Surprises of Harvard Business School: Semester 1
How is your new year going? I’m only resisting the urge to throw out everything we own because we have to walk down four flights of stairs and then another 300 feet in this winter weather to get to the trash can. I’m also still on track for my “not eating after 9pm” goal, my “not sounding frustrated with my children goal,” so mostly, 2018 is off to a great start.
But speaking of four flights of stairs and outdoor walks to trash cans, I wanted to share some of my reflections on this first semester here at Harvard Business School and talk about what surprised me–what I didn’t expect.
Back story: Ben has wanted to go to business school ever since 5th grade. He studied chemical engineering in undergrad at BYU, but with the intention of getting an MBA down the road. The first few months out of school, while he was working for a start-up in Cincinnati, he’d come home each night and study for the GMAT for a few hours (and I felt like he was back in school again). He took a job with Procter & Gamble in a small town in northeast Ohio a year later and it was only because of that dream of getting into business school that we packed up all our stuff and left a city and community we loved for one a few too many hours away. Two years later, it was with business school in mind that Ben accepted a “promotion” to shift manager which switched his engineering 7-5pm schedule for being gone 14 hours at a time, alternating between days and nights. It was with the hope of business school he started this sleepless assignment the week Adelaide was born (and I’m convinced the reason we disagree about whether one or two children is harder). Last December he got that beautiful acceptance email (I can still remember where we were all standing when it came through) and started at Harvard Business School this August. And I have never been happier for his dedication and our sacrifices.
And it was also convenient that a top choice happened to be an hour and three minutes from my parents, in my favorite New England.
An introductory caveat: I swore I’d never be part of a couple that said things like “when we were applying to school” or “while we’re in grad school” if both of us weren’t actually in school together. And while I try to stick to things like “while Ben’s in school,” we are all here living at Harvard, drenched in the on-campus life and student culture. We spend our days playing on campus, attending Crimson Parents events (Harvard Business School’s parents club), or sitting in on Ben’s classes. We spend our evenings hosting friends, meeting up with classmates, or going to more campus events. So Ben is definitely the only one of us who applied, got into and is currently attending Harvard Business School, but please forgive me if I slip and make it sound like all four of us are in this, because we are.
- I didn’t expect everyone to be SO AWESOME. I sound like a broken record by this point but the people we are surrounded with here are SO great. They’re kind and interested, motivated and interesting. I expected them to be ambitious and well-traveled, but I didn’t expect them to be also down-to-earth and up for nights of cookie dough in sweatpants.
- I didn’t expect to feel like we fit in so easily. I think Ben’s awesome, but I also felt a bit like imposters when we first got here and that quickly subsided. I think it’s because everyone is so kind… and also secure enough to admit they’re also a bit nervous and unsettled about being here.
- I didn’t expect partners and families to be so involved. “Partner” is the all-encompassing term for the significant others of students (wives, husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends) and we are always being invited to section events, faculty events, and other get-togethers. We have clubs and classes for parents and kids. We have mock classes to get a feel for what our partners are going through academically. We also have unplanned social events just by nature of living on top of each other all the time. When there is a girl’s night for Ben’s section, I’m often invited. We have book club and dinners out, and a motherhood tea with the dean’s wife. Most days I feel like we could never leave campus and have a full schedule of things to do and people to see. It’s awesome.
- I didn’t expect recruiting to be so intense. I was prepared for Ben to be tried academically, to put in the hours he used to in chemical engineering back in college. What I wasn’t prepared for was how many hours a week recruiting would take up once it started in October. He’d typically be in class from eight in the morning ’til three in the afternoon and then spend from 5 pm- 10 pm at various recruiting events around Boston. He’d get home to start coursework or sleep for a few hours before heading back to the library early in the morning to prep that day’s cases. It was those long weeks where I was extra grateful for other moms on campus with husband’s recruiting for similar fields (who were similarly absent) and an actual mom an hour away I could escape to when needed.
- I didn’t expect so much FOMO. Harvard is the king of FOMO (they’ll also happily point out that the term was first coined somewhere on the college campus). There are always so many people doing different fun and exciting things, whether it be something as local as a tree lighting downtown or as international as a weekend in Iceland. Because everyone is trying to get to know each other, it’s often an open invitation and you can’t possibly attend everything you’d like. With technology, you always know the million options you have for social events, and you often know who is going to all the ones you say no to. Fomo at it’s finest.
- I didn’t expect there to be so many Mormons. There are more than 10 LDS first year students that go to school with Ben and go to church with us on Sunday. Out of ~950 students, I didn’t think it would feel like so many. Almost all of them are married with kids the same age as ours and are living in our same apartment complex on campus so it feels a bit like being back in married housing at BYU. In fact, the very first person I met on campus was another mormon stay-at-home mom with a daughter named Adelaide (whose husband ended up being in Ben’s section) – I felt super original ;).
- I didn’t expect it to go so fast. I felt like we’ve survived a natural disaster together here over the last few months but I also CANNOT believe that we’re already 1/4 done with this whole experience. I’m already sad for it to be over.
- I expected to get used to it. I expected the wonder to subside and to start to take the beauty for granted. I still haven’t. I do, however, resist the urge to take a photo every time I come out of the gym, or walk by the library, or look out the window at the Charles River (but if you’re on Instagram Stories with me, you know I give in every once in awhile).
- I expected tiny space living to be harder. We went from 3 bedrooms in 1500 square feet to 3 bedrooms in 750 square feet. I’m surprised by how much I love it. There’s some kitchen storage that I miss (like a drawer big enough to hold a silverware storage thing) and I’m still dreaming of the day I unload my groceries from my car parked in the garage straight into my kitchen (instead of up an elevator, out a door, down a ramp, in a few other doors, and up four flights of stairs), but mostly, there are a lot of unexpected awesome things about living in a tiny space.
(After reading these it was fun to go back and feel a bit of my initial excitement (hello exclamation points) in this post when I announced our exciting news + move. )
^and lest all those words and pictures make you think everything is smiles and sunshine all the time at Harvard Business School.
What a great post! Really loved reading about you HBS experience!