Cal State Fullerton freshman Cyrus Manley isn’t from Southern California, but he still decided to find roommates off campus and commute rather than live on campus.
“I think the dorming is kind of a scam financially,” Manley said.
It’s a known fact that CSUF is primarily a commuter school, and students, whether living as close as Anaheim or as far as Riverside, all have their reasons for making the long trek on crowded freeways rather than living in the dorms or in nearby housing.
Manley, a kinesiology major from Clovis, moved to Orange the weekend before the semester started and already has a job working at South Coast Plaza. He said he budgets for food every month and cooks for himself.
“If you’re a commuter living with your parents, and they pay for your gas and they pay for your food and they pay for the miscellaneous expenses that commuting requires, then their responsibility is a little less harsh,” Manley said.
He says there is a different kind of responsibility required by all commuters to get to school on time and deal with traffic.
“It depends on what part of the spectrum you’re on, if you’re living with your parents or living on your own,” Manley said.
For Manley and many other commuters, the distance between home and the CSUF campus acts as a barrier to building friendships.
“I come to school and once my classes are over I really don’t want to stick around anymore,” Manley said.
Naissa Gonzalez, a transfer student in her second semester at CSUF, drives to campus two days a week from Chula Vista, a city in the San Diego area.
The drive generally takes her an hour and a half, time that she fills with listening to music, podcasts or the audio of a television show.
Attending school, for Gonzalez, is a time to learn. She comes to class and then leaves.
“Being in the car for so long, you’re tired, and then once you are already tired, you go to school and you’re even more tired and then once you get home it’s a relief,” Gonzalez said.
With both school and work, she hasn’t gotten involved on campus either. She said she would like to, but there just isn’t time.
Students today have a lot going on top of financial concerns. Even if students want to move closer to campus and live in an apartment, it’s not an affordable option. According to rentcafe.com, average rent in Fullerton is over $1,500 a month.
“I looked at the whole pros and cons. It’s just cheaper to stay at home and pay a couple bucks for gas than to come here, live by myself and spend a thousand dollars on housing and on top of that, school expenses,” Gonzalez said.
Matthew Rico, a sixth-year mechanical engineering student, commutes three days a week for an hour and a half from Riverside. Rico said he is always tired.
“If I’m not in school, I’m always working late and then the next day I have to wake up at 6:30,” Rico said.
When Rico first became a student at CSUF six years ago, he said he lived in the dorms and in nearby apartments the next two years. Rico has been commuting for three years now.
“Living on campus makes it a lot easier. When you’re commuting, you’re kind of just going to class and going back and you really don’t have time to talk to anybody,” Rico said.
For some, the reality of not interacting with other students is unfortunate but for Rico, it doesn’t matter.
“I’m pretty okay with that, I kind of just want to get out of here,” Rico said.
Many students like Rico express a desire to be done, get out and start the next phase in life, but freshmen like Manley have great hopes for their college experiences.
“I’m looking for friendships. They always say you meet your best friends in college. I have really close friends back home so I’m kind of excited to see what kind of friendships I build here,” Manley said.
He also wants to network with the staff and athletes as a kinesiology major to help him pursue his career, but he is aware of the limits brought about by commuting.
“I was going to rush a fraternity, but being a commuter student and then working and having these set goals and wanting to get my college done as soon as possible, I didn’t want to hamper myself in the first semester of my freshman year,” Manley said. “It’s a lot for me right now.”
While making the drive to campus isn’t always easy, especially for those who live farther away, students like Gonzalez look for the positive aspects of commuting.
“(Commuting) makes me appreciate what I’m doing a little bit more. It makes me appreciate both cities on their own and together, since I feel I’m kind of becoming part of both. It’s an experience. It’s something I’ve decided to do and it’s fun,” Gonzalez said.