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Reflections from my J-Term

If the sudden flurry of Facebook photo uploads is any indication, the HBS community enjoyed its first “J-Term” and left its footprints around the globe.

January Term, which officially ran from January 4-22, was born in response to the new University-wide calendar implemented this school year. The coordinated calendar puts all of Harvard’s 13 schools on the same academic schedule for the first time in the University’s history. Harvard President Drew Faust announced the changes in January 2008, after five years of work by the University Committee on Calendar Reform, a group comprised of students and faculty from across the university.

HBS encouraged students to pursue one of three sets of options: intensive seminars, the Immersion Experience Program (IXP) or “independent opportunities,” namely academic-based projects and travels of each student’s choosing. Students themselves organized unofficial programs, too, including career and cultural treks to Hollywood, Hong Kong, Nepal and New Zealand, among other locations.

But what did HBS really do over J-Term? In this feature, students from both the RC and EC classes share their J-Term experiences with you, which prove as diverse and interesting as the HBS community itself.

Reflections from a “Wintern”
By Adam Ludwin (OJ)

What did you do over J-Term?
I took a “winternship” at RRE Ventures, a leading early-stage New York VC firm.ÿStuart Ellman, one of the founding partners and an HBS alum (MBA ’92), put together an intense agenda for me.ÿIn three weeks I sat in on half-a-dozen pitches, evaluated new deals, met with a number of portfolio companies (including one in Seattle), represented RRE at NYC tech events and drank a LOT of Coca-Cola products (one of the partners is on the board of Coke).

What informed your decision?
I love New York and wanted to spend some time immersed in the start-up community there.ÿRRE has an incredible reputation among entrepreneurs and one of the longest track records in NYC, so when Stuart agreed to take me on, all the pieces fell into place.

What did you learn?
The New York technology scene is exploding. It’s a very exciting time to be in New York if you are an entrepreneur or venture investor.ÿYou’ve got start-ups like Foursquare, Gilt Groupe, Drop.io, Boxee and Hot Potato, and incubators like Betaworks, all making waves.ÿ New York-centric industries from media to financial services are being reinvented in one way or another.ÿGoogle’s presence has proved there’s actually a ton of local engineering talent.ÿCalifornia investors like Ron Conway have made NYC a priority, and Boston VCs are spending significant time there.ÿI think it’s just the beginning.ÿStart your companies in New York!

What surprised you most?
I was not expecting the rich diversity of ideas, entrepreneurs and companies that came through the doors of RRE.ÿIt probably shouldn’t have surprised me, given that it was New York and not Silicon Valley. It definitely made each day that much more interesting.

“If I hadn’t done this, I would have…”
. traveled with globetrotting section-mates in the southern hemisphere.

Reflections from a New Dad
By Bobby Wolfe (NF)

What Did You Do for J-Term?
My J-Term effectively began on November 30, when my pregnant wife Natalie was admitted to Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Just a few days later, at 4 a.m. on December 3, my daughter Perla Sue was unexpectedly born approximately four months early at 25-weeks gestation, weighing 1lb. 9 oz. For the unknowing men out there, a full-term baby is normally born at 36-40 weeks gestation and weighs 6-8 lbs. Babies born earlier than 28 weeks make up roughly 1% of the entire population, and at 25 weeks gestation a newborn has approximately a 50% chance of survival. Thankfully, the nearby Brigham and Women’s Hospital has the nation’s premier Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and Perla Sue beat the odds.

As you can imagine, my overwhelmingly busy RC schedule got busier, and time management went out the window. I struggled to keep up with cases and fell behind. The days and nights went by in a haze, but somehow, with the support provided by the HBS community, I made it through daily classes and finals before J-Term officially started. During those first tenuous days, Natalie and I relied heavily on family, the administration, professors, my learning team and Section F. (Thank you all!).

The ultimate question still remains: What did I do for J-Term?
I’m sure you’ve all heard the stories and have seen the amazing photos from my classmates who traveled the globe. Unlike my classmates, though, I stayed right here in Boston. Spending our days at the NICU, Natalie and I rode the preemie parent roller coaster.

What surprised you most?
Along with the complexity of changing diapers and the difficulty of dealing with a multi-layered medical system where the entire team turns over every couple of weeks, my tiny daughter’s spirit and strength surprised us all. The life of a preemie (actually, a micro-preemie) is fraught with struggle. For every two steps forward a preemie takes, [she takes] one step back. The ups and downs were unexpectedly dramatic, akin, I suppose, to a highly-levered auto manufacturer, a new startup or a CDO trader in 2008. The days were – and still are – long and crazy.

What did you learn?
I learned to love unconditionally, to worry absolutely, and to support my wife unwaveringly; ultimately, I learned to be a father. If this is how the first 65 days have gone, I can’t wait until she’s 16.

Again, a special thanks to the HBS community!

February 16, 2010
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