The last alarm goes off at 7am, there’s a scramble for the bathroom, the downing of a black coffee and a sprint to the station later and I am en route to LCC.

I am just one of the 24% of students that chose to commute to university from home. This figure, although small, has doubled in the last ten years.

Going to university is widely seen as a rite of passage in which young adults move away from home for the first time yet more and more are choosing to stay put for social, economic and career related reasons.

In a 2015 NUS report, Colin McGuire, then vice president of welfare said: “The experiences of students living at home are often hidden and as such their needs may not being met.”

Whilst embarking on a three hour round-trip to attend my course was chiefly an economic decision I was intrigued to find out the reasons behind others – and the potential impact.

Melissa Lang, a Queen Margaret media graduate made the decision to commute from Glasgow to Edinburgh based on the scale of job opportunities in her field, marketing.

Now 22 and an intern for Smarter Digital Marketing she told Artefact: “I have been extremely lucky to find an employer that hires student interns, something that I found hard to find in Edinburgh”.

She doesn’t regret her decision but acknowledges she “missed out on benefits like societies and groups.”

Socially, Lang feels that having a small friendship group at university meant that she’d “made friends for life” whilst also enjoying getting to see her close friends from home “all of the time”.

Melissa remains in Glasgow, working in a job she enjoys, saying she left university “with a 2.1 degree that I may not have got without those train line study sessions.”

Whilst McGuire’s statement doesn’t seem to apply to Melissa, I personally feel that my decision to commute leaves me feeling isolated from the student body and the institution overall – and I’m not alone in this.

More and more institutions are setting up initiatives as a way of combating this problem. Perhaps the most prominent of these is that of Manchester University’s ‘Living at Home Society’, a student union-led project that seeks to widen inclusion and engagement within the institution.

Project coordinator, Miriam Amies believes that “more recognition and consideration is definitely needed to support living at home students.”

Events have included a free residential before the start of term, society outings and food socials; now in its third year, research from the venture has inspired several other projects.

“Our most exciting project this year is the Commuter Cost Scheme in which we’re reimbursing living at home student’s travel costs to campus” Miriam told Artefact.

The scheme aims “to encourage student engagement and offer support towards what is definitely the hardest part of a living at home student’s university life.”

Manchester University’s success in this area provokes the question of responsibility institutions have to their travelling students, particularly those from poorer backgrounds or identifying as BAME individuals, the most likely to commute.

Sheffield University have a commuting network that helps to tackle student concerns and Kingston are also working harder for inclusion. Perhaps then it is time UAL followed suit, or I stopped missing that 8:14am train.

Featured Image by Djupp via Flickr CC

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