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Being a Freshman and Commuter

Posted by: Cay Smith | June 19, 2009 | No Comment |

By Yasmin Tadjdeh, Broadside Staff Writer

High school is over and freshman year is just beginning. For many freshmen coming to George Mason University, their number one concern is moving into the dorms, living away from home and taking care of themselves, but for commuter freshmen their concern might be, “How will I make friends and have a normal college life when I do not live on campus?” 

Commuting to college is by no means easy. Whether you are living at home with your parents or living in an off-campus apartment, your life will be a little more difficult than your campus dwelling classmates. To make the most out of your freshman year and survive commuting, the following tips will come in handy.

Driving

Mason’s Fairfax campus is located near four major arteries, Route 123, Interstate 495, Interstate 66 and Braddock Road. These roads make the Fairfax campus highly accessible from different areas around Northern Virginia, but on the same coin they are highly congested during the rush hours of 5 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. 

It would be prudent to schedule your classes around rush hour so you do not end up stuck in the Metropolitan area’s infamous rush hour. Never underestimate traffic, if it takes you 30 minutes to get to class, leave at least 45 minutes before class since traffic is never predictable and always gets you at the worst times.

Parking

Once you make it to campus, one of the most tedious and painstaking things you will do all day is park. Every Mason commuter says the same thing, “Mason parking sucks,” and it is very true. If you purchase a General Lot Permit from Parking Services, you will be able to park in all the general lots, as well as West Campus and the Field House parking lots.

Parking in the general lots is difficult because by 11 a.m. usually all spots are taken and you will have to wait for leaving students. If you park at West Campus or the Field House, you will always find parking, but you will need to wait 20 or so minutes for a shuttle to take you to campus. 

If you have the extra cash to splurge, purchasing a permit for one of the parking decks is an excellent decision that you will not regret as it guarantees you a spot and is closer to campus.

Fitting in and Making Friends

One of the toughest parts of commuting is making friends. As a commuter, you are at a disadvantage when it comes to making friends since you will not be living in the dorms where there are always people to meet. It is important to try and make friends right off the bat with people in your classes. 

Be friendly and open; if you are shy, this can be understandably tough, but it is essential to having a good social life at Mason. Clubs and groups are also great ways to create lasting friendships. 

Mason is filled with an abundance of active, interesting and fun clubs. Check out the Student Activities website for the list of organizations that range from a Belly Dancing Club to a Society for Bioengineers. Mason also has many different sororities and fraternities that happily welcome commuters to join their organizations.

Food

Mason offers its students many on-campus eatery options that range from Burger King to Jazzman’s Café. Mason’s crown jewel of eateries is its all-you-care-to-eat dining facility, Southside. Southside offers students several food choices from a salad bar, to pizza or pasta, to Americana foods such as hamburgers and hot dogs, and even Asian cuisine. 

To take full advantage of Southside and not break the bank, commuter students planning to eat often on campus would be wise to purchase a voluntary meal plan. One advantage of commuting is having the option to eat off campus. Although Mason does provide many food options, at a point, junk food loses its allure and you want food of a higher caliber. 

Fairfax has many delicious restaurants in close proximity to Mason. If you are in the mood for American classics, try Hard Times Café or Red, Hot & Blue, both off of Chain Bridge Road. Or if you are in the mood for Italian, Mama Lucia’s is a popular option.

Having the ability to eat off-campus will also help you make friends. Invite a couple of on-campus students to have lunch with you off-campus—they will appreciate eating real food and you will make some new friends.

Academia

When studying for exams or tests, every minute counts, and it is frustrating having to spend any portion of your time driving rather than studying. 

When quizzes, tests or exams do roll around, make sure not to cram at the very last minute as you will be using those last minutes getting to school. I have had many days where all I needed was an extra 30 minutes to finish a paper or study that had to be used instead to drive to school. Planning ahead is key.

Commuting to school does not equate to not having a social life. On the contrary, it can help very much if you use it to your advantage. There will be sacrifices. 

You probably will not be eating at Ike’s, the all-night diner in Presidents Park, or hanging out at 3 a.m. in someone’s dorm, but you will be able to travel around Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. on your own accord. 

Ultimately, it is up to you to make your college experience the best it can be. Being a commuter does not define you as a student.

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