I live about 30 minutes away from USF & commute every day, Monday-Friday. With that being said, I have had my fair share of Tampa traffic, parking spot standoffs, & feeling disconnected from campus. As a freshman I think being involved on campus is a really important step to fully adjusting to your new surroundings. It can be difficult to participate in events when you live off campus, which in turn can leave you feeling left out or lonely. I chose to live with family my first year at USF to save some money, especially since I am an out-of-state student! Here are a few tips I have learned from my first semester as a commuter student at The University of South Florida:
1. Leave your house EARLYYY
You might think you're leaving with juuust enough time to find a parking spot & walk to class on time... but trust me when I say leaving earlier than you think you need to will help you in the long run. And yes, maybe you will sit in your car for 30 minutes before its time to head to class, but at least you aren't sprinting to make it on time after searching for parking for 20-30 minutes like everyone else. Make use of that extra time in your car & finish up some assignments or catch up on your reading for class!
2. Pin where you parked!
If you are anything like me, you have a terrible sense of direction. This is definitely a problem, especially when you park your car in a huge lot or parking garage & happen to forget the general direction in which you parked. I cannot tell you how many times I aimlessly wandered through the lots trying to remember how far down or what row I parked at. To save yourself the heat stroke (thank you summer in Florida), use Google Maps or another app like "Find My Car Smarter" to pin your parking location. This will give you exact directions to your vehicle & leave you feeling stress free!
3. Find a club or organization & get involved!
Finding a group or club involving something you are passionate about on campus will help you connect and meet new people with the same interests as you! Attending meetings, participating in events, and socializing with your group or club will help you feel more at home on campus. I know I sometimes feel a huge disconnect between my academic life and my social life, and living away from USF can amplify that feeling. Getting involved can really help you find a path at USF.
4. Pack your lunch!
If you don't have a meal plan at USF, you are probably buying your lunch at one of the many restaurant/fast food options on campus. This means on average you are spending $8 a day on lunches alone. That can add up to $40 a week, $160 a month, which in turn will total you about $640 a semester! Save your money and bring your lunch. You can also eat healthier this way by opting to bring more nutritional options than you might get at a fast food chain.
Commuting to USF can be a struggle sometimes, but saving money in the long run can help you out more than you know! If you have the option and want to stay at home while attending college, do it!