Every four to six weeks, Robindra “Rob” Chatterjee shuttles more than 4,000 miles from his home in Brisbane, Australia, spending about 21 hours in trains, taxis, and airplanes, to get to his Executive MBA classes on Chicago Booth’s Hong Kong campus. He’s picked up a few travel tricks along the way.
For instance, the showers at the Singapore airport are surprisingly nice. It pays to invest in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones. And an eight-hour flight can make for an adequate night’s sleep. “I’m practiced at sleeping upright on an economy-class flight,” said the 37-year-old, who works for his family’s coal sales and minerals exploration business.
Chatterjee is not the only student to travel across continents and time zones to attend classes at Booth. Executive MBA students make the pilgrimage from as far away as Russia, Mexico, and Chile for weeklong classes roughly once a month on one of Booth’s three campuses—Chicago, Hong Kong, or London. About 75 percent of Weekend MBA students travel to Chicago each weekend, from cities such as San Francisco, Houston, New York, Boston, and Washington, DC.
Paulina Celedon, 33, a project manager with management consulting firm Matrix Consulting, travels more than 7,000 miles from Santiago, Chile, to the London campus for her Executive MBA courses—about 18 to 20 hours door to door. She said the toughest part is leaving her husband and three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, but she values meeting people from other countries and learning how they think. “I love the fact that going very far away gets me to a reality very different from my country,” she said. “I’m a consultant, so basically it brings a lot of value to the table knowing how people deal with their own problems everywhere in the world.”
That’s also true for Anna Aleksandrova, a 31-year-old consultant for Strategy&, part of the PricewaterhouseCoopers network, who takes a nine-hour flight from Moscow to Hong Kong. She said she takes on a different style of communication in Hong Kong—talking less and observing more. “By putting myself in this totally different surrounding,” she said, “I believe I continue to develop my people skills more than if I were someplace closer.”
Jitendra “JC” Chelamalasetty, 31, a program manager for Marvell Semiconductor Inc. in Santa Clara, California, takes a red-eye flight every Friday from San Francisco to Chicago for the Weekend MBA Program. He catches about three hours of sleep on the flight, then a few more in a reclining chair at an airport lounge before heading straight to Gleacher Center in downtown Chicago for a day of classes on Saturday.
Chelamalasetty said he chose Booth rather than a closer program because he valued the flexibility and slate of classes offered to Weekend MBA students. He said he’s built up a social network by spending time with other frequent fliers in the airport and on shuttles.
“That kind of helps build relationships, which can probably last a little longer than going and sitting in class and talking to classmates.”
—By Deborah Ziff