When the stress of finals and packing up dorms and saying goodbye to friends are finally over, millions of college students now face the problem of how to spend their next three months before the next year of college begins. As each summer rolls around, many college students are off to their next adventure- a summer internship. Interning over the summer is no easy-breezy part-time high school job, it is a feat that often requires networking, recruiting, and application efforts that may even take up the majority of the school year.

With internships becoming more and more competitive, getting a spot at a big company or an innovative position has become more and more difficult and desirable for high-school and college age students. The effort of gaining an internship is not for naught, however, and is often coveted as personal, on-the-job experience that has a direct impact on future employment opportunities for many students.

Internships can mean hours and hours spent at desks, offices and meetings that are very different from the typical college student’s day. However, putting all the office work and responsibilities in the workplace aside, there is another major responsibility that many students don’t consider when starting an internship: the commute. Commutes can vary greatly in length, duration and execution, but serve as the quintessential “adult activity” that millions of people engage in every day.

The average American commute is now estimated to be 26 minutes, increasing almost 20% from the previous length of 21.7 minutes in 1980. Since this measures only the commute to work, it is often doubled or tripled when you account total travel time, including the commute back home. With more and more Americans driving, traffic rates have increased in America, which is another factor in the lengthening of commutes. With the immense amount of time that is spent on commutes, many lament the “wasted potential” that people spend on commuting in their day, and efforts have been made to facilitate the shortening through advancements in traffic controls and transportation systems.

However, I have found that my hour and a half commute (which totals to 3 hours each day) traveling to and from my summer internship has been a personal place for me to think, read and reflect. Coming from such a fast-paced life at school with friends, activities, and responsibilities surrounding me almost 24/7, my daily commute has been a time for me to think, and has begun to change my view on alone time and reflection space.

As someone who is extremely extroverted and has a general dislike of being alone, my daily commute has begun to teach me the value of thinking through things and the productivity that comes from being alone. Through my daily commute, I have discovered new music genres, the general fascination of podcasts, new books that I love, and additionally the curious nature of people watching- I would say that my commute is not a waste of potential, but rather a catalyst for personal development.