Originally Posted by Kommando
There are many bikes that could do what you ask, but I'd stick with a dualsport for riding in winter. Also have a look at the DR-Z400S, the DR650SE, and WR250R.
OP - I'm a noob too! Maybe I can clear some things up.
If your commute is mostly at speeds upwards of 40mph, you want the KLR. If not, you want a 250. The KLR is scarier to e.g. wheel around a garage but once you get out on the road, it feels plenty light. Any of the bikes mentioned will do the job you describe just fine - just get the best deal you can.
On "burning oil" - long story short, just glance at your oil level in the sightglass before every ride and you'll be fine. Fill it up and change it as necessary and if it's burning a lot, post up on the forums about it along with any accompanying symptoms.
On beginner's maintenance - if you're riding it mostly on the street where it isn't as dusty, just follow the regular maintenance regimen prescribed in the owner's manual (which you can download online if need be). Especially with respect to oil and air filter changes. KLRs are mostly bulletproof. Try to get one with the doohickey already sorted out but if not, it's not the hardest job in the world.
Consider "drop bars" like those from SW-Motech. Don't beat yourself up if it tips over - it's a big bike and it's your first bike. Get the drops out of your system before you pick up your Aprilia post-graduation.
Prepare yourself for judgment from aforementioned know-it-all trust funds on GSs, as well as flashy hedge managers who have Panigales as their first bikes. You're on a KLR. Haters gonna hate.
I'm also at school and I sure wish I could have a motorbike here! Alas, no real place to keep it unless I want to Graham Jarvis it up a bunch of stairs after every ride...