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HBS Partners Confront Multiple Challenges

Can you imagine getting married, with all of the adjustments that it entails, followed almost immediately by a move to a new city, requiring one to give up local friends and family and exchange a stimulating job for a largely supportive role for your partner? Or how about dating someone special who applies and is accepted to HBS, creating the gut-wrenching choice of losing that person or moving across the country or world? It can only be called one thing – love.

Most HBS partners don’t know what to expect from life at HBS. The most commonly used adjectives to describe the first few weeks are confusing, chaotic, and overwhelming.

Consider the stress on students who must master case studies, start their job search, and participate in a myriad of extracurricular activities. Now multiply that several times to calculate the stress on the partner, who must find another way to belong to this strange new community while recreating from scratch the things that make up their unique identity – a career, trustworthy childcare, friends and family, meaningful volunteer activities – knowing that they will probably move again in just two years.

Many partners have the same assertive, leadership traits that got their significant other into HBS, and those traits help them become acclimated fairly quickly to the new environment. However, even they have encountered obstacles, such as trying to attend a meeting in a locked building that requires a Harvard ID to enter (the administration has corrected this and for the first time, partners will be issued Harvard ID cards.)

In addition, this year HBS has developed an internal website for partners that requires an ID and login. Most partners also say that orientation helped introduce them to a variety of opportunities that HBS has to offer. The school hosts a number of events that are open to students and their partners, including the recent barbecue and the upcoming all-campus party.

“My whole first year of marriage was consumed with planning the move to Boston,” said Katie Rohs, Co-President, Partners Club, who is married to Todd Rohs (OF). Moving after several years of marriage isn’t any easier, says Erin Whiteley, Co-President, Partners Club, who has two children with husband Richard Whiteley (OB). While Richard attends classes, study groups, and interviews, Erin is the primary caretaker for the children.

No one interviewed for this article admitted to feeling “left out” while their partners participated in section activities, but the potential for this feeling seems more likely to occur if partners don’t form strong personal networks on their own, which can be difficult when caring for young children or working in a demanding position. Life for partners from other countries poses additional challenges, often including finding a job and learning a new language. The Harvard International Office, located in Harvard Square in the Holyoke Center, not only help to sort out a myriad of visa and immigration issues, but also provide help with work authorizations, child care, English classes, and cultural community activities. For those who want to find out more, please visit or call:

Harvard International Office
1350 Massachusetts Avenue
Holyoke Center Room 864
Cambridge, MA
02138-3800
617-495-2789
www.hio.harvard.edu

September 13, 2004
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