Should I commute to university or find student accommodation?

Investing in a master’s degree is a daunting, scary and expensive process.

It’s a risk, to say the least; with student accommodation prices rapidly rising and the cost of your weekly shop through the roof, maybe staying at home is an easier option.

Before starting my Magazine Journalism master’s degree in September 2022, I found the perfect studio. When it came to making that first rent payment, I panicked and bottled it. Why would I pay thousands on rent when I could buy so much with that money?

I cancelled my accommodation and decided to commute.

I had the privilege of living at home with no rent or shopping costs and food made for me. Other than tidying up after myself, I had no actual chores or responsibilities outside my job.

My course was two days a week, and Nottingham Trent University was a one-hour direct train ride – what could go wrong?

I had a very clear vision before starting my master’s; I was going to smash it and learn as much as I possibly could. However, commuting soon put a stop to that.

I had to give up learning a language because the classes didn’t fit around my timetable and meant that I would have to come into the city especially, which didn’t seem like a justified or reasonable financial decision.

I also gave up Shorthand, an optional module in my degree and highly valued in the journalism world; however, I didn’t see fit to travel in for 9 am on a Friday for an optional one-hour session.

Two days a week, but two days of exhaustion. I was waking up at 5.30 am, getting a taxi to the station, a train ride, and a tram to university and then repeating this in the evening.

The trains were constantly delayed, which meant a one-hour journey turned into a two-hour one, and I even missed full university days because of the ongoing train strikes.

I had a heavy bag full of equipment to lug around in the freezing cold temperatures, rain and winter darkness.

The amount I was spending on travel every week bordered on the cost of the rent.

I felt like I was living two lives, one at home with my friends and family and one at university, which I didn’t feel connected with.

Whilst everyone was making friends and going out, I couldn’t get involved because I wasn’t physically present. I barely knew anyone, I didn’t know where anything in Nottingham was, and I didn’t have the time to explore as I was rushing home to avoid rush hour.

I began searching for flats to rent and found the same one that I initially cancelled; I booked it with no hesitation, and in terms of my master’s, it’s probably the best decision I’ve made.

My flat is a ten-minute walk to university and even quicker on the tram; I have my own space, independence, and responsibilities. I have met some fantastic new people, and I actually feel like a university student.

I have taken on a new role as an editor, which I would never have been able to do had I not moved. Work experience in Nottingham requires me to stay, and the best part is I can still go home whenever I want.

It was an expensive decision but worth it.

You have probably made endless pros and cons lists and searched every single student forum for advice on commuting vs staying.

It’s a difficult decision, so think carefully and remember there is nothing wrong with commuting to see what it’s like first and then moving later in the year if it’s not working for you. I did miss out on some opportunities, but I saved a lot of cash by moving later in the year, and it gave me time to decide if the course was right for me before making that more permanent decision.

Lead image credit: Ankush Minda

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