Gold Medal Commuter Training Drill: Problem Solving

Recently, I was talking to someone who had read the first gold medal commuter training drill on observation and we were discussing some of the challenges commuting can introduce into your university experience.

During our conversation, we started chatting about how to a certain extent, supporting commuting individuals is challenging because unpredictable transit behaviour, variable road conditions, long travel times etc, are issues that remain regardless of the coping skills you develop. In other words, these drills can’t take away all your anxiety. Where I think they can be helpful however, is in strengthening attitude muscles to ensure the challenges of the road don’t jeopardize your personal sanity.

This training drill is about problem solving and keeping calm. When buses don’t show and/or are late, you need to be able to figure out strategies to cope with the delays and determine alternate ways to get where you need to go. If you want to get involved in an extracurricular activity or lecture that runs later than your usual bus, problem solving skills can help you make your life schedule work.

What you’ll need: A bit of space and quiet, and a copy of your schedule. (This is a great activity to do at the beginning of the semester).

Effects: Increased ability to cope with unexpected challenges. A Yoda like sense of calm.

How to do it:

Step 1
: Find a space where you are comfortable and have room to think and brainstorm. Then, take out your schedule and identify the times that your day generally ends. Make note of any transfers that you need to make on your way home, and determine whether these are time sensitive. (i.e-should you be at x street by 6:00pm because your next bus comes every 40 minutes?). Next, make a list of things that you want to get involved in and experience during your time on campus (for example: apply to TEDx Terry Talks 2009, see a play at UBC, participate in a Peer Program) and note the time commitment involved in these activities and experiences. How does this compare with your own transit schedule? (So in the example above, if you have to get to your bus stop by 6 pm, and plays at UBC start at 7:30 pm: you have a conflict)

Step 2: On a separate sheet of regular (or flip chart paper if you’re in a group) brainstorm possible ways to bridge the gap between your transit reality, and your vision for what engagment and stimulation at UBC would look like for you.

(For example, possible solutions generated could be: Maybe you could stay overnight at the UBC Commuter Student Hostel when necessary. Or perhaps a Translink or Google Transit search would reveal alternate bus routes home that you haven’t tried yet. New buses are being created all the time.

Step 3: Finally, think about (and write down in a journal/notebook of some sort) what your own limits/lines are in terms of time and energy you’re willing to devote to your journey home. You might decide that you really want to be home for dinner a couple of nights a week, and therefore want to choose a few activities each semester so you don’t feel overloaded. Or maybe there is a time of day that gets you home earlier and that is really when you want to leave campus. Even so, knowing more about campus, transit and your own comfort level enables you to say: I will wait x minutes for a bus. If it doesn’t show, I will use an alternate route.

Ideally, exploring different alternatives of how you can juggle the various parts of your life will enable you to do everything you want to do.

For best results: Try this drill with tea and cookies.

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Shagufta is a UBC Political Science graduate with a passion for interdisciplinary thinking, writing, travel, reading, tea, and interesting conversations. She hopes to combine all of these things in her life work someday. For now though, she studies social policy and planning at the University of Toronto and shares her adventures in and out of the classroom at