HBS Students Promote Globalization over the Holidays

It may be hard to believe, but just a couple of weeks ago students were frolicking in exotic locales such as Brazil, Mount Kilimanjaro (elevation: 19,335.6 ft., or almost 6 miles), the Dominican Republic, and Hawaii.

Concentrate intensely and you can still feel the warm sand in your toes and gentle breezes providing welcome relief from the sun.

According to Stephane Le Bouder (ND), some students took advantage of the fact that no one in their host country knew who they were, nor were likely to see them ever again, Approximately 47 – 50 students from HBS and Wharton converged on the Dominican Republic, speaking various versions of “Spanglish” just to provoke a reaction from the locals. In that sense, they appeared to accomplish their mission, although not always in the way they desired.

Upon arrival in the Dominican Republic, the first evening, the group went running straight into the sea. Several students including, and our own Nigel Howard (NH) and Le Bouder from HBS were taken by surprise and started yelling at the “sea monkeys” (bats) that were feeding on local “crickets” above the water. Terrified, one of the Wharton students apparently exclaimed, “I know and understand Michigan grasshoppers, I don’t like Spanish speaking grasshoppers!” After the fish started jumping to get in on the feast, the conversation reportedly deteriorated quite rapidly and soon became completely unintelligible.

Nigel’s daytime language skills didn’t fare much better; when trying to order an omelet he said, “Blanca only o,” drawing a strange look from the waitress but no eggs. That night he tried the bartender, looking for a bathroom. “Restroom o?” The bartender dutifully turned around and began mixing a drink! A minute later the light dawned – “bathroom?” asked the bartender. An ecstatic and relieved Nigel nodded vigorously.

Outside the nightclub the night was still warm despite the late hour of 2:00 am. Two women walked by. So Keon Holmes (NH) decided to show off his knowledge of the language and called out “Holas!” which as he later explained to his bemused holiday companions, is plural for “Hola!”. His friends were not convinced as indeed neither had the native girls been.

When they had started laughing, he had tried again. “Yo Ma, it’s not my fault!” This unfortunately did not appear to persuade them to slow down and talk for a while either.

So was the group successful in meeting local natives? “Not with the Spanish we were speaking,” said Stephane.

Conversing in the native language was not required for Nicole Anderson (NH), Joanna Sun (NJ), Eileen McCullough (NJ), Kristen Campbell (NH), Rita Kim (NC) and Olivia Verma (NE) who flew to Hawaii for a strenuous and productive holiday. Arriving in Waikiki Beach on the Island of Oahu, the girls encountered ideal vacation weather, low 80s, “not too hot, exactly right,” said Anderson. Their hotel was right on the beach and their commute to the first floor bar was blissfully short.

The group experienced a mishap on the very first day. Determined not to allow the convenient accommodations to cut down on her athletic conditioning, Eileen went running and fell down, incurring nasty gashes and bruises and necessitating a trip to the doctor. The verdict: no swimming in the ocean! She remained in good humor, according to the group and even went snorkeling on the last day. By then her wounds had healed enough that she didn’t yelp in pain as the salt water hit them.

Continuing in the active, athletic mode the girls hiked up Diamond Head, a giant dead volcano about one kilometer across. As fate would have it, another group was trekking down, and Eileen spotted someone she knew – from her HBS study group?! (Fortunately, this group had taken a slightly different approach to the locals, and had not pursued activities which would require them to attempt to remain anonymous).

The girls continued their adventures on the big island of Hawaii. They set out on a six hour roundtrip evening hike to Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes on earth. What they hadn’t bargained for was the 4200 feet rise in elevation, which meant the hike was uphill all the way. Finally they arrived, exhausted, only to discover that the volcano itself was still far away. It was so dark that they could barely make out anything except for “flickerings of orange that we may or may not have imagined,” according to Anderson.

With boundless energy they tried surfing, which was the hit of the stay. All of the girls, except Eileen who wasn’t allowed in the water, were able to stand on the board despite not having tried the sport before. To see the sharks that they dodged while gracefully riding the boards visit //waquarium.mic.hawaii.edu/coralcam/ for a live shot.

Of course, they attended a luau, ate poi, and got up on stage to do the hula! They also toured a Dole pineapple plant (its founder is an HBS grad) where they made their way into one of the largest mazes in the world, with hedges bordering the paths, and participated in a scavenger hunt.

The Mauna Loa macadamia nut factory was next, but it was closed for the holidays, so the girls contented themselves with purchasing and eating the nuts from the on-site store.

So, given these dream vacations, what was coming back like?

“It was tough,” said Anderson. You’re in paradise and then [suddenly] you’re getting grades, job interview results, discovering you’ve lost your skydeck seats…”