Laura Bizzarri is a PhD student in the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UConn.
The University of Connecticut is utterly ignoring the transportation needs of its students, particularly international graduate students. A recent Editorial in The Daily Campus addressed concerns regarding issues with the transportation services on the Storrs campus. However, the problem is more widespread, affecting public transportation to surrounding areas as well. The truth is UConn should care more.
International graduate students represent almost a third of all the graduate program-seeking students at UConn, being a huge component of the teaching and research workforce. UConn’s courses and research programs would quickly come to a halt if graduate students decided to just walk away (walking is, after all, the most efficient means of transportation we currently have).
I arrived at UConn as an international graduate student in 2017, with no money, no phone and no driver’s license. I decided to live in Northwood Apartments, the only university housing available to graduate students. It was overpriced for my salary, but it was the only option that allowed me to walk to my office and classes. When I needed to get a driver’s license at the DMV in Willimantic, I decided to take the bus, but I could only go on Saturday, when buses run even less frequently. I made it to the DMV, but I missed the last bus at about 12 p.m. to return to Storrs and had to call an Uber.
Many UConn international students end up living in nearby Willimantic, simply because it’s the nearest town with a bus line connecting it to campus and more affordable rent prices. A mere 15-minute drive by car, it can take up to one hour for the bus to reach campus from Willimantic. Buses don’t run frequently enough or at the times that most students need them and lose significant time by making stops in areas not frequented by grad students, like the Mansfield Senior Center.
In response to grad students’ complaints, university officials have often suggested that the university is already doing its best by providing “free” U-Passes (not free: technically we all pay for it in the transit fee every semester). While this is helpful, passes only take us as far as the bus lines go.
UConn has a responsibility towards its international grad students. We moved away from our home countries, families and friends specifically to attend UConn. We need UConn’s support in ensuring that we have access to faster and more frequent bus routes.