For my wife (Megan) and me, relocating 3,000 miles across the country from Los Angeles to Boston for HBS was a huge deal. We had lived in California our whole lives, only leaving L.A. for short stints in the San Francisco Bay Area for our undergraduate programs. Although we understood that many HBS students travel across the world to attend the MBA program, we felt like we may as well have been moving to another country when we left for Boston.
With a great job, family, and friends in Los Angeles, Megan had to make a very difficult decision about whether to join me at HBS a few weeks after our wedding, or alternatively try out a "bi-coastal" relationship. After deliberating, Megan decided to drop everything and join me on the journey to HBS.
Looking back on our two years at HBS, I can honestly say that she had as much (if not more) fun as I did, and also grew as a person. As a result, we thought that it would be useful to put together a quick list of advice based on our experience for couples who are relocating temporarily to Boston.
1) Try to live on campus
Living off campus can have its perks for partners commuting to downtown Boston or surrounding areas, in addition to convenience to grocery shopping or going out to dinner. However, it can be easier for partners to join campus talks, activities, and events - and run into HBSers when living on campus. We really enjoyed our time in Soldiers Field Park, regardless of the lack of a dishwasher and tight living quarters (495 square feet!). We decided that we would likely never have the same opportunity to live on such a beautiful campus and with the special HBS community, which, for us, was the best decision.
2) Try to start building relationships early
Get your partner immersed from the very beginning, so he or she feels fully involved in section activities and you are able to build friendships together. Section C made Megan feel like a member of the section from the first day of class, which made the experience enjoyable for Megan. We also made some of our closest friends in the first couple of weeks of school (though, don't worry if it takes longer). We truly felt that Section C was 'our' section, not just my section.
3) Explore Boston and the East Coast together
Be tourists together and go on a Duck Boat tour, go apple picking, walk the Freedom Trail, and eat in the North End. Megan and I took walks along the Charles and constantly found new territory to uncover in Boston. Also, there are a number of beautiful and historic towns close to Boston, so rent a car for the day and visit Portland, Kennebunkport (Megan's favorite), Ogunquit, York, Western Mass, Cape Cod, Newport, etc. Some of our best days were our quick road trips.
4) Join the Partners' Club
The Partners' Club organizes a number of events which provide great opportunities to meet other couples, many of whom are relocating as well. Also, it is a rare chance to take advantage of EC/RC bonding, and to meet people outside of your Section (especially during RC year).
5) Organize small group get-togethers and dinners
Many of the activities at HBS happen in large groups, where it is hard to really get to know people well. Invite people over for dinner or plan get-togethers on a regular basis, so you and your partner can build strong bonds.
6) Get a Shad (gym) membership
If Shad is conveniently located for you, there are excellent weight room, cardio room, gym, basketball court, squash courts, free classes (spin, yoga, Pilates, etc.). Try to pick a few classes each week to attend with your partner and other friends. It is amazing how much more you go if you have a buddy to see there.
7) Find a balance that works for you
The HBS social calendar can be overwhelming at times, especially for partners who are busy with demanding day jobs—as a result, you may have to pick-and-choose to join the events which you want to attend the most. Also, something that Megan and I never truly perfected—though a few of our friends were able to maintain—was a weekly "date night." It is a great way to get some alone time in a very demanding social atmosphere. You need to understand that it is okay if you do not go to absolutely everything (which I admittedly never mastered).
8) Fully immerse yourselves in the experience
HBS is fleeting—make sure to take advantage of your time together in the experience, rather than constantly thinking of the next step in life. Play intramural sports, go to talks, go on section retreats, etc.—enjoy the time together and embrace the experiences that force you out of your comfort zone.
Megan and I had the time of our lives at HBS and made many lifelong friends in the process. We never would have imagined what a life changing experience it would have been for the both of us. We often remind each other what a 'huge' decision it seemed like when Megan was deliberating whether or not she should relocate, but even a week—and now two years—later, we have had absolutely no regrets.
Just have fun, live in the moment, embrace the incredible personal and professional opportunities HBS provides, and remember that you are in it together.
Photo credit: Alana Yates Photography