Melissa (roseofjuly) wrote in loveandacademia,

This is somewhat related to the previous post, but it's a bit different.

Do any of you commute a long way to school in order to live with, or closer to, your mate?

How long would you be willing to commute in order to live with your mate?

My fiance's in the Air Force. He's stationed at McGuire AFB in south central New Jersey -- about 15-20 miles south of Trenton, if anyone's familiar with the area. I currently am doing a Ph.D at a New York City university and I live in upper Manhattan. The driving distance between our living spaces is a little under 2 hours. My fiance visits me every weekend; he rides the bus up from the base, which usually takes about 3 hours (because buses are slow).

We're planning to get married this year. We want to live together -- we really, really want to live together. We were originally planning to hold off until I finish my coursework (I'm a first year, and I won't be finished my coursework until spring 2011.) But I'm wondering if the 2 hour distance would be feasible to close. The first hurdle of course is finding out how far from the base he can live -- but he says he's pretty sure as long as he can make it to work every day, he can live wherever he wants within 250 miles. The halfway point, of course, would be 1 hour away from each place. Neither of us currently has a car, but we're remedying that situation for him first, and if we do move together we would remedy it for me as well.

One hour is nothing for me to sacrifice in order to come home to my hubby every day -- not to mention that I'd be saving nearly $1,000 by letting the government foot the bill for joint accommodations. The only problem I can think of is it wouldn't be a straight commute. There's no way in hell I'm driving a car into New York; IF I found a place to park it it could very easily cost me between $200-300 a month just to park it, and driving in New York would give me a heart attack. NJ has a pretty good transit system that if we lived in the halfway city (which theoretically is nearby New Brunswick, I suppose) I could take the train into the city, but it would take me an hour by train just to get to midtown, and another half an hour to actually get to my campus.

Which, like I said, is a small sacrifice to living together, but I want to make sure that my time is the only sacrifice (and not my productivity!) I'm in the social sciences so it's not like I have to work in a lab every day. Last semester I was on campus three days a week; this semester, I will only have to be on for two, but I'm collecting data so I'll be out and about in the city 4 days a week. I expect that in future semesters I'll most likely be on campus an average of 3 days a week. Most of the work I do I can complete from home, unless I'm collecting data from participants face to face.

What do you all think?
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Someone in my program lived a little more than an hour away from campus. It ended up being pretty frustrating - she only wanted to come in two days per week so we all ended up having to accomodate her by switching TA assignments, rescheduling classes, etc.

Another person I know lived almost two hours away for one semester. He stayed overnight at our house once a week or so, but didn't seem to have any trouble otherwise.

I think the biggest risk in doing something like that is being removed from your peers - you might miss occasional lectures, won't have the same opportunities for intellectual exchange, etc. On the other hand, I assume you'll be able to get some useful reading done during your commute time, if you're taking public transit.
you might miss occasional lectures, won't have the same opportunities for intellectual exchange

Yes, this is what I'd worry about. It's completely doable, but when every day has to end with a two-hour commute, you miss out on being part of the research culture of the department. If you do decide to do this, it might be worth arranging to pay a friend a small stipend in return for using their spare room a few times a month so you don't have to get home.

Having said that, does anyone have spare rooms in New York? Probably not...


10 years ago

I live in Northern NJ, and my commute is 40 minutes by bus and then 20 by subway. (Not because of my spouse, but because we wanted a real house, and NJ is much cheaper tha NYC.) I find that the commute is a great time to do reading. Taking the train from New Brunswick (or even Trenton... any route that doesn't require transferring) will probably be fine.

(Before we moved to NJ, we both commuted by train from New Haven, CT, to NYC. That commute, while do-able is longer than I would recommend!)
Hope that helps.
My advisor told me that when he had a post-doc at Yale, he commuted from NYC to New Haven, but he lives in Brooklyn (and pretty far east in Brooklyn I believe).

But it does help -- it helps to know that someone is doing it. New Jersey is a whole lot cheaper than NYC, and as I said, we stand to save a lot of money by doing this.

I ride down to Trenton fairly often because I have family who lives in south Jersey, and it's a really easy shot from Penn Station to Trenton. From NB it's even shorter.
As long as you don't have to be on campus everyday, I'd think that would be totally feasible. Then again, I have a high tolerance for commuting, since my high school was 45 minutes from my house.

I live about 40 minutes from my campus, but am only there 1-2 evenings per week. I also work full time (for now), and my office is about half way. My boyfriend's job is about 30 minutes in another direction. We picked where we live because it's close to friends and amenities, it's a nice area, and neither of our commutes are terrible.

Of course, I'll be applying to PhD programs next year and then it's a different ball game. I could end up in another part of the country. And then my boyfriend will have to decide if he wants to find a new job or if they'll let him work from home (which they probably will).
See, this is why I'm kind of for waiting until I get further along in my coursework or am taking my exams. Right now I'm going to have to be in the city doing stuff 4 days a week -- two days of classes and 2 days of data collection. But that won't be a constant along my years here.
I live just outside of Trenton, and I take the train into Philly for school everyday. I would suggest looking on the train lines for little towns you might want to settle in - commuting by train has been very easy and that 45 min or so on the train lets me read, knit, relax, whatever.
Yeah, I've been looking along the train lines. I know the stops that it makes so I know the closest towns - I like Elizabeth NJ, and parts of New Brunswick are pretty nice (and theoretically would be good because the hubby could finish his own degree at Rutgers, as he plans to finish it). I like Northern NJ, and commuting by train is relaxing for me, too (plus I get reading done!)
That sounds quite feasible. I agree about using the transit time to get reading done, and I've done that myself. It's not ideal to live far from campus, but school is a temporary situation and marriage is theoretically permanent. You want a real scheduling nightmare, go on and have a kid. That's changed things more than anything else for me.
LOL, we want children too, but we've pretty much agreed to wait until I'm done with school and his first enlistment is up, which happens around the same time.
Side note: Why doesn't he take the train from Trenton to Penn Station?

I would say that New Brunswick is more expensive than some of the smaller towns around it... I mean, yes, the train ride can suck but NJ Transit has been adding internet to those trains and I think power outlets too. So you could definitely get work done on the NJ Transit portion of the commute, even if you can't do it on the subway. Oh, and a FYI, NJ car insurance is really freaking expensive so you may not want to get two cars, esp if you're mostly using public transit.

Thanks for the local tips :D Aw man, internet on the trains would be awesome. ANd I don't love driving anyway; I thought two cars might be necessary if he couldn't get me to the train station in the morning, but we should work it out to save car insurance and maybe I can just keep my Zipcar account -- they have them in northern NJ too.


10 years ago

I'm not familiar with the area you'd be living in, but my college roommate married and moved about 2.5 hours from campus with 1 semester to go. She wound up driving in 3 days a week for the last semester and it was rough going but she did finish up.

In my program, we had a few people who had long commutes, none over 2 hours though, and many of them managed to get down to 3 days a week of travel. Be aware that weather can cause even more delays, and early classes might be harder to do depending on public transport.
I know a few people that have long commutes into the City. They have a laptop and get work done on the train. So, you can figure in an hour's worth of reading time there :-)
If you're doing it by train instead of driving, you can do your reading or writing on the train. If, OTOH, you have to drive, IT WILL BE A HARDSHIP. Don't forget it's also very tiring on top of being a major time drain. I had a one hour commute one way for three days a week for a semester, and I was EXHAUSTED.
I think this is one of those times too, when academics need to remember what it's like for people in "the real world". My father has had a 1.5 hour commute each way from his work every day for his 35 year career. He works five days a week--leaves at 7, gets home at 6:30.

If you're willing to think of school as a full-time job with fewer "in office" hours, I'd think a one hour commute--especially if you can rig it so that it would be with someone else driving--is no big deal. And if you're spending say, 10-4 on campus every day, you're less likely to miss out on peer face time as well.
See, the 'real world' is what made me think this may be good and bad. The first thing I thought is that most of the people I knew, when I lived in Atlanta and other places, had an hour-long commute to work. Most people don't live 5 minutes away from their jobs, I'd wager, especially folks in the inner-city. And I feel like the entire state of New Jersey more or less serves as a commuter hub for people who work in New York and Philadelphia. :D

But on the other hand, both my father and my uncle commuted to NYC from New Jersey, and it was really hard on them. That's a reason we eventually moved away from New Jersey and why my dad left his old job. THe commute was 2-3 hours. Of course we lived much further south in Jersey than me and my husband to be would live.

But you're absolutely right -- I'm spoiled, because currently I live four blocks away from campus and I walk to class. Classes on the main campus are just a 15-minute subway ride away. I'm totally a city girl; I'd rather hop on the subway than drive any day.
Hey, I live in New Brunswick, so I can give you any advice regarding that. :) The train takes about an hour to NYC and the area around the train station is a little sketchy sometimes (just homeless people who occasionally talk to themselves).

Honestly I don't think new brunswick is that expensive. Rutgers students drive up the demand for housing around campus so yes, living around campus is expensive. But if you're willing to live a short bike ride from the train station it's not so bad; I saw a one bedroom in a decent neighborhood the other day for $900/month (which, for around here, is pretty good- and it was legal to have two people living there too).
I'd rather live a short bike ride from the station than around the Rutgers students :) and the rent sounds like New York prices anyway ($900 for a one-bedroom is pretty standard up here, but in the "decent" neighborhoods, not the nice ones).

Is it illegal in some places for 2 people to live in a one bedroom? It would seem that a lot of couples would want one-bedrooms, if they have no children.


10 years ago

I live two hours from school. I only go in 3 days per week, there's a bus for 1/2 of that commute, and I get up ridiculously early already to run and work out, so the adjustment wasn't too bad.

Being near a significant other was not the motivating factor for me, but it was one of many including cheap housing, a nice area, and employment.

I imagine if such a long commute were one-sided and solely for the purpose of a relationship it could lead to resentment, since there are many frustrations involved. But, it's doable.


January 16 2009, 02:28:52 UTC 10 years ago Edited:  January 16 2009, 02:29:15 UTC

Yes, that's why I want to move to north central Jersey and not somewhere in northern NJ -- Jersey City or Secaucus or Hoboken would all be closer for me and the PATH trains are an easy commute over the river into Manhattan. But I think it'd be unfair to make my fiance drive 2 hours from here to the base and then back in the evenings. I don't want him to resent me and I want this to be equitable.
I commute an hour to campus, the hubby commutes 1 hour 15 min. to work. We've been married 7 years and have 2 kids, and it hasn't killed us yet :D It's all about priorities. I couldn't imagine EVER living apart from him, I hate it when he goes on business trips! Good luck!
Thanks :) I hate living apart from mine now!
Thank you guys for all your helpful advice! I've talked to my advisor about the situation as well, and he brought up a lot of the same points you all did. This is going to be an ongoing conversation between the fiance and me, so it's nothing immediate or imminent. Just wanted to think about it far in advance, because I'm a planner :D
Yeah, my boyfriend is English. And I spend my summers with him. Make the visit into a really long research trip. lol He's a programmer in the UK and is currently going to university. I'm a graduate student in history and he's working on his undergrad in Software engineering. So yeah, I go a pretty far distance. I have plans to move here (am here already for the summer) in a couple of years. So yeah, it takes alot of effort to make something like that work. lol Might be out of context but it sounded like a good thread to attach myself to. But at home, where I take care of my elderly mother, I commute an hour to school 4 days a week.