A Welcome Respite: Wharton | San Francisco MBA Student Talks about the Commute from Southern California

While needing to fly every other weekend to get to school may sound like a significant challenge, second-year Wharton | San Francisco Executive MBA student Dan Paik says that his commute from Redondo Beach, California to San Francisco hasn’t been that bad.

In fact, he says most EMBA students who live in southern California don’t have all that different of a schedule from students who live in the Bay Area. The biggest difference, he says, is that the southern California students probably wake up a few hours earlier to catch a 7:00am flight on Friday mornings in order to arrive at Wharton | San Francisco by 9:30am and get home a few hours later on Saturday evenings.

For Paik, his schedule is a little bit different from most commuters in his area because instead of catching Friday morning flights, he usually flies from LAX on Thursday evenings into Oakland where he spends the night at his brother’s home and then takes a train on Friday mornings into San Francisco.

But regardless of when they arrive, “the majority of people I talk to who are based near Los Angeles don’t mind the travel because they spend their flights to school catching up on reading,” he says. “And in this day and age, we are constantly connected to the office so those brief couple of hours in transit is a welcome respite because we can turn off our phones – we actually like the travel time.”

Paik notes that the flight home provides time to bond with classmates. When classes end at 4:00pm on Saturday, the commuters share taxis to the airport. Those going to Los Angeles usually catch a 5:00pm flight out of SFO airport and those headed to San Diego usually catch a 4:50pm flight out of Oakland. “It’s pretty much a given that it’s not study time because we are done with classes and can hang out and listen to music or watch part of a movie together on the flight. It’s our time to kick back and relax after a weekend of classes.”

He adds that because Wharton students need flights at nonpeak times, getting tickets hasn’t been an issue.  “We are flying in on Thursday nights or Friday mornings when flights are never full and then we leave on Saturday afternoons which is also a good time to find flights. Southwest tickets usually cost about $50 each way from LAX, but we earn a lot of frequent flier miles and free flights,” he says.

As for the impact on his job, Paik explains that for the first year of the program he was running his own business, Juice Wireless, so setting a schedule amenable to commuting wasn’t an issue. Now, as VP of Technology at ThisNext.com, he says it’s still not a big deal. “I leave the office on Thursdays at the usual time I would leave work for the day anyway. In two years, I’ve never had an instance where I had an important meeting that had to happen that night,” he says.

Paik says that most people in southern California probably do consider more local schools – at least at first — when thinking about EMBA programs. However, one of Wharton’s advantages is its national and international reputation.  He explains, “If you were to move to another part of the country or expand internationally at some point in your career, which a lot of us might do at some point, it’s good to have those networks open. That is a big reason why I'm getting a Wharton MBA as opposed to one from a local school.”

Paik adds, “To get to go to a school like Wharton is definitely worth the commute!”

Read more about other students’ commutes.