Students turn to off campus housing for financial stability, independence

Ariana Arredondo

Groggy eyes focus on the red traffic light as Adriana Quintanilla, a fifth year sociology major, drives into Austin. The car radio flashes 4:36 a.m. as Quintanilla puts her foot back on the gas, hoping to avoid early morning traffic.

Quintanilla is one of many students who commute to school. According to U.S. News and World Report, 82% of the UT student body lives off campus. These students’ decisions are often driven by their financial situations or individual schedules. In Quintanilla’s case, her experience is particularly time-consuming: She lives in San Antonio.

“I was going to sign my housing contract for 2016, but then my dad got sick,” Quintanilla said. “I ended up moving to San Antonio, so I could keep working and help my parents pay bills.”

Since her sophomore year of college, Quintanilla has lived on San Antonio’s North Side. Now between working shifts at Krispy Kreme and finishing up her degree, she makes the two-hour commute to Austin three days a week. Quintanilla said the hours she spends driving each day hinder her ability to have an active social life
and study.

“My grades have suffered a lot because when I was in Austin, I never had to worry about getting enough sleep,” Quintanilla said. “Here, I have to make sure I get enough sleep so I don’t get tired while driving to Austin, whereas before I could pull all-nighters and study.”

Study time for commuters often gets crammed in between bus rides and long drives. Communication and leadership freshman Joseph Mayang chose to bus 45 minutes to campus every day from his hometown of Pflugerville rather than pay to live in the dorms.

“Dorming is really expensive, and I didn’t want that financial burden on my parents,” Mayang said. “I decided to sacrifice convenience for money.”

Mayang lives with his family and said he feels he is struggling to fully immerse himself in the college experience. His loud home life and busy schedule lead him to stay on campus to finish work rather than go out. However, he still makes the commute each day back to his
family home.

“I feel like it’s kind of hindered my transition into college because I’m still tied to my family,” Mayang said. “I go home every day, and I see them. It’s the same as
high school.”

For some commuter students, however, living at home and away from campus can provide the opportunity to be more independent and explore Austin.

Among the morning crowd of commuter students looking for a parking spot is Sophia Marioni, an undeclared natural sciences freshman. She commutes every day from her apartment in Riverside and said she enjoys both the travel itself and the opportunity to separate home and school life. “You kind of have to mature faster,”  Marioni said. “I’ve liked being independent and learning how to really live on my own.”

From racing to the bus stop to packing their own lunch, students said they are able to adapt to their individual schedules and make the best of living off campus.

“Commuting does have its advantages, but it is really tiresome,” Mayang said. “And you are going to be emotionally, physically and mentally drained. Just take it day by day.”