Marlen Cruz has taken on many roles in her scant 20-some years. First-generation American. First-generation college student. And: a commuter student.
“My parents live five minutes away from campus. They were like, ‘There’s no way you’re living on campus,’” she relays, laughing.
A public health science major who was in the Media, Self and Society Scholars program, Cruz says she was unhappy at first to not live on campus. “But then I realized, I liked going home and seeing my parents,” she says. The oldest of three, she is also close to her siblings and says commuting from home allowed her to keep tabs on them.
Last fall, we followed Cruz for a few hours over two days to get a sense of what life is like for a commuter student at the University of Maryland (UMD). It’s actually a role Cruz no longer has: In December, she graduated from college, after only two and a half years.