August 25, 2015

"On Wednesdays we park in the Scarlet Lot": A commuter's guide to fitting in at RU

Unless you work at Google or LinkedIn or another magical place where you work from home, when you have a full-time job, you'll likely drive to work, park, work, get back in your car, and drive home. That's just the nature of working for a living. 

For commuter students, that may be how you intend to approach coming to Rutgers: drive to campus, park, take the bus to class, sit through class, get back in your car, and drive home. It's expedient, but it's not much fun. And it's definitely not helpful in your transition to or experience of college life.
Ask anyone how commuter students should become part of the Rutgers community and you always get the same good answer: GET INVOLVED ON CAMPUS. Now whether the “get involved” battle cry elicits an eye roll or a “yea, that makes sense” from you, it's difficult advice to follow. Especially when it seems as though on-campus students are rolling deep from day 1, it can be hard to go to events (or even walk into class) alone. But alone you are NOT. There are about 1200 of you in the incoming class, and you are an important part of our community… so how to make it feel that way? Being involved looks different for everyone, according to your comfort level and your interests. To make things a little easier, here are some ideas for your first steps to joining the RU community and setting a strong foundation for success ‘on the banks’:

1. Attend OCSA (Off Campus Students' Association) functions to meet other commuters. These are the other people you see in the parking lot; there are more of you than you know, and you are ALL trying to figure out how to meet new people. OCSA has two events next week: Navigating the Banks (August 27) and the Commuter Reception (August 29). Check out all the Welcome Week activities! 

2. Once you've met a new friend or two at the OCSA events, plan to meet them at the Student Involvement Fair to discover all the clubs and activities at RU. 

3. Come to campus! REALLY! Attend other Welcome Week activities and sessions to help you find out more about your new home away from home. As a commuter, you have a leg up for the RUPA Scavenger Hunt because you have your own wheels to get around campus!

4. Attend an RU Football Game (even if you don't love football…sssh, we won’t tell). Students get free tickets to Rutgers sporting events, which is one of the best ways to feel school spirit and pride in becoming a Scarlet Knight. Coordinate with your new friends (see 1, 2 and 3 above) to go to the same game, then wear red, paint your face, learn our fight song and get loud.

5. Find the closest Rec Center and sign up for a fitness class. It's bonding through sweat and struggling, and you may recognize a face or two from your classes. Before you know it, you’ll catch on to the gym nicknames and tell people that you’re going to “Werb”! 

6. Mingle with residents. As a commuter you are welcome as guests in our residence halls for study groups, group projects and socializing. On the flip side, your access to the outside world can be a huge help to your residential friends…especially here in the land of malls and shoreline.

7. Resist leaving campus the minute your class is done. Go hang out at the OCSA lounge (Busch Student Center, Room 122B) and form study groups and find study space specifically on campus. Some of our favorite study places: the Red Lion Café in the CASC, the quiet study room and the Cove in Busch Student Center, the high tables on the 2nd floor bridge between the Livi Student Center and the Livi Dining Commons, and the wingback chairs in the NJC Lounge at Douglass Student Center.

8. Make campus connections on Twitter and Instagram – search #Rutgers to find offices and RU scenes, and follow @RutgersU @RUInfo, @DailyTargum, @RUOCSA and @SASadvising, as well as fellow students. Don’t forget to take and post your own travels around RU and give your friends a shoutout. 

9. Pick up the Daily Targum every day and keep up on all the campus news. Look for Targum drop boxes in all the student centers and many classroom buildings on campus.

10. Schedule an advising appointment for late September/early October to meet an adviser and discuss how things are going. Even if you feel like you don’t have questions, make the appointment! The adviser will ask you questions and help you think about your academic transition and plans. 

 Graduation seems a very long way away, but history has proven that the most successful students at Rutgers and beyond are those who don't just drive by, but who become part of this amazing community (Shoutout to Matt Ferguson & the New Student Orientation staff for the excellent reminder):