Elevating a Long Commute
On the first day of ninth grade, I experienced a 90-minute commute to attend a specialized high school in the city. While it was only 20 miles from where I lived on the outskirts of New York City, my only option was to take a bus, two trains and walk a couple of blocks to the school on the lower west side of Manhattan. The commute eroded parts of my very being because I was getting less sleep, less time to devote to studying, less time to hangout with friends or for extracurriculars. What was even worse is that I had even less time to find out who I was as a human being during a period that is often transformative for people’s identity. During my high school years, I did nothing to fight The Commute at first. I was told just to accept it and ignore it and deal with it. But, faced with a similar commute crisis for college, I have found ways that make the commute much less stressful and possibly enriching.
The first activity I would recommend trying is studying on your phone if you want to make your commute more productive. There are multiple methods of pursuing this while on your mobile device. My first step is to turn on airplane mode to prevent anyone from messaging me or bothering me besides my fellow commuters. I also sometimes put on headphones and listen to white noise to help tune out the sounds of the bus and subway. Next, I will begin by reviewing my class notes on OneNote if I have typed up notes for that class. While I do also write my notes by hand, I’ve found that digitizing my notes for review purposes increases the number of times I have to review and repeat the material. Repetition has been proven as the key to life-long learning and this method only adds to this. Some of my classes are based on memorization and understanding, and I find that the Quizlet app is incredibly useful for these types of classes. Many classes also have readings (especially in college!) and I have switched to using eBook versions of all my textbooks when I can to allow for greater mobility. Often times, my commute will fly by because I am so absorbed in the material, but I am grateful that I was able to do something meaningful with it.
If you are not in school but would still like to learn and add to your life, I would recommend listening to audiobooks or podcasts. I have used the free credits from Amazon’s Audible app, but I have also used wonderful and free resources like Libby during summer break and winter break to listen to something while I travel to internships/jobs. There is a huge selection from a variety of genres. If audiobooks are a bit too long, there are other means of absorbing information such as through podcasts. I mainly use Spotify to access my podcasts, but there are plenty of apps that allow you to access them. Some of the podcasts I consistently listen to are the NY Times Daily and WIRED’s podcast. I am in the process of exploring myself with podcasts from a variety of fields. I also hope to supplement my college experience and enrich my knowledge base of the world.
In college, I am grateful that I can now pursue an interest in Global Public Health. In fact, these classes have allowed me to learn about the importance between equity and equality. People who face long commutes often come from underserved areas and populations that are tasked with making do with less resources. Equity is about providing people with enough resources, so that everyone has a shot of having the same chances. While applications that enhance your commute can help mind the time, there is more that needs to be done to deal with equity. Communities should have better access to public transportation and other ways to have equal opportunities that other people in better areas of the city can have. This is a problem in many urban environments and we can only hope that the built environment will change for us in the near future.