Commuting to uni was not something I gave much thought to until I had to start doing it two years ago. I figured it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle since I already lived in London and my commute was not too long. I was, however, very quickly enlightened to the fact that commuting is no easy feat. Whether it is learning how to use the tube, navigating rush hour, or the realisation that you still have a giant journey ahead of you after finishing a long day- commuting is worth giving some thought.
Here are a few things that helped make me get on top of commuting rather than it on top of me!
1) Citymapper– Perfect for checking tube times and services
Citymapper is a mobile transit and mapping app which tells you the quickest route to your destination. Not to sound like a PR ad but it really is a lifesaver! What I primarily use it for, and think its value is in, is its tube service function.
The app allows you to check if tube lines are running on good service (which is much more of a rarity than you’d think!) as well as informing you of any delays, temporary line closures, and the schedule of when the next train is due to arrive. I check this a while before I need to leave, to make sure I incorporate any extra time for delays into my journey. Not to mention it also comes in handy when the platforms don’t have the tube arrival times available to display.
2) Leave as early as you can!
This is an absolute no brainer! Take it from me that the tubes in London are UNPREDICTABLE!!! Things change so fast, and lines become available and unavailable so haphazardly that it is better for your sanity if you allocate time for delays and just leave earlier!
On days where I only had one class, and absolutely could not afford to be late, I would plan my journey so that I arrived at uni an hour before my class/lecture. This was so helpful as I didn’t have to worry about any setbacks from delays since I’d given myself enough time to take an alternate route if necessary.
3) Avoid rush hour as much as possible
The horror stories are real!! The last place you want to be between 5-6:30pm on weekdays, is the London Underground. It is likely that at least one of your classes will end up falling in that time frame. What I did is to either stay later or arrive earlier to avoid this time frame. Not only does this make your journey that much easier but you can use this extra time to get some reading or class prep done. It’s a win- win!
Here I’d like to mention that, if you do find yourself at the tube station during rush hour, it can be tempting to squeeze yourself into the smallest gap you can see on a packed tube. Rather than doing this, I would suggest checking to see when the next train is due. Often, particularly on the central line, the train is in 1-5 minutes in which case it is worth just waiting for the next one.
4) Remember that commuting is exhausting!
Like I mentioned, I overlooked and underestimated just how much commuting every day would take out of me. In theory it seems easy enough to just sit on a tube for a half hour but when you combine stopovers with packed trains and long days – the toll adds up! I feel that if I had been more prepared for the journey being a factor, it would have helped me deal with the initial exhaustion that came about.
This is all to say, being a commuter definitely adds to the uni experience! The more you prepare and accept the lifestyle, the easier the adjustment will be to make. As with everything, it seems a challenge at first, but with time and experience, it becomes yet another aspect of university that you learn to conquer.