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9 Things to Do as a Commuter Student

While living on campus is required for most first-year University of Maine students, many students decide to take the leap of living off-campus when they are second or third-years. With so many options for off-campus living nearby, it’s no surprise that many UMaine students commute to classes every day. If you are among this group, here are 10 tips to prepare yourself for the commuter life.

Meal prep. It is easier than you think, and the payoff is well worth it. Devoting a few hours to meal preparation on Sundays can set you up for a whole week’s worth of lunches and dinners. Invest in some good Tupperware and fresh groceries and you won’t have to worry about cooking dinner every night. Meal prepping can save you time, money and stress.

Fourth-year political science student Andrew Lochowski agrees, saying, “I don’t have time to cook at all during the week, so every Sunday I meal prep for the rest of the week. I just make massive Tupperwares of fried chicken, pasta, sometimes even steak, that way all my meals for the week are pre-made.”

Pack a lunch. This can go hand in hand with meal prepping; you can prep lunches ahead of your week or the night before. Either way, it can save you a lot of money and hassle to bring your own lunch to campus every day.

Fifth-year communication sciences and disorders student Alison Gannon says, “The first year I lived off-campus I didn’t pack lunches and wasted money buying them at the Union everyday.” Avoid this mistake by making a sandwich or two ahead of time.

Buy a portable coffee/tea thermos. It’s fair to say that most students live off of caffeine during the bleak winter months, and supplying coffee or tea for yourself can be costly. Either make coffee at your home and transport it with you to school, or just bring a mug and fill it up with free coffee from the Commuter Lounge in the Memorial Union. The Bear’s Den Pub and the Oakes Room cafe at the library also provide free hot water to anyone with a cup, so you can bring your own tea or instant coffee with you to campus.

Carry your chargers with you at all times and invest in an external battery pack. If you are commuting to school you will probably spend a good chunk of your day on campus. No one wants to go all the way home just to recharge. Cell phone and laptop chargers can be bulky, yet essential. You can also invest in battery packs that will help you stay at 100 percent all day long. But if you did forget your chargers, the library allows you to check out laptop chargers and there are several charging stations in the Union where you can charge up your cell phone.

Utilize the bus network. Most buses pick up at the Student Union and are free with your MaineCard. Whether you are looking to go downtown to meet with friends or all the way into Bangor to pick up school supplies, the bus can get you there for free. Schedules are posted at the bus stop.

Budget time for parking. Anyone who has commuted to UMaine will tell you finding parking every morning is like looking for a needle in a haystack. A crowded, grumpy haystack. Gannon recommends “Leaving at least half an hour ahead of time. Last year I lived about seven minutes from campus, but I would have to leave half an hour before every day just to get to class on time.”

Parking has been a problem at UMaine for some time, and continues to worsen every year with the increasing student populations. Parking passes are also a pretty penny ($50 a year), and another tip that many don’t realize is that active military personnel get free parking on campus.

Wear layers. This is Maine, and the weather is very temperamental. During autumn temperature can fluctuate during the day, and Gannon laments, “I can’t tell you how many times I come to campus in the morning and it’s cold, but by the afternoon it’s hot, or the other way around.” So why not rock the layered look, and when winter really hits, just progress onto warmer layers like hats, gloves and scarves.

Bring your own water bottle. When you’re spending an extended amount of time on campus it’s always smart to carry your own water bottle with you. The Student Union offers water bottle filling stations to keep you hydrated and also save on plastic waste.

Check out the Commuter Lounge. As mentioned previously, the Commuter Lounge typically offers free coffee to commuter students with portable coffee mugs, but they also offer a social and study space to access resources you may not even know existed. Open and staffed from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the week, the space is perfect for studying or meeting up with friends. For those who have never been, it can’t hurt to check it out.

There are many perks about progressing from dorm living to apartment life, so consider the tips above next time you are looking to save on time, expenses and anxiety.

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