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Commuters aren’t Miserable

Before she came to Stony Brook University as a commuter student, Kirin Mahmud said she was repeatedly told she was making the wrong decision and would be miserable for the next four years of her life.

Mahmud said she consistently proves these critics wrong.

“I really love Stony Brook,” said Mahmud, a junior economics and business double major.”I don’t know why people make such a fuss about it.” She added, “I have the drive and motivation to make sure that I’m not going to be miserable and that these are the best four years of my life.”

Mahmud is just one of the 7,983 undergraduate commuter students at Stony Brook University, according to the most recent statistics provided by the department of Institutional Research. The undergraduate student body is comprised of about 48 percent commuters, establishing an almost even keel between residents and commuters.

A 2007 valedictorian graduate of Longwood High School in Middle Island, NY, Mahmud said she has far too much drive to fall victim to the “false category” often applied to commuters.

Citing that she has had the “ultimate” college experience thus far, Mahmud said the “category” is that commuters are at a great disadvantage and don’t have the ability to enjoy their four years of college as much as residents.

In her second academic year as the President of the Commuter Student Association (CSA), Mahmud said her philosophy is, “My life at Stony Brook is great, what can I do to make you happy?”

She is currently working on renovating the commuter lounge in the Student Activities Center. “There’s not a single piece of red in it!” she said of the lounge. The red will provide “tradition” and “pride,” she said of Stony Brook’s ubiquitous color.

Aside from her involvement in CSA, Mahmud is a Commuter Assistant, a USG Senator, a Student Ambassador, and also works part-time. This semester, Mahmud is also an intern in the Office of the Vice President for Economic Development at the University.

Mahmud lives in Yaphank, NY, approximately a 25-minute one-way drive away from campus. She typically wakes up at 6 a.m. and spends nearly an hour a day driving to and from the University, often spending up to twelve hours on campus daily.

Citing her long days, she said it can be difficult because she “doesn’t have a place” to go on campus. “I make it fun,” Mahmud said. “The key part is making it fun.”

When Mahmud isn’t in class, she catches up on schoolwork, interns, conducts executive board meetings, sits in on committees, and even finds the time to maintain her continuously blossoming social life.

Maansi Amin, a junior health science major and campus resident, has been friends with Mahmud since their freshman year. “Being friends with Kirin is no different than being friends with anything else,” Amin said with a laugh. “I spend more time with her than anyone else.”

The pair reflected on how they met, sharing a laugh over the sheer coincidence of their meeting.

“We met in MAT131 together freshman year,” Amin said, recalling the large calculus lecture. “[Kirin] came up to me in the engineering lobby before class and introduced herself. We sat together and have been friends ever since.”

Mahmud emphasized the importance for commuters to have friends on both ends of the spectrum—resident and commuter.

“Being a commuter isn’t easy,” Mahmud emphasized. “I’m not going to lie.” She said that commuters often have a plethora of responsibilities in addition to their lives as a student.

Emily Resnick, Senior Adviser of the Office of Commuter Student Services, agrees. “Commuters are a diverse and dynamic community who come to campus with all different types of life experiences,” Resnick explained. “There are traditional students like Kirin, and non-traditional students.” Non-traditional students are adult learners over the age of 25, who may have full time jobs and families of their own.

The Office of Commuter Student Services, with which Resnick has been affiliated for three years, is one of the main sources of commuter support on campus. “In a nutshell, we provide services, programming, advocacy, research and outreach for commuter students,” she said.

A key service offered by CSS is the Commuter Assistant Program—now in its twelfth year—which helps new commuter students get acclimated to campus by developing connections with current Stony Brook students.

“The CA program helps to provide commuters with that first connection here on campus,” Resnick said. “Commuter Assistants show their new commuter student partners ‘the ropes’ and provide them with each of their own unique student perspectives.”

According to Resnick, there are an abundance of opportunities available to commuter students, not solely within her office. She says, however, that their use of these opportunities is at their discretion. “As is true for all students, it’s up to you to do what you want with your time,” she emphasized. “There are plenty of role models, like Kirin, who are a prime example of taking advantage of what we have to offer as a campus.”

She said students like Mahmud enhance commuter life on campus and provide an example for the possibilities of commuter involvement.  “She is a true leader,” Resnick emphasized. “She really is an ambassador to students, showing them what is offered on campus.”

Mahmud, who is described by her friends as, “the most positive person” they know, describes herself as ambitious, imaginative and innovative. She said her word of advice to all students, including commuters, is to be positive.

“Get yourself out there and make the most of your experience at Stony Brook,” she said emphatically. “Enhance your experience and make memories. Make sure when you look back you say, ‘wow, I made the most of it!’”

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