The Charger Blog

Graduate Student Reflects on Learning, Getting Involved on Campus in the Era of COVID

As a candidate in the University of New Haven’s graduate program in forensic science, I have found meaningful ways to get involved with the University community and connect with my fellow Chargers, despite the challenges of a long commute and the impact of the coronavirus global pandemic.

March 16, 2021

By Kathleen Gonzalez '22 M.S.

Kathleen Gonzalez '22 M.S.
Kathleen Gonzalez ’22 M.S., a candidate in the University’s graduate program in forensic science.

In December 2019, I received the news of my life when I was accepted into the University of New Haven’s renowned Master of Science in Forensic Science program. It was a no-brainer for me, and I confirmed my acceptance shortly thereafter.

Then came the more challenging decision: Should I apply for graduate housing at the University or find an apartment not too far from the University? After a long and thoughtful process, I decided to stay home with my parents and commute the long distance. I recognized that the travel would not be easy and that it would require exceptional time management skills.

I currently live in the town of Johnston in Rhode Island, one hour and 35 minutes away from the University of New Haven. More than three hours of my day are spent driving. To any residents or short-distance commuters, this number may look frightening, and although the drive can get repetitive, I have found that listening to music and YouTube videos in the background helps me pass the time.

This is not my first time as a commuter student. Throughout my four years of college as an undergraduate, I commuted back and forth daily. Nonetheless, the circumstances were a bit different then. We were not living in a pandemic, and I lived less than 15 minutes away from my undergraduate institution.

As such, I had the opportunity to be involved in multiple organizations, take on various leadership roles, and spend ample time with my commuter friends. Fast forward to now, socializing is on hold and groups have had to come up with creative ways to host gatherings.

Today, my extracurricular activities are limited to the Graduate Forensic Science Club, which hosts bi-weekly meetings via Zoom, and my work-study position as a graduate student assistant in the Office of Alumni Relations, which is also remote. Additionally, as part of the thesis component of my research-based program, I work with laboratory rats in Dr. Chris O’Brien’s Center for Wildlife Forensics, and I am there multiple times during the week.

There is a misconception that commuter students are “missing out” on the college experience. As someone who has commuted for multiple years, I guarantee you that is not the case. I always say that I had the most fulfilling time during my career as an undergraduate student, and I participated in everything I ever wanted to. Now, as a first-year full-time graduate student with on-ground classes, I have learned to adapt to a new environment.

I am doing my best to be involved with the University of New Haven community. To any incoming (or current) undergraduate or graduate student who is considering commuting, I suggest they meet and talk to other commuters at the University so that they may hear their experiences and ultimately decide if it’s their best option. Whatever you decide, I always encourage individuals to explore their options and try out new things.

Kathleen Gonzalez ’22 M.S. is a candidate in the University’s graduate program in forensic science. She serves as a graduate student assistant in the University’s Office of Alumni Relations.