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UCLA commuter students navigate daily challenges, utilize campus resources

Cars parked in Lot 7 are pictured. Some students shared some of the challenges of commuting to college. (Purvi Singhania/Daily Bruin)

By Gwendolyn Lopez

Dec. 6, 2023 6:05 p.m.

On weekday mornings, as Westwood students rouse from sleep, third-year physics student Josh Jose sits in 7 a.m. traffic.

Jose, who drives 45 minutes from the Torrance area to campus, is one of many commuter students at UCLA. Unlike those living in university housing, commuter students encounter challenges including transportation costs, academic time management, increased stress and meal preparation.

“A lot of my time … is dedicated to driving every day,” Jose said. “That’s tangible time that I’m not studying, and that does have some negative effects.”

In an emailed statement, UCLA Commuter Support & Programs said various resources are available to aid commuter students. It added in the statement that its office advocates for the interests of commuter students in on-campus discussions.

Commuter Support & Programs said in its statement that the Bruin Commuter Parking Fund can provide commuter students with quarterly parking grants. Students can also apply for a limited number of parking permits on an appeal basis, it said in the statement.

Jose, who commutes alone by car, added that spending so much time alone can be emotionally taxing.

Jasmine Garcia, a second-year human biology and society student, said being a commuter student can also be isolating because many clubs on campus meet late at night. As someone who commutes by bus, she has to leave campus by 6:30 p.m., which makes it challenging to get involved with student organizations, she said.

Edgar Lopez, a fourth-year political science commuter student from Mid City, said socializing can be challenging as a commuter.

“I feel like you do have to put yourself out there more and try to get to know people. In a way, I consider myself an introvert, so that’s very difficult,” he said. “Most of my socializing tends to come from other sources of interaction, like my full-time job … at Target.”

On the days he commutes, Lopez said he wakes up early to guarantee a daily discounted parking pass. According to the UCLA Transportation website, these passes offer a roughly 50% all-day parking discount for employee and student commuters who do not own parking permits.

“If (I don’t get a discount), they do run out,” Lopez said. “Then I have to pay the whole all-day pass, which is $14, and that’s a little out of my budget.”

[Related: UCLA commuter students voice concerns over parking permit accessibility]

Lopez said he drives to school with his sister, a commute that can take 30 to 45 minutes. He added that sharing a vehicle means they have to accommodate both of their schedules in their commute, leaving him with spare time as he waits for his sister to finish class.

Lopez said he spends his spare time doing assignments, reading or relaxing at the BruinHub. According to the UCLA Campus Life website, the BruinHub, located in the John Wooden Center and the Strathmore Building, provides commuter students with a space to rest, study and use appliances such as a microwave and fridge.

“It’s way better than just going to the parking lot,” Lopez said. “I’m able to enjoy the AC and charge my phone.”

Jose added that he has used the BruinHub nearly every day this quarter and prefers the BruinHub’s relaxed environment compared to other spaces like Powell Library, which can become uncomfortable after long periods of studying.

Chenyang Lai, a fourth-year math commuter student, said he wished more BruinHub locations were on campus.

“I really wished they actually enforced the reservation system,” Lai said, referring to the BruinHub’s resting pods that students can nap in. “I have to kick people out every week.”

In the statement, Commuter Support & Programs said they hope to expand BruinHub locations and spread awareness about it.

Garcia said she obtains information about commuter resources through the Bruin Commuters Instagram account, which also include free meals and giveaways.

Garcia said one challenge as a commuter student is preparing food for the school day, adding that she signed up for the free meal voucher plan provided by UCLA’s Emergency Crisis Response Team program.

“The one thing about that is that you can only use it for three quarters,” she said. “I used them my whole first year not knowing that.”

Garcia said ECRT provided 30 meals per quarter last fall, though its provision has now been reduced to seven meals per quarter.

However, commuting does have benefits, Jose said, such as having the freedom to decide when to go home. Garcia added that she feels supported by the commuter center and its resources, which have helped her manage her time more efficiently.

“It really forces you to have really good time management skills,” she said. “And even me, I’m still working on those. But I feel that (commuting) really pushes you to do that.”

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Gwendolyn Lopez
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