The A-Z of Retreat Survival

You may have already been on your first ever HBS ‘retreat’, or you may have that joy still in store. You may not know what the hell I’m talking about, but over the next year or two you will be offered many, many opportunities to go away for an officially-sanctioned weekend: far from cases; Spangler; and trying to work out how to work the air conditioning in your dorm.

Retreats are an odd HBS tradition that involve taking a two to four hour bus ride late on Friday to spend a weekend in slightly cramped accommodation with a group of people that you only minimally have something in common with,. The European retreat, SABA retreat (last weekend – awesome), AASU retreat (ditto, apparently), Section retreats and mini-treks all have many things in common: you will meet a lot of cool new people; you will not get enough sleep; and you will marvel at how nice it feels to get away from the 02163 zipcode for a few days.

Here is a little set of tips to help you along: appropriately enough you start with Alcohol and end up a Zombie.

A is for Alcohol
If you drink, enough said. If you don’t, remember to take a camera to record all the embarrassing things your drunk friends do in case you want to blackmail them in 20 years time when become the CEO of GE.

B is for Buses
It has been said that the journey can be more important than the destination. Once people start passing out Jello-shots on the bus you will understand the true meaning of this phrase.

C is for Cars
Not as much fun as the buses, it must be said, but find a friend driving up and you will get there early enough to snag the best rooms and most of the pizza.

D is for Don’t forget your.
(delete as appropriate) toothbrush, pyjamas, deodorant, towel, pillow, swimsuit, phone charger, shower gel, spare t-shirt for when you get muddy/thrown in the pool, iPod, manners, sense of decency, spare liver.

E is for Emotional Outburst
100-plus type A personalities in a confined space? It has to happen.

F is for Food
There will be either way too much, or not enough. Take your own if possible, ideally trail mix and vitamins to avoid either starvation or burger-overdose.

G is for Girls
There will probably not be enough, or if there are they will be married to someone. Take your own if possible.

H is for Hiking
You will insist that you will get up to go hiking at 10am, right up until you finally pass out on a couch at 6am singing ‘Is this the way to Amarillo’. Take those hiking boots out of your bag and replace them with Advil. Now.

J is for
The best section ever.

K is for Kissing
It will happen. Probably in the hot tub at 3am. You will either try and forget it ever happened or marry each other shortly after you graduate.

L is for Limes
Just add tequila and salt. Body shots optional (ask members of Section J for details).

M is for Mafia
A great game for retreats, involving lots of people staying quiet for a bit, accusing each other of lying and then being voted out. A bit like RC classes.

N is for Nocturnal Activities
Way more fun than any of the daytime ones organized.

O is for Organizers
Somewhere in your midst are three or four people who have worked their asses off to ensure you have somewhere to sleep, enough food and drink, and a bus home. They deserve much love. Be nice to them.

P is for Poolside Antics
If you are staying somewhere where there is a pool, hot tub or lake, take my advice: leave your cellphone, expensive watch and designer sweater behind. Seriously.

Q is for the Questions Game
Another great retreat game involving asking people increasingly rude questions and seeing if you can make them laugh. Much more fun than it sounds.

R is for Reading cases
You won’t. Not even on the bus home. But take them with you if it makes you feel better.

S is for Sleeping Arrangements
Complicated at best, uncomfortable at worst. Privacy is not an option, and it is safer to share a room with a married couple than two frisky single girls.

T is for Terror
At some point over the weekend you will walk into a room and realize you don’t know/want to talk to anyone in it. You will panic. This is normal. Pretend you were checking whether the pool table was free and back away as fast as you can.

U is for Umbrella
Great song by Rhianna which you will hear numerous times, along with ‘Smack That’ by Akon and ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ by Shakira. Come on, this is HBS, not HSD.

V is for Victory
Victory in the various ‘Section Olympics’ and ‘Outdoor Games’ organized for Saturday afternoon. You will compete to the point of near death, but by Monday morning nobody will be able to remember who won.

W is for Waiting Around
This will happen a lot, especially in the buses on Sunday when one of the poor organizers will spend an hour asking every single retreat attendee if it was their camera case left under the couch, only to find that the owner drove home an hour ago.

X is for X-rated
Something will happen that should not be repeated to anyone. It may involve handcuffs. Certain members of the class of 2008 know exactly what I am talking about.

Y is for Yes
To have the most fun, it is important to say this to most stuff people suggest (games, odd-colored drinks, being introduced to people) unless it involves a pair of handcuffs.

Z is for Zombie
You will be one by Sunday afternoon. It’s OK, most of the faculty know exactly when the retreats are and will expect you to all have the IQ of pond life Monday morning.

October 1, 2007
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