As we wrap up the first seven months of our Yale EMBA journey, the realization that we’re already one-third done with the program is starting to set in. What started as a quest for getting out of my comfort zone and improving myself has manifested into a transformational sojourn over the past seven months.
Visiting Yale for the first time, I was convinced that the school was too far from Houston and that I wouldn’t travel this far for my education. However, the more I discovered the flexibility and possibilities at Yale, the more I was convinced that this was the place I truly wanted to be. Further, the focus on sustainability, combined with my prior background in environmental engineering meant that I could use the EMBA to deepen my understanding of issues in this space and build on ideas I am passionate about. Looking back, I could not have been more correct about this decision.
While the rigor of the core courses has been grueling, learning about the motivations and goals of my fellow classmates has been a truly humbling experience. Everyone in the class is already accomplished in his or her chosen field, yet the quest of improving oneself and making a bigger change in our organization and the greater society is still on. This is as true of the brain surgeons in the class as it is about the former bankers from Wall Street. Being around such a driven bunch is highly contagious! Add to it the easy access to world-famous management faculty, the access to all other schools at Yale, and the possibility of interacting with colloquium speakers who are at the forefront of change, and any challenges of traveling from Houston to Yale are immensely dwarfed.
For all the prospective students from Houston who are debating whether the travails of travel are worth the effort, let me offer some tips for traveling smart. There are multiple non-stop flights into the New York City airports (Newark, LaGuardia, JFK), both from the Houston Hobby and the Bush Intercontinental airports. Personally, I have found it easier to fly out of Houston Hobby. With the airport choice locked in, I went about purchasing my tickets well in advance of my travel. The class weekends are already decided at the start of the year, and that schedule doesn’t change. Therefore, it is fair to book flights for several months in one go. We all are aware of that one airline that offers zero cancellation and change fees. I booked all of my travel for seven months in advance and was able to secure return flight tickets for $300 or less. On occasions when I found that the ticket prices fell even more closer to the time of travel, I would just cancel my original ticket (for no cancellation fee) and buy a new ticket for a lower fare.
Once you are in the New York area, there are several options available to get to New Haven: a rental car, an Amtrak ride, or a shuttle to the campus. Having tried all three, I realized that the rental car option works best for my style of travel. Unlike the air tickets, for a rental car it is best to wait until the last minute to get a good deal. I always book an intermediate- or a full-size car so that I can try my luck at securing a hybrid vehicle. This may not be a big deal in current times of low gas prices, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. I have paid as little as $12 for gas for a 200-plus-mile weekend trip! My average spend on rental cars for each class weekend has been approximately $50 to $70. On occasions where I have coordinated my travel with other friends flying in, we split the cost of the car. So, all in, my total cost of travel to Yale and back from Houston has been well under $400 per trip.
I have been sneaking into New Haven at 1 a.m. on Friday mornings, but still manage to get about six hours of sleep. Catching up with friends over breakfast in the morning and sharing an Uber ride to Evans Hall is always fun. And then, as the clock strikes 9, it’s time for magic, because that is what professors create! It’s time to soak in the energy and the wisdom in the air. Does it make up for a somewhat long day of travel the day before? Is it worth being a Yalie in spite of traveling 3,500 miles back and forth? Absolutely!