In my first two years at CMU I lived in residence, which was an excellent introduction to the energy and life at this school. In my third year I made the bold decision to move into the mysterious land of off-campus life. Living off-campus acquainted me with a different aspect of the community that I was unfamiliar with. I got to know different kinds of students, took advantage of access to prime study spaces on campus—life was bright beyond the walls of my dorm room.

Commuter Assistants, 2015-16

Commuter Assistants, 2015-16

What is often talked about at CMU is importance of bringing the residence and commuter communities together—not seeing them as distinct, but rather two different groups of students that can enhance each other’s university experience and learning. The question is, how does this happen? These are the kinds of things that Commuter Assistants (CAs) think about. Commuters have the chance to participate in a number of leadership roles on campus, but CAs pay particular attention to the needs and happenings of the commuter community. My interest in being part of this process is part of why I became a CA this year.

CAs have a number of roles on campus. During the first couple weeks of school, CAs help first years and other commuter students get a sense for what being a student is like. We make sure that commuter students have access to the right resources . . . down to knowing where they can store their backpacks during the day and where the microwaves are. When CAs aren’t directing traffic during the first couple of weeks, we are planning different events to bring the CMU student body together. In the past we have put on pancake and pizza lunches, movie nights in Marpeck Commons, potlucks, and many other events. As a commuter, these events can be a godsend when time for packing lunches becomes non-existent.

If you’re considering CMU as an option and are not sure if living in residence is for you, attending as a commuter student can still give you the chance to experience the close community that CMU is known for.

Alex Tiessen is one of CMU’s Student Ambassadors

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