Tips And Ideas For Commuter Law Students

Tips And Ideas For Commuter Law StudentsThis week we welcome back guest writer Tiffany Lo to talk about life as a commuter law student.

I am a law student who commutes to school, and I know a few students who do so as well. While commuting can be challenging at times, it is also manageable. Having commuted both by car and public transit, I have picked up some tips and tricks along the way, which will be helpful for any student in the same boat, or who may be considering living off-campus in the future.

1. Secure a Locker and Use it Wisely

Your law school likely provides lockers for off-campus students, if not all students. A locker is a great place to store your heavy books, law school essentials, and any other things that you may want to access frequently, but don’t want to bring back and forth between home and school. Some things you can put in your locker include instant coffee packets, tea bags, hand sanitizer, stationery, an extra change of clothes and layers, extra tupperware and utensils, chargers, etc. When I have to go across campus, I often put my backpack in my locker to help reduce strain on my back. I also always have a few recycling bags on hand to redistribute the weight in my backpack or to separate out certain items.

2. Plan Your Meals in Advance and Ask Around about Kitchen Appliances

I also make sure to know my plans for grabbing lunch or dinner whenever I’m on campus, whether I am bringing my own meal, eating food provided at a speaker or social event, going to a café, or meeting with friends. Early on, I made sure to ask about the availability of a fridge and microwave around the law school, so that I could store and reheat my food. I also figured out where I can grab utensils around campus, in addition to storing extra ones in my locker. For me, knowing about my plans for nourishing myself throughout the day relieves a lot of stress. It also ensures that I am not late to my commitments because I’m stuck in line waiting to get food, for example.

3. Learn About Equipment Available To Borrow

My school’s law library offers equipment loans for technology like laptops, computer accessories, headphones chargers, cameras, hard drives, cables, and more. Other things to borrow include bikes, board games, sporting equipment, and book stands. Understanding these options will help you plan ahead for what to bring to school, or to have a backup in unexpected situations.

4. Familiarize Yourself With the Public Transit Options and Schedule

I enjoy riding public transit since it eliminates driving and allows me to be productive during the ride. Not to mention the benefits for the environment and of reducing traffic on the roads! If there are public transportation for you to travel between your home and school, I encourage you to learn about them. Your school will likely provide information about the options. If you do choose to ride public transit, whether as your only, partial, or backup option, I recommend downloading or printing out the schedule, or otherwise ensuring it is accessible. I often find myself checking the bus schedule.

5. Give Yourself Breathing Room

Having had much shorter commutes between home-to-school before, ranging from 2 minutes to 20, I have really felt the need to create a lot of breathing room when dealing with a longer commute time. If I’m driving, I always give myself a 20-30 minute buffer in anticipation of any traffic or accidents, and so that I can find parking and walk to my classroom. I also don’t mind waking up a little earlier to beat the peak traffic times. When I get to school, I just work a little before my first class. If I’m taking the bus, I make sure that there is a later bus option that will still allow me to get to where I need, on time. I really hate the feeling of anxiety that comes with worrying that I won’t make it on time (not to mention the awkwardness of strolling into a room late), and I do my best to avoid it.

6. Plan Your Class Schedule to Minimize Commuting Time

I have noticed that many commuting students build their class schedule to require on-campus presence only a few days of the week, for example, a Monday/Wednesday class schedule. The saved commuting time for the other days can be used for getting a bit more sleep, completing reading assignments, and reviewing. I also take advantage of video conferencing technology to meet with my classmates or professors virtually, when an in-person discussion is not necessary. Given that professors are not always on campus themselves, I’ve found that video conferencing options make it easier to find mutually convenient times.

7. Don’t Let Commuting Prevent you from Missing Out on Events

Finally, I remember one older commuter student warning me that being far away will inevitably deter me from going onto campus often, such as for professional or social events. I totally agree with her. In response, I’ve tried to push back against the impulse not to attend interesting events just because of the commute. Law school is a wonderful community and a great place to network with and learn from professors, judges, lawyers, other speakers, and of course other students. I always check all the upcoming events in the following weeks and attend the ones that are informative and fun, regardless of whether it necessitates extra commuting.

My commuting experience has been quite pleasant, especially with the resources I’ve found at my school. I hope this article gave you some insight into the commuter student life!


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About Tiffany Gee Ching Lo

Tiffany Gee Ching Lo is a student at Stanford Law School. She spent her 1L year at the New York University School of Law, where she was involved with Alternative Breaks, Women of Color Collective, and Law Revue, and worked as research assistant. Tiffany received her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley, graduating magna cum laude with double majors in Political Science and Rhetoric. Tiffany developed an interest in the law from a young age, and have worked in law firms and courthouses in Hong Kong–where she grew up, around the San Francisco Bay Area, and in New York. In her spare time, Tiffany enjoys painting, playing the piano and cello, trying out new recipes, and watching late night talk shows.

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