because it challenges my settled life that is always too easy to fall back to. I have come to realize that where you live or even where you eat are not the deciding factors for your life in college, it is work for everyone to find a place where they belong and people they like, which makes me not so different from anyone else.

Lauren Simenson is a student at UW-River Falls.