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Undercover at HBS

My friend Teeba was always a force to be reckoned with, ever since our undergraduate days. We clicked. And she quickly became one of the closest people to me. I always knew she’d go places in her life, and I was right. She is now a semester away from attaining her MBA from Harvard Business School – better known to her and her peers as HBS(1).

During my 2-week vacation to visit Teeba, I was surrounded by HBSers(2) (or so they call themselves) and visited her campus several times. Just the aura of the school makes you feel inadequate, because you know that you are among some of the most brilliant, most unique, most intellectual minds in our world.

The students come from all walks of life which makes them all the more interesting. Right off the bat you can assume they are all smart as hell. They all seem to know something about everything or everything about something! Give them any topic, ask them any question and you can be sure that they’ll answer you (even if they don’t know what the answer is, they’ll make you think that they do. key phrase: H- BS).

They are well educated dedicated individuals who know how to have a good time as well. But, they all have one major. “flaw”, if you will: they go to HBS: the ultimate “cult” – and I use the term very loosely.

HBS is all they can talk about. I cannot count the times Teeba started a conversation with: “At HBS.” “My friends from HBS.” “My section(3) at HBS.” “Is she/he HBS?” “With HBS.” “HBSers.”

It was always “HBS this” and “HBS that.” And it’s not only her. It’s all of them. At times, when with “HBSers” (there it is again), I found my self daydreaming as they talked about: How they loved Professor Vietor’s controversial teaching style, how Professor Kaplan was the VP of Goldman Sachs (ring a bell? It’s ok if it doesn’t!), how the new “RCs(4)” are not as much fun as the “ECs(5)”, how the dining hall at “Spangler” gets too busy at noon, how Dalia can be so pessimistic about everything, how Abdulla (an RC) is sitting in the same seat as Teeba when she was an RC, how Matt’s partner(6) was a non-HBSer, how Danish attained his reputation for saying the most outrageous things in class (AKA the “Kimono” comment – sorry, HBS inside joke – one of many I had to sit through), or how section D was not as diverse as the other sections.

You have to know that these people are beyond well rounded. They’ve been to some of the best undergraduate schools across the world, worked with the biggest companies, accomplished some of the most amazing things, and most are trilingual. So, you think when amongst them that you’d be consumed by invigorating conversations and debates. But, HBS is all they talk about.

Alright. I think I’ve taken out all my 2-week frustration of being an undercover HBS observer. I’d like you to meet the real HBS:

Osman: the daily planner and go-to guy if you need anything to be done

Matt: possibly one of the kindest people I’ve met

Nico: the Greek “survivor”

Marwan: the walking tour book

Danish: who always had something to say (appropriate or not. mostly not)

Cristin: the postcard collector

Tevia: who cuts her own hair!

Pato: the health nut

Sara V: the cookie-baker

Christine: the laugh-a-holic

Shilpa: the bachelorette

Dalia: the firecracker

Ghassan: the unpredictable soul

Abdullah: the owner of the coolest eye glasses collection

Yousef: the guy who ran across Harvard square with me

Section A Boys: Teeba’s section boys – the funniest, craziest group of boys – thanks to the “shoulder game” (another HBS inside joke and one of few I can actually participate in!)

So, as you can see. on the flip side, two weeks with these people gave me some of my most treasured memories, which I will never forget. Yes they are in HBS. Yes they are smart. Yes they are dedicated, diligent students. But, the genuineness they all carry and their ability to just be silly with all the pressures they endure, well. that’s what makes the “HBSers” approachable, lovable, missable. I’d go back in a heart beat.

HBS Glossary
(1) HBS: Harvard Business School
(2) HBSers: Students who attend Harvard Business School
(3) Section: In their first year, they are
divided into sections between A-J
(4) RC: Required Curriculum students
(1st year)
(5) EC: Elective Curriculum students
(2nd year)
(6) Partner: The term used for the spouses of HBS students

December 8, 2008
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