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Fifteen minutes: a whole life away

Campus+parking+is+often+full+for+all+students.+This+causes+a+great+deal+of+problems%2C+especially+for+commuting+students.+Photo+courtesy+of+Mark+Olencki.
Campus parking is often full for all students. This causes a great deal of problems, especially for commuting students. Photo courtesy of Mark Olencki.

Wofford’s “inclusive” nature causes problems for some outside students

Coming from Converse Heights, it takes about eleven minutes, depending on traffic, to reach Wofford College. Similarly, from adjacent neighborhoods, such as Fernwood, Drayton and Whitney Heights, it can take anywhere from seven to thirty minutes to get on campus.

“It’s hard to be a Wofford student—especially when you’re not at Wofford,” said a Wofford graduate from the class of 2021, who chose to remain anonymous. 

Students who commute to Wofford, much like the aforementioned example, have a difficult gap to fill, no matter how close they actually live to campus, and that goes far beyond finding a spot to park, an already challenging task. 

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The student from the class of 2021 had a hard time adjusting and was a commuter for all four years. When asked what they thought they missed out on, they replied, “it was all social stuff and that ended up being really important.” 

They continued, “I mean, you hear bad stories about roommates, but a lot of it is people saying how someone they roomed with became their closest friend.” 

In the end, it was the small stuff that they missed, too. 

“It was like running to Walmart with your friends or going to a party or just studying in the library,” the alum explained.

For commuting students like this one, going to class on campus everyday and leaving to live somewhere else often creates a divide between them and other students. 

“And it’s not like I couldn’t go to the library and study,” the anonymous student said, “it just was an uphill battle to get everything organized. It wasn’t like, ‘hey, let’s go study.’” 

Culture was something that both the student from the class of 2021 and another student from the class of 2023 noted, the latter who also wished to remain anonymous. Both students were commuters. The difference? The student from the class of 2023 left Wofford College after one week. 

“As far as culture goes, I was a commuting student for the few days in which I was enrolled. I feel that Wofford is very inclusive,” the ‘23 student said. 

While initially this was a positive sentiment, the student’s tone soon changed. They found the inclusivity of the college often led to a more difficult transition for commuters. 

“I believe that due to high tuition rates, some students, like myself, prefer to commute. But there is not enough done by orientation staff, admissions or student life to allow commuters a seamless entrance into the social bubble that surrounds Wofford,” the student said. 

Both of these students did not have the experience that every commuter has. In order to get both perspectives, the Old Gold and Black interviewed current students to get an idea of their experience. 

“Commuting obviously saves me a lot of money, but it can be difficult commuting sometimes,” said Ally Branzuela ‘23. “It’s hard to develop close friendships when you don’t live on campus since you’re usually there just for class.”

“That being said, it’s not impossible to make friends and have fun!” she added. “I may not have the same college experience as everyone else, but at least I get homemade meals every week.”

Both financial incentives and other benefits of living at home have been cited as reasons for students to commute. Others found some difficulties in adjusting.

“Being a commuter at Wofford is harder than I imagined it would be,” said Mae Webster ‘23. “I left campus during COVID-19 to live in an apartment with my sister in order to have a bit more freedom. Now that campus living is getting back to normal, I am beginning to regret my decision to commute.”

“I definitely was worried about being a commuter and going to Wofford for many reasons,” said Karen Garcia ‘25. “Like I knew it was going to take a lot of effort to make friends, and so me being super introverted, it all just made me really nervous.”

While both of these students have found ways to interact with the Wofford community by joining clubs and going to some events, the narrative of inclusion is common through all accounts: that it is more difficult for commuting students to adjust to the Wofford bubble. 

All of these stories are worth bringing to light because many commuters feel as if they are an often overlooked group when it comes to Wofford’s inclusivity initiatives. 

As multiple students remarked, the issue of commuting students could be tied to class issues present at Wofford, with some lower income students choosing to commute rather than living on-campus. 

“There’s a togetherness that comes from being there,” said the ‘21 student, “and you just don’t have it when you’re not literally living there, in the same space.”

However, Garcia had another good response: “I think some good advice is to befriend other commuters because more than likely they will have similar schedules and be in the same situation.”

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    AnonymousOct 19, 2021 at 6:40 pm

    I had to jump online to comment on this. This article is great about talking about the social parts of not living on campus, but I feel like a great thing to mention would be how Wofford chooses to alienate and ignore commuting students. There are no designated parking spots and in the mornings, sometimes the only options are the furthest possible from classes. This makes no sense as people who live on campus usually (not in all cases) have a lessened need to have access to their car quickly to/from class. The other thing is the commuting dining options which are far more strict and expensive than other schools- not to mention it has to be paid at the board and not through other means. Not to mention the classicism that comes with anyone mentioning their commuter status- regardless of if the need is financial or not. There are also professors who refuse to acknowledge that there is any option other than on-campus living and any hurdles that might come along with it. Wofford clearly states that they want students to live on campus in the handbook, and even require an application to be off campus. If I wasn’t a senior this year, these things would make me transfer in a heartbeat.