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Commuting to Chicago for MSHC

By: Mariah LaRue

Are you interested in the MSHC program, but live out of state and aren’t sure about relocating to Chicago? Well, as crazy as it might seem, there are a few students that actually live out of state and fly into Chicago each weekend for class.

I was one of the students that relocated for Chicago for the program. I briefly considered the possibility of commuting each weekend, but decided I wanted to have the experience of living in the city. However, that changed when an interesting full-time internship became available in my home state. Ultimately, I decided I would try commuting for 12 weeks, a little more than one quarter of the program. I figured if other students in our program have been doing it every week, surely I could manage it for a quarter of the program. Plus, consultants do this kind of travel all the time. It can’t be that bad, right? Before making my final decision, I chatted with one of our other commuter students. She assured me commuting isn’t so bad. She even went so far as to recommend it.

At first I was unsure about what I was signing up for, but so far it has been just fine. Right now I am 7 weeks in to my journey as a commuter, which with school breaks and holidays means I will make 9 round trips between Denver and Chicago. Here are a few tips and tricks I have picked up on in my short time as an academic commuter.

Schedule your free time

Working in Denver during the week and attending class in Chicago on Saturdays means I do not have much time for a weekend in either city, so I have to be diligent with time management. At the start of the program our directors encouraged us to schedule our free time, and that has turned out to be sound advice. Each week I know what nights I need to study and what nights I will allow myself to have free. I generally allow myself to have Saturday night free, and start homework on Sunday. I have found I am actually able to finish my assignments in a timelier fashion than when I wasn’t commuting because I am forced to be more organized.

Use the airport time

It definitely takes discipline to work on a plane and at an airport. I consider my plane and airport time to be study time, which takes some planning since the airport and planes don’t always have wifi, and a can be distracting environments. I try to save tasks like reading, studying, or editing for the plane, and tasks like research for when I’m on the ground and have access to the internet. By treating my travel time as study time, I end up automatically setting aside about 4 hours of study time a week, which means more free time during the work week.

TSA Pre-Check

$85 and a fingerprinting appointment was a small price to pay for the convenience this affords, especially when flying out of Chicago’s bustling airports with notoriously long security lines. The fact that I can cruise into the airport and breeze through security without so much as taking off my shoes or removing my laptop really takes some of the angst out of traveling. Beware though, as not all airlines participate in the program, so if you plan to be loyal to an airline make sure they participate before enrolling in the program. It’s also worth noting pre-check is valid for 5 years, so your investment will serve you long after you earn your diploma.

Take care of yourself

This advice was given to me by one of the other student commuters- one who has truly been traveling every week. It is important to eat well, sleep enough, and stay hydrated. You’ll be busy, and want to keep a strong immune system, so it really is worth paying attention to these smaller details. This is good advice to heed whether you’re traveling or not.

Overall, with a little bit of planning traveling is completely reasonable. Depending upon your personal situation it may even make more sense then moving to Chicago. So if you really want to do the program, but are not willing to move, it might be worth it to consider how reasonable it would be for you to commute by air.  

Photo by janeeturr92. The photographer does not endorse this written work.