In 2014 I started studying my undergraduate degree BSc Sport, Physical Activity and Health up at Headingley Campus and made the choice to live at home whist studying. I made this choice as being from Castleford I had the option to live at home due to it being fairly close to Leeds itself and by doing so, I was able to save money from student loans to help with my driving lessons and allow me to buy a decent car. But, I didn’t learn to drive until after I had finished university so I spent the three years of undergraduate commuting via public transport.
In order to get to Headingley, I had to catch a train and a bus which all together took around 1 hour 10 minutes depending on what time of day my lectures were at. My biggest tip to anyone who is commuting in is to check the Metro website out and get a monthly pass that allows you to jump on any bus or train in West Yorkshire. This not only makes it so much easier to get places but the savings are massive. The pass cost me around £80 to £84 a month but for a return train and bus ticket for the day I was looking at spending £10.10. I had got my moneys worth in the first 8 days of the 20 I was commuting a month during first year.
The early mornings were hard, particularly in the winter months as it would still be dark when I arrived in Leeds but you soon get used to the way of life. For me, I didn’t mind it at all. I liked being in a very busy ‘morning rush’ train station where everyone’s speed walking to start their day all over the city and I’m more of a morning person so would use the 45 minutes before lectures started to nip to the library and get my work done for the day so I could head straight home.
I think one of the main things people who commute in seem to worry about the most is not being able to make friends or socialise due to having to get public transport home therefore missing out. But this is not the case at all. Within hours of starting your induction week, you have met your friends that you will be in contact with for life. I remember heading upstairs in James Graham to the lecture theatres to see a mass of people all looking slightly confused. I asked a group of girls what course they were waiting for (although I knew it was the same as me as I had seen them checking the timetable in the Great Hall) and the conversation started and never stopped for three years. University has given me three of my best friends. These were the ones that allowed me to come to their house on a morning so I didn’t have to wait alone and allowed me to fill my four hour gap between classes sat on their sofa watching TV and discussing that years I’m a Celeb line-up rather than wondering round the campus trying to fill the time. It was these three that made the university experience so fun and enjoyable and we still meet now, going for a day trip to Segway or heading for a week on one of the girls farm with all her cows, sheep and dogs, just adding to the memories that we already have.
But it’s not only your course were you meet your friends. A couple of week after I started I got an email about the student ambassador scheme at the university, asking me to apply for the role which I did and was luckily successful. Through this scheme I have been able to meet some of my now, closest friends. Through the years the group has had many social events whether it be drinks and food, an attempt at the Otley Run or a sports day down at Cardigan Fields visiting Oxygen Jump Arena, bowling and Laserquest all topped off with Pizza.
The transport in Leeds, particularly the buses run fairly late giving you the option to get home whilst not having to leave an event early. Through all the friends that university gifts you, you’ll always have a friend willing to give you their sofa for the night.
I’m not going to lie and say it’s dead easy to commute because realistically it isn’t always the case, especially when you’re standing on the platform or the bus stop in the middle of winter and it’s blowing an icy gale. But you get used it, both the routine and the cold. I have found that a coat with plenty of duck down helps and knowing that you’re heading back to a house with heating that you don’t have to pay for and your own bed works a treat. Commuting doesn’t make the university experience any less, it gives you a different set of skills that those who move away won’t learn in those three years. So, get yourself a travel pass, a big coat and a comfy pair of trainers. I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I did.