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Do you like HBS?

We all know that with diversity comes a wealth of perspectives on HBS. It occurred to us that, in the middle of covering everything else, we’ve actually never asked people flat-out: “Do you like HBS?”
Below are 2 very different responses to that question. The first is by our one and only EC Pato Bichara, who loves it here and has outlined why. The second is by another EC (with, by the way, *extremely* impressive credentials, even for HBS) who has chosen to remain anonymous.
Gets you thinking…


Is it worth it? – Pato Bichara (OI)

I spent last weekend in Washington, D.C. discussing social innovation with an incredible and diverse group of StartingBloc fellows. Conversations ranged from water sources to the future of recruiting for young professionals, passing by digital marketing for a nation-wide startup fellowship and yes, the future of education.
As one of the few MBA students in the conference, I was repeatedly asked some variation of the question: “Is HBS worth it?”
Like a good cold call, the answer is “It depends”. It depends on what do you want to make of your two years here. Here is what has made HBS worth it for me:

It is intellectually stimulating and challenging
Never in my life had I been excited to go to class. HBS is a place where what you learn is correlated to what you give to the class, and yes it’s hard. It might not always be fun to read cases every single afternoon (or early morning in my case) but you know that class next day will be a blast, or like I’ve been calling it while taking SMICI – a well-orchestrated show!
And then, every few days as you start getting tired, there is a mind-blowing moment – a great comment that changes your view, an inquiring question from your professor…or the humble remarks from our class guests, sharing their own successes and failures. Those moments when you feel like everyone in the class deserves a standing ovation right now, and you think: “#LifeatHBS”.
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It has stretched me through a diverse set of experiences
In the past 14 months I have learned what a hedge fund is, witnessed a battle of titans (i.e. discussion) between our FIN1 and LEAD professors, planned an 80’s concert, listened first-hand to the former President of Mexico, carved pumpkins with our Section iBabies, chatted with the Mayor of Jerusalem, grew my first moustache, launched a startup in Colombia, performed on-stage in Burden auditorium, ate samosas on a street cart in Mumbai, heard my section mates’ thoughts on the future of Nigeria, danced limbo with my favorite Latins, sold out a children’s cooking book in a town fair, discussed the TV show Scandal over wine, and heard Mitt Romney’s advice on how and when to go into the public sector.
These things DO NOT HAPPEN in the “real world”, they do not happen all together, and they will probably not happen again. Like my mom told me last week over the phone: “I’m starting to feel bad for you next summer – what are you going to do?” In the mean time I understand that I am extremely lucky to be here and that I have to make the most out of it.

It makes me a fundamental part of an incredible community
What all these experiences have in common is HBS’s biggest asset: it’s people. Think about all the people you’ve met through this journey, from your now-classmate sitting next to you in Dillon house before the interview (Ruchita I’m looking at you) to the smiling guy from El Salvador who helps us start each class with clean boards.
We are a community of students, partners, staff, faculty, alumni and friends with a common mission: trying to tackle some of our own problems (from our section budget to what we are going to do with our lives) as well as some of the world’s problems (from gender equality to economic development). The impressive part is that we do all this while learning, growing as individuals and having a lot of fun along the way. Have you ever counted how many times we laugh each day in class? Give it a try.
To me, this isn’t a measure of our coolness, but of how great we can be if we work together, for these two years and into the future. I understand that being here is not a prize or an honor for my limited individual achievements. It’s a responsibility and a commitment to make a difference in the world, together – starting with my section, my class, and my community.
I know I am giving up multiple things – such as time and debt I could be using to build a company or missing special occasions with my family and friends in Mexico – but to me those sacrifices are worth it for being in this stimulating intellectual environment, living through these experiences with incredible friends and being a part of our community.
What do you think, is HBS worth it for you?

The Section X in all of us
Prelude: In the body of the email they sent me, this student wrote: “I believe that the culture at HBS can be drastically improved and the administration needs to start having serious conversations about it. I have penned together a few words on my experience as a member of a large international community on campus. I have decided to keep this email anonymous because I fear that I will be ostracized if I make my identity public.” They then followed this with…

I am an international student and there are several students from my country. Yet, I don’t fit into this international community and it hurts not to get along with my people. A lot of our social interactions center around expensive dinners and outrageous drinks where people chit-chat about their section mates, hook-ups and drunken shenanigans. Personally I’m unsure if this is the veritas I had come to seek at Harvard Business School.
I signed up for HBS and the opportunity costs associated with it – most importantly spending two years away from my ageing parents – to get a quality education and to learn both inside and outside the classroom. Unfortunately, my experience in RC year has been asphyxiating and has often made me wonder: what should I do to fit in?
I like spending time on cases although it makes me an outcast in my international community. In social interactions over expensive dinners, I am often the butt of many jokes because I am too academically inclined. I don’t party hard enough, seldom drink and have no idea about networking (credit ashley). Worse still, I actually take HBS classes seriously and the one thing that I have not realized after RC year is how to maximize my return on investment.
Silly me.
It’s not about treasuring resources at Baker Library, attending talks at the iLab, assisting fellow students with their finance exercises and trying to integrate our learning from the 200+ cases thrown at us during RC year that give us a return on our $90,000.
It’s about pre-gaming at the Park, eating out at Sorellina, coming back to the Park and ending the night at the Kong (if you are not classy enough) that make our time at HBS worthwhile.
I took LEAD last year and loved it. I tried to internalize what the course taught us but admittedly haven’t succeeded in finding my path at this school. And I don’t blame myself for it because what I want from the school is not what the community is willing to offer easily, especially if you want to fit in.
“After all, we are on a two year vacation at Harvard Business School and we need to live it up.”
And there, I just said it, at Sorellina earlier tonight.

November 3, 2014
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