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At dinner with fellow EMBA students

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Enjoying The Journey from Texas to New Haven

Anna Williams ’19 shares her tips for achieving work-life balance and getting the most out of the EMBA experience at Yale SOM.

The first time I traveled to New Haven from Texas to interview for the EMBA program at the Yale School of Management, my trip was not one for the faint of heart. After being delayed for hours on the tarmac, I managed to cat nap on the flight, hoping it was enough rest to make it through my interview the next day without falling asleep mid-sentence. However, when I arrived on campus, I was so energized by the people, content of the program, and impressive surroundings that I hardly thought of my long journey. My visit was so impactful that even after that arduous travel experience, I knew Yale SOM was worth the trip.  

It’s a few months and many airline miles later, and I am now fortunate to be a part of the EMBA Class of 2019, participating in our biweekly class meetings either in person or through our Extended Classroom. The Extended Classroom is a wonderful part of the program experience, particularly when weather, travel, or other commitments prohibit the trip to Connecticut. I participate on campus as much as possible and at least once a month, as the relationships and experiences on campus are well worth the many modes of transportation to New Haven.

On the weeks I do travel to New Haven, my journey begins on a Thursday evening (or Wednesday, if I’m taking advantage of my employer’s option to work remotely on Thursday). In order to minimize impact to my work schedule, I take the two- to three-hour flight from Texas to New York after work. After landing around 10 p.m., I stay the evening in New York with family. (There is also the option to fly into Newark and take the Amtrak directly to New Haven.) From New York, my class weekend begins with an early-but-fun train ride Friday morning on Metro-North from Grand Central to New Haven.

Sleeping, homework, and catching up over coffee and donuts with other classmates on the train are all part of the journey from New York. Once we arrive at New Haven’s charming Union Station, around 8 a.m., we hop on the Yale shuttle to campus where breakfast, classmates, and professors await.

Friday is a full day from 9 until 5:30, with two classes and at least one speaker or informational session. I love catching up with my classmates over lunch, and a true highlight is the food prepared by our incredible catering team led by Chef Dave. I miss the homemade pop tarts and other treats when I’m on Extended Classroom.

Thanks to our amazing program team, my hotel reservation at the Omni Hotel in New Haven need not be of concern; everything is pre-booked with my stored preferences, including a quiet floor, noise machine, and a fitness kit in my room. I check in after class and freshen up before heading out for the night. 

Friday evening offers a chance to hang out with classmates and explore through our program’s cross-campus events or our self-guided adventures through the charming city of New Haven. We normally visit local spots, getting a taste of the local pizza style or my team’s favorite ramen noodle spot.

Our morning starts early on Saturday, and following breakfast at the Omni or at Evans Hall, we have our two classes for the day. I walk to and from the Omni and the School of Management to get in some outdoor time and soak up the campus spirit.

Class ends on Saturday at 3 p.m., which allows time for chatting and perhaps a ping-pong game before cars and trains beckon everyone back home. I take advantage of the proximity and return to New York City. Visiting with friends and family this often is wonderful and adds another dimension to my weekend trips. Being in the Big Apple so regularly means I can keep up with seasonal events, take in current art exhibitions, and try new and classic restaurants. The afternoon train back to New York on Saturday is a little livelier than Friday morning. The Metro-North lets out right at the Yale Club, where some classmates travelling from afar stay, and which also makes a great happy hour spot!

After a night in the city, it’s back home on Sunday with a flight in the late morning. Fortunately, this time the time change works in my favor. As I have been making the trip for six months, I have observed what works best and keep detailed notes in my iPhone on my preferred routes, corners to hail taxis, and train times to optimize my trip.

Here are some of my tips:

  • TSA Precheck is a must.
  • Carry-on preparation is key: bring a pillow, noise-canceling headphones, an eye mask, a scarf that doubles as a blanket, snacks, and a water bottle.
  • Pack dinner for the flight; once you arrive to campus Yale has you covered for breakfast, lunch, and snacks.
  • Pack flats, black jeans, and nice knits that are portable, comfortable, and less prone to wrinkle. Classes are business casual. Check the weather in case of rain or snow.
  • Use the plane and train time both up and back for homework and reading, but never save critical assignments for the flight up. Charge the Surface tablet and download materials prior to the flight so you need not rely on airline WiFi.
  • Fly on one airline for status, track flight prices, and purchase four to six weeks in advance. No need to buy a year’s worth of flights to get a reasonable rate.

Traveling for school is something I feel incredibly fortunate to do. The distance allows some compartmentalization between home, work, and school, the journey sharpening the blurred lines that are all too familiar in our connected society. The geographic diversity adds great depth to the program, and I feel that it has contributed richly to my experience. Attending a program in another state has expanded my network in a very impactful way, and the vivacity of the Yale campus is infectious.  The brief-but-busy hours we spend in New Haven make us all feel like full-time students. It’s as if I live two lives (three if one includes stopovers in NYC), as both a full-time student in New Haven enjoying Yale traditions like visits to Mory’s bar and restaurant and as a member of the workforce when at home in Houston. The journey is all part of the experience.