This article interviews four Whittier College students who commute anywhere from 10 – 40 minutes to and from the College every day.
It has never been easy to commute to Whittier College. The main issue is trying to find anywhere to park on this campus, especially when it comes to classes that are not first thing in the morning. One of fourth-year Milah Afonin’s classes is at 11 a.m., and it’s her first class of the day. “If I don’t come by 10, I have to hike down from the football field,” she said. “I wish cars had a ‘When I’ll Leave’ sign.”
Fourth-year Yasmin Mendoza shares a very similar sentiment: “If you want a lower lot parking spot, you have to be here before 8:45 [a.m.], or else you’re going to have to walk up Wardman Hill. Even commuters with noon classes or anything in the afternoon would have to show up as early as possible if they wanted to leave campus without trekking up a hill.”
“[Parking] has been an issue for the four years I’ve been at Whittier, and with the pandemic, [it] just seems like it’s gotten worse,” said fourth-year Alvaro Soto. “Some commuters just [chill] in their cars between classes to avoid contact with other students.” He also mentioned that it is not as practical for commuters to drop everything and attend a sporting event as it is for residential students.
On top of parking, gas gets really expensive. Third-year Hailey Garcia’s drive to the College takes around 30 minutes on a good day, and she spends too much money on gas. She also struggles to make it to The Spot — the go-to on-campus place for commuters to get food — given that her last class ends at 4:20 p.m., and The Spot has been closing at 4:00 p.m. all year.
A lot has changed on campus — naturally, with the pandemic. This makes things extra difficult for commuters, though. The Spot is only open during the height of classes, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., so it is difficult to eat, or even get a coffee. This is something that frustrates Mendoza: “I haven’t even visited The Spot ever since they posted a sign outside [of] The Ettinger Lounge saying ‘Residents Only,’ and finding out that I can’t get a coffee from The Spot until 10 a.m.! At that point, I’d rather walk to Starbucks.”
Mendoza also points out that places like The Ettinger Lounge made it much easier for commuters to exist on campus; if we have to get here so early just to find parking, at least we could pop into The Spot, grab a coffee, and hang out, or study, in the Lounge. Now, that’s impossible with The Spot’s extremely limited hours. Even the study rooms in the Wardman Library are closed. Afonin mentioned that one struggle of commuting, made unique by the pandemic, is “not always having your own space in between classes. I’m lucky to borrow an office, but, without that, I would have been zooming in random places when the library is busy.” Commuters really are limited to their cars if they want a peaceful place to study or just relax before class.
Even though we are back in person, it is hard to be social as a commuter. Soto pointed out how impractical it is for commuters to drop everything and attend an on-campus event; this ability comes much easier to residential students. Garcia agrees: “I think one of the most impacting struggles is feeling like I am missing out on the college experience. People who dorm can have more conversations outside of class and meet more friends [like] that.” She commuted in her first year as well, and she used to be able to go to events and hang out on campus just for the sake of being on campus. “Now with the ongoing pandemic, I just want to go home and relax before it’s dark to beat traffic,” she said.
Overall, though, commuters are happy to be back on campus, for reasons ranging from the positive social aspect of learning in a room with people, to having (though limited) spaces to study that are not filled with distractions, to not being forced to pay full tuition for “Zoom college” anymore. Garcia also mentioned how excited she is to be back on campus for KPOET Radio — I know a lot of us missed our organizations, commuters or not. Soto is afraid he may have struggled both academically and mentally if we had to default to Zoom for this academic year, as well. There is, of course, the ever-lingering anxiety regarding our own safety, and our fear of the unknown, but, as much as we liked rolling out of bed and straight into class, and having quick access to our kitchens and a bathroom while we were learning over Zoom, we are glad to be back.
Featured Image: Brianna Wilson / Quaker Campus