Tour guides may brag about how rarely students need to get off campus to go into the city, but keeping within a walking distance radius for four years isn’t everyone’s favorite thing to do, either. Between the overexpensive taxis and the inconsistant shuttles, there aren’t many ways to get away from campus for a few hours that doesn’t include overstaying your welcome at Gusto’s or the Crafted Cup. This is where students having their own cars becomes an advantage.
For seniors especially, having a car makes their time at Vassar easier. Nich Graham ’15 drove his car from Redondo Beach, California, so that he wouldn’t need to rely on anyone else for a ride. “Living in the THs is a lot easier because shopping is never a hassle. In addition to shopping, I occasionally use my car to get to rugby practice at the farm if I don’t want to bike,” he said.
Marcos Vargas ’15 needed a car even before he lived in the TAs. Vargas had to have his car at Vassar because he did field work at the Department of Health and Vassar Brothers Hospital. Despite his familarity with living in a small city, Poughkeepsie still made him claustrophobic. “I grew up in Salinas, which is a city very similar to Poughkeepsie, in Central California,” he said. “I felt trapped my first two years at Vassar because I didn’t have the ability to go anywhere, but once I got a car, I realized how beautiful and open this area is.”
Vargas went on to say, “It’s very much like home in that as soon as you leave the small cities, you become immersed in nature. A lot of people talk about being close to the city and how great that is, but I much prefer driving to a mountain and then proceeding to get lost for a couple of hours on a trail.”
Graham agreed that missing out on the more rural aspects of the Hudson Valley was a downside of not having transportation to get there. Having a car has allowed Graham to appreciate more of Poughkeepsie than students normally see from Raymond Avenue. He said, “Traveling through the Poughkeepsie area is a lot of fun by car because Poughkeepsie has a lot more to offer than people think. Just driving around you can see some really cool architecture.”
For some, just getting off campus once or twice a week can be enough, as Walter Gabriel ‘17 believes. Like Vargas, Gabriel ’17 does fieldwork at Vassar Brothers Hospital. He doesn’t have his car at Vassar because, as he said, “I feel like there are a lot of opportunities here at Vassar which don’t demand that I leave campus often.” Sometimes, he goes along with his friends who do have cars and he added, “When I do leave campus, it’s fun to go out with friends and meet people out on the town. This weekend we went to Marist and had a great time.”
Graham and Vargas are no strangers to spending hours just seeing the sights in a car. Before his classes started this year, Graham travelled over 3,000 miles on a road trip journey to Vassar from his home. Instead of taking the quickest journey to school, he took the opportunity to see a lot of the country that many from the East Coat may not even think about. He made the trip in his 1992 Chevy Corvette with his dad. “We made a grand trip out of it. We took about a week to finish the trip, stopping at Mount Rushmore, and passed through the Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota,” he said. He added, “Then we continued the trip up through Canada and eventually down through Vermont to Poughkeepsie.”
Vargas had his car delivered to Poughkeepsie by a family friend, but, he said, “I will be driving back at the end of this year and am planning on a cross-country trip.”
He won’t be doing so alone, however. “My brother is flying over from Cali and wants to see the South. We’re currently planning on starting our trip by going straight south, checking out Georgia, Mississippi, and possibly driving to New Orleans before heading West.”
Having, or having access to, a car, give one many extra-curricular opputunities that they wouldn’t otherwise receive. Instead of making the long journey like Graham or Vargas from her home in Arkansas, Knabe drives a Vassar fieldwork vehicle.
As a previous member of the equestrian team, she would drive 45 minutes to Rhinebeck Equine every Friday morning, which is, as she explained, “A specialty equine, or horse, hospital that has both inpatient and outpatients services as well as surgery.”
She went on to say, “It is nice to have a change of scenery. This will be my fourth semester doing fieldwork and I have always driven to my internships. This has really allowed me to see the Hudson Valley area around Vassar.”
For his fieldwork at Vassar Brothers, Gabriel said, “I assist the nurses in the Cardio-Thoracic step down unit. I usually go once a week for about four hours. It’s a great experience and I’ve learned much more about patient care there than I could possibly learn about in class.”
Graham doesn’t have a job or fieldwork that requires him to be off campus, so he uses his car to escape the monotony of the library on weekends. Quite often this winter, he drove his car to go skiing and added, “I spent most Sundays off campus at Ski mountain, which meant driving roughly ninety minutes in the morning and then ninety minutes back while tired from skiing or snowboarding all day.”
Besides the convenience of having a car, there are also many costs. As Graham explained, the regular semester parking fee is steep. “And for a while there the gas prices were so high, I would try to avoid driving the best I could,” He said. “Not to mention the snowy winter where digging out the car is another chore you have to do if you want to go anywhere.”
For Knabe, there is an added aspect of danger that comes with having access to the fieldwork cars. Her trips have always gone smoothly, until last week when she was in a head-on collision on her way to fieldwork. She said, “I have to say that it was pretty unfortunate, but at least I have a nice neck brace to wear to class.”
Despite not having his own car on campus, Gabriel added, “I do like to get out into the Poughkeepsie area. It is quite beautiful to go to the Walkway Over the Hudson and explore that area. There are a lot of nice restaurants and bars around there.”