On the surface, it seems like being a day student at Blair gives you the best of both worlds. We get to go to a great school during the day without the sacrifice of home-cooked meals and our families watching over you. But living at home and spending your days in a challenging environment where people bond through their experiences of living in a dorm room and being locked in Clinton for two hours on Monday nights is not always a cause for joy. As they say, “you can’t have your cake and eat it too.” The same goes for being a day student. We may get to sleep in our own beds, but sometimes it would make our lives a whole lot easier if we didn’t have to.
One of the defining characteristics of being a day student is the commute. For some, this is a lengthy trek across state borders that costs them up to 45 minutes of sleep in the morning. I’m one of the lucky ones; I can afford to roll out of bed, get dressed, clamber into the car at 7:30, and drive 15 minutes to have breakfast with my friends. While for me, this journey every morning is short, sometimes I am jealous when I see the boarders of Locke throwing on their clothes just as I am arriving at school. When classes end, which varies day to day, as an unaccustomed freshman, I am often frantically texting back and forth with my mom about when I’ll be done with after-school activities. My last thought is how grateful I am to spend time with my family over our “formal” dinner; I just want to crash on the couch and hope my homework completes itself.
In terms of friendships, being a day student puts you in a weird position. In some ways it is good; your shared experiences and status as a Blair minority makes it easier to bond with other day students. At the beginning of the year, I found everybody was eager to make new friends, and that made it easier to talk to new people and strike up conversations. However, many of the bonding activities for the boarders happen after we are gone. I get the *fun* experience of watching late night hangouts and cookie baking in the dorms from my phone and listening to laments about “freshman jail.” It’s frustrating to be excluded from this tight-knit boarder circle. Often someone will make a joke or reference to me about something that’s happened in the dorms and then mend it with the overused, “Oh, right, you’re a day student.”
On the bright side, we get to see our parents all the time. This is something that seems normal to me, but I know it would be hard to deal with the lack of face-to-face communication if I were a boarder. Of course, this too has its ups and downs. I don’t get along with my parents 100% of the time, like most teenagers, and I’m not always thinking about how lucky I am to have this advantage. Still, it’s hard to imagine only getting to see them on breaks or long weekends at designated points in the year. Even though sometimes I wish I were a boarder, this is one of the benefits I always consider when I’m feeling down about the time I don’t spend on campus.
Even though there are a lot of great opportunities presented by being a day student, it’s hard to reconcile with all the things you can’t do. We aren’t invited to formal dinner, so we have to fend for ourselves when we stay for Skeptics. We may get to drive off campus and leave when activities are over, but that doesn’t mean we have lives outside of school. Just like everyone else, our lives are consumed primarily by school, and since the community is shaped to adapt to the packed schedules of students who are always here, there isn’t any extra room built in for day students to do other things. We aren’t always able to enjoy the so-called “advantages” that we have, and that’s something frustrating about life at a school intended for boarding students. Sure, we’re physically closer to our other friends and families, but we don’t get to spend an excessive amount of time with them during the school year. However, our proximity does make it easier to stay in touch, and our breaks, even just short weekends when just a few of the boarders go home, allow for get-togethers. Since we spend time with our families often, we are able to contribute more of our breaks to friends.
In the end, there are a lot of factors that go into your enjoyment of and success at Blair. Everyone has a different experience here, and that’s something unique and special about the school. But overall, sometimes, being able to go home at night is not a valuable price for the cost of all that we miss by not living here. Our entire lives revolve around school, yet we’re regarded by some as not being fully integrated into the community. But I’m still grateful for all that I get to have by being at Blair and still living at home; friends from other states and even countries, an amazing school with a supportive community, and a family that will stand behind me no matter what. Maybe many of the problems I’ve experienced will be eliminated after freshman year. So yes, in a lot of ways, day students get the best of both worlds, and being here means embarking on a new adventure that I can’t wait for in the years ahead.
(Copyright 2018 Peyton Schreiber)