At face value, a “normal” college experience is often defined by friend groups, classes, majors and maybe even extracurriculars. But for me, like many other commuter students, where I live became the number one defining characteristic of my college experience.
As an only child, I’m quite close to my parents — we operate as one unit — so a plan that first involved me saving money and utilizing our San Francisco home as a dorm of sorts while attending college quickly turned into one where we all moved back to the city together. So, in July 2021, I moved back to my birthplace of San Francisco from Laguna Beach with my parents.
While our move was more or less unexpected, I was instinctually relieved. Leaving my parents for college had always been a daunting prospect for me, and breaking our nuclear bond didn’t remotely seem like an option. Over time though, despite the infinite positives of living at home, I began to feel some negatives.
For many college students, one of the strongest underlying worries is making friends. In an ideal world, an average dorming student would arrive on campus, meet their roommate, develop an unbreakable bond, socialize with their floor, happy ever after. But I didn’t have a roommate. Nor a floor with other college students. Nor the time or energy to join a sorority living across the Bay. None of those were an option for me. Melancholically, I tried my hardest to attend some (translation: a couple of hours) of GBO, but no new bonds stuck — just a couple new social media followers and a free lunch at Berkeley Thai House.
While I truly had myself convinced after GBO that I could be headstrong all on my own (it’s the Taurus in me), that simply was not true. I, like anyone, needed to find friends and develop those bonds that I thought were impossible, so a plan quickly came to my mind.
My plan was simple enough — find one new person in every one of my classes, get their name and phone number and, most importantly, do not drift away like I often tend to do. And I did just that. And it worked. Miraculously. Even just having someone to talk to in classes and grab a coffee with after (specifically at Yali’s) made a world of difference in allowing myself to understand the importance of learning from others while living in a completely different environment to most other students.
By allowing myself to open up without allowing those lurking insecurities to interrupt, I met some of the most amazing people I am overjoyed to call my closest friends, and even reunited with them over summer to celebrate my birthday.
But, some classes, such as those with large lectures, didn’t easily facilitate me interacting comfortably with others, so that’s where clubs and organizations stepped in. I used skills I knew I was at least mildly competent at, like editing, to join student-led groups. This includes the Daily Cal — a place where I found Slack channels weird enough to make even me feel included. Finding people just like me that I still talk to today (or have streaks with, whatever) completely changed my viewpoint of living at home: It isn’t something to be ashamed of, but is instead something I can use to my own personal advantage.
Beyond making friends, I’ve learned how to better juggle my commitments and prioritize what I really want to do, like one would in the “real world.” At the same time, I get to enjoy the best of two worlds — two equally beautiful cities. Sometimes I forget the latter fact, but telling people I live in San Francisco and hearing their awed responses continues to be a reminder of how lucky I truly am.
So while I sometimes catch myself wondering what it would be like to live on campus and spend my days lounging with roommates, I’m immensely grateful for how where I live has affected my college experience. Not only do I still get those one-of-a-kind home cooked meals, but I truly have begun to learn how to make lifelong connections and find the beauty in having a perfectly organized Google Calendar that balances both work and life. For all my fellow commuters out there (including incoming ones), you are never without hope. Feeling lonely is normal and can just be a sign to orient yourself in another direction and find new opportunities that work for you — and that you will.