Gone are the days of a ride to school from mom or the friendly neighborhood bus driver to one building whose hallways you’ll wear ruts into going from classroom to classroom for four years. College campuses are like the premium version of high school campuses: (literally) the version you pay money for, and also a lot bigger.
You’ll most likely be getting to class on your own in college, and you’ll most likely have each class in a different building for your first two years while you’re taking gen eds. Some day you’ll have to make it from the fifth floor of the Law building on the east side of campus to the basement lecture hall of the Physics building all the way on the west side of campus, and Mom’s chariot will not be there to offer its services. You’ll have to choose how to get around campus in every situation, and there are pros and cons to every form of transportation around campus to know.
This is probably what you’ll be doing the most to get around campus. Walking is good for really seeing campus your first few weeks, for seeing people you know, for short distances, and for getting exercise. If you’re going to walk around campus, make sure to wear comfortable shoes (lightweight and supportive in the warm months; warm and waterproof in the cold months) and to always leave for class early. You never know if you’ll run into a chatty classmate or (especially on campus) get trapped by an aggressive flyer-giver for a student org into signing your Wednesday nights away for four years. Also, remember pedestrians follow a lot of the same rules as cars: one per lane (two at most for pedestrians, no groups of four people in a straight line across the sidewalk), stick to the right if you’re going to be slow, and when passing, do it politely. The problem with walking is, if you never figure out another way to get to class, you’ll be very tempted to skip class if the temperatures drop and your walk seems more like an Antarctic expedition.
Taking the bus
A lot of campuses have free bus services, which makes taking the bus a good option for the winter, for longer distances, and for those for whom walking may not be the best physical option. Buses do tend to get crowded, though, and bus schedules can be unreliable. Arrive to the bus stop early, move to the back of the us when it arrives so people can get on after you, hold your belongings as close to you as possible, and just be considerate. You don’t want anyone popping your personal space bubble, and they don’t want you popping theirs, with your wayward elbows and knees, loud conversations, or, as I learned from a very rude scolding directed to me, your fragrant and possibly allergy-inducing foods (I will never bring a bagel with peanut butter on the bus again).
Though college campuses are big, most of them are also walkable, meaning they’re compact enough to get around without a car. If you are driving to campus as a commuter student, there is not much you can do. But just living in apartments or dorms just slightly off campus does not justify wasting that much money in gas and parking (tickets). Cars are mostly good for getting to places away from campus, which means your car keys make you one of the most popular people in your circle. Be prepared for mere acquaintances to ask for rides to the grocery store, the mall, the airport, and Grandma Jan’s house in a small town forty-five minutes away.
Riding a Bike
You’ll get to class faster than the people who are walking or taking the bus, but unfortunately, for the first couple of weeks that difference in time will be spent finding a place to keep your bike while you’re in class. Avoid biking on campuses with hills and be mindful of pedestrians.
If you’re really committed to skateboarding being your thing, then hey, channel your inner Tony Hawk or angsty preteen of the Avril Lavigne age and shred. In the winter and on campuses with hills, your skateboard will become your most inconvenient handheld accessory. Watch out for pedestrians, and, for the love of God, do not try to squeeze through a full row of lecture seats with your board, knocking everyone’s knees with the wheel in the process. Actually, you might want to avoid skateboards in lecture at all: I’ve seen a skateboard roll down every single step in a lecture hall on the first day, and I watched the light in its owner’s eyes die.
Again, if this is your thing, do it; no one is going to judge you in college. You’ll look super cute, vintage, and even beachy wearing your blades to class. Just know that roller blading to class is also a commitment to a two-shoe lifestyle, and it’s likely all of your books will smell like feet from the extra pair in your backpack at all times. I say to just commit fully: bring back Heelys.