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Building Relationships as a Commuter Student


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So, I'm going to be starting at Seton Hall this fall, but I live in the Bronx, which is a very lengthy trip away via public transit. I don't have a car. I also have a full-time job in Brooklyn.

 

I keep reading how it's important to form professional relationships with the other students and with professors, to be present on campus, etc. But I'm not sure how I'm supposed to do that; I'll be in three classes a week, two of them in the evenings, and while I've decided I'm going to take at least one day a week to be present on campus, I'm very concerned about how possible it will be to form meaningful contacts in my department if I'm skirting in and out the way I'm fairly sure I'll have to.

 

Any other commuter grad students with experience have any advice?

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You don't need to be present outside of class. I don't think any professor would care and even if you were hanging around campus everyday they likely wouldn't notice you. Do well in class (spend adequate time on assignments, papers, and participate in class) and you will do just fine.

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You don't need to be present outside of class. I don't think any professor would care and even if you were hanging around campus everyday they likely wouldn't notice you. Do well in class (spend adequate time on assignments, papers, and participate in class) and you will do just fine.

 

As far as building relationships with professors, this has also mostly been my experience. Significant contributions to class discussions are often the best way to initiate relationships with professors.

 

As far as forming professional relationships with other students... the situation may be different depending on the ethos of the program. Does your department have a graduate lounge? If so, sometimes these are great places for students to connect with others in the department and also to form a community. At my alma mater, the grad lounge was basically where everyone congregated, shared ideas, and worked. Also, there are usually departmental grad student activities going on throughout the semester (like retreats, or even home gatherings for food and fellowship!) Attending these will definitely help you to build relationships with other students and can be a fun outlet for spending some time away for your studies.

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On the day(s) you are there, drink a good amount of alcoholic beverages with students after you're done with classes.

I had to laugh at this at first, but VDS does have a keg every Friday I hear, on campus no less. Time around food and booze will certainly help.

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I had to laugh at this at first, but VDS does have a keg every Friday I hear, on campus no less. Time around food and booze will certainly help.

 

Visiting an UG friend who went to VDS for his MDiv, I can confirm there is a keg on most Fridays. But do understand it's a social thing to try and encourage community, getting people's noses out of their books, and engaged with the students and people around them. From the times I visited, it's mostly MDiv and PhD students (for whatever reason there seemed to be few academic M* students present) and quite a few professors.

 

In fact, several divinity schools I've run across either host official alcohol friendly events on campus or organize "official" events off campus at nearby pubs.

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Yeah, Vandy has its fair share of alcohol friendly events, include Al's Pub on Fridays, which is what you're alluding to. It's normally pretty good beer, too. We're usually like, "You got a KEG of THAT?! Awesome!" And yes, lots of good bars in the area and house parties.

Refocusing though, I've got to agree with jdmhotness that even though these events might be great for your sanity, they're not going to somehow establish strong professional relationships for you, especially with faculty. The worst thing you could possibly do is turn event like these into networking, because you'll end up feeling like you're still on the clock academically, and the point of them is precisely the opposite.

Again, rock out your coursework, seek out faculty's advice on your work, do all the stuff that serious academics do because they care about the quality of their work.

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