Exhausted, hungry and sleep-deprived: UCLA student super-commuters search for relief

Ashley Ahn, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Lifestyles

LOS ANGELES -- Sofia Gevorgian's life as a college student revolves around her nearly one-hour commute to and from UCLA's campus in Westwood and her family home in the San Fernando Valley.

During her first year, she would race home after the last class of the day around noon, forgoing clubs and social events typically hosted in the evening so she could beat traffic and get home in 30 minutes rather than an hour or more. This year, she's trying a different strategy: stay at school until 7:30 p.m. to attend office hours and club meetings, and sometimes even later to participate in intramural soccer games.

But the 10-hour-plus school day takes its toll on her, she said.

"I'm just sacrificing so much energy," she said. "Making the drive home at night when you're tired is in of itself exhausting, coupled in with being on campus all day to attend classes and clubs. It's all a lot."

To alleviate stresses on student commuters who — unlike campus resident students — have no place to settle down and can feel isolated, UCLA is creating "BruinHubs" where they can rest and study before and after class. The hubs are complete with napping pods, study tables, charging stations, snacks, a microwave and a refrigerator to store meals for their long day on campus.

"Naturally disadvantaged academically by their commute, they don't have enough time in their days to sleep, study or get together with their study groups," Dana Cuff, a professor of architecture and urban design at UCLA, said at a recent UC Regents meeting.


The need is great. Nearly half of UCLA's undergraduate students and the majority of its graduate students live off campus — and 43% of those students commute more than an hour each way, Cuff said.

The push to expand commuter hubs comes as UCLA students, staff and faculty face a lack of affordable housing near campus, said Monroe Gorden, vice chancellor of student affairs.

Fourth-year student Darlene Luna Barahona lives in Santa Clarita. She hits the freeways around 7 a.m. to brave her hour-and-a-half commute to campus. The 21-year-old transferred from College of the Canyons, a community college in Santa Clarita, last school year with a financial aid package that she would rather go toward her tuition than university-affiliated housing — which can cost more than $1,800 per month.

Before starting her part-time job at UCLA's Transfer Student Center this year, the BruinHub in the John Wooden Center, also home to UCLA's main gym, was Barahona's go-to spot after classes to wait out traffic.


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