Opinion: Tips for commuter students

UWT is a smaller campus with a larger commuter student community. Commuter students have a unique take on college life. Whether you’re a public transportation novice or some­what of an expert on the routes, below are a few things every commuter stu­dent should know:

DON’T LET COMMUTING LESSEN YOUR COLLEGE EXPERIENCE

During my freshman year of college, I remember feeling worried that com­muting from home might mean I would miss out on the “college experience” as defined by movies like “Neighbors” and “Pitch Perfect.” It’s good to know, how­ever, that college is not like the Holly­wood movies — but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a great time. Commuters can make the most out of their college expe­rience by getting involved in several clubs on campus, attending events like an open mic night or making new friends by play­ing video games at the Dawg House. Your college experience is what you make it out to be — and if you’re feeling sponta­neous, you could always create your own acapella group. Who knows, you might become as popular as “Pitch Perfect’s” Barton Bellas.

PLAN WISELY

Whether it’s a 15 minute drive or an hour long bus ride, as commuters we must always be prepared. So before leaving the house, be sure to check the weather forecast. Rain or snow, the weather can have dramatic effects on your route. If you drive, keep a spare jacket in the trunk. This way, you’ll save yourself the cold, soggy agony that re­sults from not having a coat when the weather suddenly changes. As Wash­ingtonians, we are no stranger to the bipolar weather.

Another important part of wise planning is being early. No one wants to be late to their midterm exam. Leav­ing the house at least 20 minutes early means more time spent on grab­bing coffee or studying at the library and less time spent on internally — or for some, externally — yelling at un­moving traffic. Lastly, pack these es­sentials: cash, snacks and a phone charger. Because we all occasionally forget our UPASS, run low on gas or are starving after a two-hour lecture, it always helps to carry a little bit of money on you. If the food around campus is too expensive for your bud­get, you should pack a snack. Healthy snacks like trail mix or fruit will help you power through the rest of your day. Your phone is also one of the most important tools you own. What hap­pens if you end up with a flat tire? Or, despite your best efforts, you are run­ning late to a group meeting? You can use your cellphone to text, send an email or instant message your profes­sor and classmates. Make sure to have a charger so you’ll be ready in case of an emergency.

THE U-PASS IS GOLDEN

The U-PASS is more than your ordinary bus pass. In addition to un­limited bus rides, students also enjoy boundless trips on the sounder train and the Link light rail. The U-PASS is unique and I’ve found the Orca pass discounts offered by some commu­nity colleges pale in comparison. Be­fore transferring to UWT, I paid a whopping $120 per year for a dis­counted Orca card. This quarter, UWT’s U-PASS only cost me $45. The U-PASS will soon become a universal program for students. Whether you use public transportation to regularly get to campus or not, there are far too many advantages of the pass for stu­dents to not put it to use.

THERE’S MORE THAN ONE WAY TO COMMUTE

One of the best things about UWT is the plethora of transportation op­tions students have. For those inter­ested in carsharing, students can sign up for the Rideshare Ridematch pro­gram or book a vehicle with Zipcar. UWT’s partnership with Zipcar grants students, faculty and staff a discount­ed membership — which includes insurance, gas and maintenance. If one is interested in taking the link, approximately every 12 minutes any­one can enjoy a complimentary ride on the Tacoma Link. Another popular option is bicycling. Use the campus map on UWT’s website to find where the many bike racks are located around campus. If you don’t own a bike, download the Lime Bike or Bird app and utilize the new bikes and scooters for a small fee to ride to your next destination.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE SAFETY ESCORT PROGRAM

With the rise of school shootings, sexual assaults and racial tension, uni­versities across the nation are being tasked with improving the security and safety of their campus grounds. For commuters with nighttime class­es, walking back to one’s car alone can be frightening. If you ever find your­self feeling unsafe on campus, please utilize the Safety Escort program at UWT. If you are parked within UWT’s campus boundaries, the Campus Safety Officers in this program will walk with you, and in some cases, drive you to your car. Dial 253-692-441 to request an escort.

PHOTO BY SARAH SMITH