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Student Commuted to Berkeley by Plane

Student Commuted to Berkeley by Plane

A plane ascends from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Feb. 10, 2018. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Puzhen Su

Puzhen Su

7/17/2023

Updated: 7/17/2023

One Berkeley student was able to avoid the San Francisco Bay Area’s high rent prices in a novel way. He commuted from his residence in Los Angeles to the University of California, Berkeley by plane three times weekly.
The student, Bill Zhou, publicized his findings in an AMA (Ask Me Anything) post on Reddit, going into great detail about his expenses and schedule. Replies to his initial post ranged from shock to amazement to comments about his carbon footprint.
He told the Los Angeles Times he was spurred by the fact that Berkeley had “the best civil engineering program in the entire country.”
In his post, he detailed how he had already planned everything months ahead of his one-year-long civil engineering course. When looking for housing, he was shocked to find that rent could go all the way up to $2,000 per month, according to the LA Times.
That, along with his determination to attend Berkeley, set him on his journey. Luckily for him, it paid off in the end.
According to his Reddit post, he spent a total of $5,596.66 on transportation, in addition to the equivalent of almost 53 days. He was able to save money by utilizing frequent-flier programs in addition to discounts.
For his spring semester, he spent a total of $2,376.92, far less than in his fall semester due to his taking advantage of a Southwest Airlines sale.
Mr. Zhou wrote in a post, “My total cost for spring could’ve been half of what I paid for fall semester, but unfortunately with the ticket I received from CHP, it bumped the commute cost to $2376.92, yet still much cheaper than last semester.”
This means that he potentially saved a few thousand dollars on housing near Berkeley. According to the rent-finding website Zillow, the cheapest apartments were in the range of $1,000 and $2,000 per month. With even the lower price point, he saved over $3,000 over the duration of his nine-month-long course.
Throughout the fall semester, he routinely woke up at 3:30 in the morning. He woke up at 5:40 a.m. during the spring semester. For his trip home, he would leave on a 7 p.m. flight.
“The door-to-door commute time between my home in LA and my classroom in Berkeley is 4–5 hrs.,” Mr. Zhou stated.
He also maintained a thread on Flyertalk, a forum dedicated to travel. On this forum, he posted detailed month-by-month updates on his journey, times for his schedules, and pictures detailing his journey—from airport food to the school itself.
At the end of his course, he said that he had no regrets.
“It’s crazy, isn’t it? But if you ask me, is it worth it? The answer is definitely YES,” he stated. “It takes a lot of research, planning, self-discipline, dedication, and my passion in transportation & aviation to make this commute possible, without missing any classes.”
Zhou is not the only one who has attempted this extraordinary feat.
A man named Hatcher Parnell also commuted from Los Angeles to Berkeley by plane, the UC Berkeley website reported. His story is similar in that he also woke up before 5 a.m. for a 10 a.m. course. The 50-year-old took around 100 airline flights during the course.
Like Mr. Zhou, Mr. Parnell shared that he had no regrets.
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Puzhen Su

Puzhen Su

Author

Puzhen is a reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area, and he covers Northern California news.

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