- A New York TikToker is going viral for commuting via plane to Chicago for her grad school class.
- Elophia Mengestu says she catches a 6 a.m. flight to Chicago and a 3 p.m. flight back to New York.
- Flight tickets will cost her about $500 per week, Mengestu told Insider.
Flying from New York to Chicago every weekend for grad school while also working a full-time job may sound impossible for most, but a woman on TikTok has detailed exactly how she does it.
“I usually hop on a 6 a.m. flight and use the flight time to study because I have a quiz every class. And once I land in Chicago, I call an Uber downtown,” Elophia Mengestu — who goes by the handle “loafs_” — said in a recent TikTok video.
Mengestu moonlights as an MBA graduate student at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in Chicago on the weekend and works a full-time job in New York as a marketing manager during the week.
“I’ve always been a person who’s so motivated and fulfilled by my career and my education,” Mengestu told Insider.
This year, she decided to pursue her MBA at her “dream school” by starting with one class for the quarter on Saturdays at about the same time she started her new job as an “influencer marketing manager” in New York.
Doing so requires “maximizing the time that you already have,” the 25-year-old told Insider.
Her 16-hour routine
Mengestu said her Saturdays begin at about 3 in the morning to get ready and catch her 6 a.m. flight to Chicago.
During her two-hour flight, Mengestu will use the time to study for her class or listen to a podcast.
Once she arrives in Chicago at about 7 a.m. local time, Mengestu will take another 30 to 50 minutes to Uber to campus.
This typically gives her enough time to get breakfast, study, or catch up with classmates before her 9 a.m. class, she said.
After class ends at about noon, Mengestu grabs lunch or talks with her classmates before she catches another Uber back to the airport at 3 p.m.
By 7 p.m., Mengestu is back at her apartment in Williamsburg, New York City, which she shares with a roommate.
Mengestu began the 700-mile commute to school in June when her quarter began.
“I had gotten this job opportunity and then I had also gotten into the program, and I was really passionate about both,” she told Insider. “I really wanted to do both.”
‘It hurts my bank account every day’
Pursuing her dreams comes at a hefty cost, financially and socially.
A round-trip costs about $500 to $550, according to Mengestu, who also provided receipts of her flight tickets to Insider.
Her short flights can be expensive because she doesn’t buy her tickets ahead of time. Mengestu said she was wary of any unforeseen delays or last-minute changes, such as class cancellations.
The Uber rides to her university are covered by a voucher provided by the school. But the rides to and from her apartment in New York cost about $30 to $55 a trip.
In a follow-up TikTok video, Mengestu said the commute was less about saving money and a necessary evil.
“It absolutely is expensive. It hurts my bank account every day, believe me,” she said.
“I definitely have to budget very strictly to make this happen,” she added. “But again, this was my dream school.”
In her TikTok, she cited how Northwestern Kellogg was ranked number two for its business school and felt it would be a waste of money to go to school in New York if she wasn’t wholly interested in the program.
“To me, even if that was less money, I’d consider it a waste just to go to an institution just because versus going to an institution I actually wanna go to that aligns with what my goals and my expectations out of a master’s program is,” she said in the video.
Mengestu said that if her program offered remote classes, she would definitely take the opportunity.
Her job, which she relies on to pay for her schooling and flights, also requires her to be in person three times a week, which makes a flight back to New York necessary.
“I would not be able to afford school if I did not have a full-time job,” she said.
In exchange for her expensive commute, Mengestu told Insider she forgoes many social activities and services such as Uber Eats.
“I’ve definitely sacrificed my social life a lot,” she said. “I don’t go out as often as I used to and I definitely can’t do so without planning ahead now.”
Mengestu isn’t the only graduate student who flies to class.
Bill Zhou, a 26-year-old transportation engineer, went viral this year for his commute from Los Angeles to Berkeley to attend his master’s program at the University of California, Berkeley.
His commute, in particular, attracted attention because it highlighted the unique lengths some people would go to to avoid paying the high rents in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“Bay Area rent for a private bedroom and bathroom is super expensive, and I didn’t feel justified in spending that much money,” he told Insider.
Squeezing in TikTok content
Mengestu considers herself lucky to work her dream job and school while having a solid network of support.
Her friends and family were initially shocked at her idea, but they soon came to support her pursuits and understood that she wouldn’t be as available to them, she told Insider.
“I see it as a privilege,” she said.
Mengestu’s next quarter starts mid-September.
This time, she said she might stack more courses on her Saturdays, but she won’t make a commute to Chicago more than once a week.
On top of her job and schooling, Mengestu regularly makes TikTok content. For her, it’s another side interest she can squeeze in throughout her packed schedule. She said making the videos is easy because her content is short and made up of clips of herself going about her usual day. Most of the time will be spent editing or adding voiceovers, she told Insider.
“I’m the type of person where I’ll scroll on my phone before I go to bed,” Mengestu said. “So I try to use that time to do the voiceover or editing because that’s time I’m already going to be on my phone. I might as well put it toward my content versus just consuming someone else’s.”