X Close

Discover UCL


UCL Access and Widening Participation


Being a commuter student at UCL

By Lauren Sandhu, on 30 October 2020

Did you know that over a quarter of UCL students commute into university from their family, guardian’s or own homes? We have launched some new guidance and information for commuter students on our website. Tonika is going into her third year at UCL studying Psychology and today she tells us about her experience of being a student who commutes into UCL to study.

How do you get to UCL?

I travel to university from South London via the Northern Line tube

What was your first year like?

My first year, particularly the first term, I tried to ensure I attended as many events as possible even though I was a commuter. I attended various Freshers events and joined a few societies which, if possible, I highly recommend as it helps you feel more a part of the university community. By the second term it became more difficult to continue attending society events due to university deadlines and various other commitments. However, by this point I also felt more comfortable having to travel to campus and nearby, which I genuinely believe was because I had made a conscious effort to try different events in the first term.

What would you want an incoming commuter student to know?

I would want incoming students to know that they have no need to worry. It can absolutely be a daunting experience but take comfort in knowing that everyone will be feeling the same whether they are commuting or live a two-minute walk from main campus. You may feel as though you are missing out but there are so many opportunities for you to get to know people whether they are on your course, in a society, meet in a café, or happen to sit in the same area as you in the library. Even if you have days where your transport journey has not gone to plan, do not let this cloud the fact that for the majority of the time it should run smoothly and will not detract from your overall university experience if you make the effort.

What does a typical day look like for you?

My days largely vary based on what time my lecture starts however, I always aim to leave the house about 1 hour 20 minutes before the start of the lecture. I have a 5-minute walk to the tube, and I am generally able to get a seat unless it is rush hour. My journey is about 45 minutes and in that time I usually do some required or extra reading for previous lectures or read over revision notes. Having completed the lecture it really varies, some days I will take out the required books from the library and complete my notes there or in the Bedford Way cubicles, my seminar may be that day, I may attend a society event, or my friends and I may choose to do something else other than work. Most days however I try to avoid rush hour on the way home which is just a personal preference.

What are the challenges and benefits of commuting?

Benefits of commuting;

  • You can save money, so there will be fewer financial worries throughout your university years.
  • University is still a big change but if you are commuting from your family home at least that is one constant.
  • It can mean you have your family around you for emotional or mental support when things become stressful.
  • If you are commuting from a shared home with friends, then hopefully this means you already know them well so there may be less issues than there would be at halls of residence e.g. issues with noise.
  • It can allow you to get to know and explore other areas of London.

Challenges of commuting;

  • You may find travel is expensive especially if you are also paying rent. I would suggest looking into what deals are available and which would best suit you whether that is a 16-25 Railcard, an 18+ Student Oyster or any other discounts. I also suggest making a note of your outgoing spending for travel and general spending.
  • Travelling for long periods of time can be tiring. I would suggest ensuring you have planned the day out in advance, so know what you will be doing and how long you will be away from home. This way you can pack your bag accordingly to include things like lunch. I also highly recommend using the time productively to complete any reading, do some revision, read over work, or even complete some work if possible.
  • Struggles with rush hour. Firstly, ensure you keep your belongings in a safe place and not on show, but also try to note which carriages or areas of the transport tend to have less people in and then stand or sit there. If your transport comes frequently, I would also suggest letting most of the crowd get onto the first tube, bus etc and then getting onto the second one. Again, if possible, I think trying to get some work done would be beneficial but of course be mindful of your surroundings.
  • A further challenge to commuting may concern worries that you made a wrong choice commuting. I think it is important to remind yourself of the reason why you chose to commute, whether it is financial reasons, wanting to stay with your family etc. As long as you are proactive you will still have a great experience of meeting new people, developing new friendships, discovering new cafes or museums, experiencing the great teaching and all that UCL has to offer.

Leave a Reply