Jessica Schiesser awakes to the sound of her alarm clock on a hazy Tuesday morning at 8:00 a.m. and wipes the sleep from her eyes as she gets up to begin her long school day. She brews a fresh pot of coffee because she knows it’s the only thing that’s going to get her through the nine hours she is about to spend at Stony Brook University. She gets into her Toyota Camry to start her drive down Jericho Turnpike. Traffic causes her to press down on her brakes.
“Sometimes if I hit traffic and I need to get to a class that I have to get to, I start freaking out,” Schiesser said.
Once she gets through traffic, she makes her way down 25A and turns onto Stony Brook Rd. which will take her to her destination, the South Parking Lot. She lets out a sigh of disappointment when she realizes that she can’t get a parking spot close to the bus station because they are all taken.
She parks in the A3 section and makes her way to the bus station. There is a crowd of students piling into the bus. Once on the bus, she notices that all of the seats are taken so she stands in the aisle.
“If I have to stand up, I’m really uncomfortable because I feel really short and to have to reach up to hold the bar and sometimes my arms hurt,” Schiesser said.
The bus driver puts the bus in drive and heads off towards the Academic Mall. As the bus moves forward, Schiesser and the other students standing in the aisle jolt forward. It’s a bumpy and uncomfortable 10-minute ride for her.
The bus stops at the loop at the end of Engineering Drive and students make their way off the bus to walk to their first class of the day. Schiesser looks at her watch and realizes she has five minutes to get to her sociology class. She darts off to class and makes it there just in time.
Schiesser’s morning is not too different from what the other 6,741 commuter students at the university experience on their commutes. Many of them have to deal with the same bumper-to-bumper traffic, long lines at South P and uncomfortable bus rides.
On some mornings, the crowd of commuter students waiting to get onto the bus at the South P can grow so large that the line wraps around the bus station. It puts a strain on students when they get to the parking lot with time to spare but are late to class because of the long line.
“I do hate waiting for the bus, it’s just annoying when I take time to get to class but I arrive late because the bus schedule isn’t built well,” said Isaac Yeung, a sophomore commuter student at the university.
When commuter students glance up at the gas price signs at gas stations near campus, they see $3.74 in large letters next to regular. A New York Times article, “U.S. Economy Is Better Prepared for Rising Gas Costs,” said that gas prices have risen by nearly a third in the last year. The increase is causing many commuter students’ wallets to become lighter.
“I hate this ‘gas crisis’,” said Alicia Ryan, a senior commuter student at the university. “I’m used to not having to spend very much on gas because I have an efficient vehicle, usually takes me 20 dollars to fill her. Now, it gets me a half a tank. Big shame, I don’t work enough for this.”
Not only are their wallets thinning, but a feeling of disconnection to the university also looms over some commuter students. Ryan said that in one of her classes, her professor asked the students about an event and they responded, “”Oh, we’re commuters, so we’re not involved,” Ryan said that it “broke her heart” to hear the students say that because she is so involved in school.
She became connected to the university by joining the Commuter Student Services and applying to be a commuter assistant. Ryan said that students feel like they are not connected to the university because they have not taken advantage of the opportunities that she has.
The main goal of the CSS is to get information about campus events to the commuter students. They send out a weekly email called Commuter Contact to all registered commuter students that gives them that information.
“It’s kind of like giving all of the information on a silver platter for the students,” said Emily Resnick, the senior advisor of CSS.
They might be non-traditional students with a family of their own.
Other students are not interested in being a part of the campus community in that capacity or they don’t know what events are going on.
Waking up earlier than resident students to make it to class on time, pumping gas into a car at $3.74 per gallon, waiting on a line in frigid weather to get onto a bus and not being socially connected to the university are commonplace for many commuter students. But one of the benefits of commuting is being able to drive home to a home cooked meal. After a day filled with lecture halls, tests and countless assignments, a home cooked meal is sometimes something every commuter student needs.
Schiesser walks out of her last class at 6:40 p.m. as her stomach rumbles and her eyes grow heavy. “I’m always really tired by then and it feels like it takes forever to make it back to my car and drive home,” Schiesser said.
On her drive home, it seems like the rest of the world is doing the same. Frustration overcomes her. “I sometimes get frustrated with cars because it’s so late and I just want to be home and not be on the road,” Schiesser said. She maneuvers herself through the bustle of cars and finally arrives at home. Her frustration quickly turns to relief when she smells the home cooked dinner she has waiting for her on her dining room table. Home at last.