Just a few days before starting my first day at HBS, I had some ideas about what to expect from the place where I would spend the next two years. Some of these ideas were generalizations based on things I had heard, others were simply assumptions I had about business school. Even now when talking to prospective applicants, I realize that these “themes” persist, as so many people ask the same questions that I did over two years ago.

It has now been a little over two years since I first entered my section classroom, and I find myself smiling with gratitude about how wrong I was about so many of my suppositions. I want to share with you three of the more negative notions I had, in hopes to dispel this craziness once and for all!

1.      “HBS students are highly competitive, and it is a very cutthroat culture”

It is impossible to deny that many HBS students are inherently competitive, as it is this competitive spirit that helped them to achieve success thus far in their careers. That being said, the culture at HBS is one that encourages teamwork and collaboration, very much mirroring situations encountered in the real world. While we constantly challenged each other, it was always done respectfully, intending to help each other to grow and improve.

Moreover, it is a culture of contribution, everyone constantly learning from their peers as well as teaching them. I had classmates go above and beyond to help me in areas where I was not as strong. If I was unsure about the underlying concepts of a case, I had classmates help me brainstorm ideas, encourage me to speak up, and give me the confidence to do so.  

Looking back, the most rewarding “victories” were the ones achieved with others, whether with a small group of six on an academic simulation, or with my entire section winning the wheelbarrow race at field day. 

2.      “I am not going to have time to pursue any of my interests outside of business”

I can’t even get through this sentence without laughing a bit, and I am sure that those who know me will do the same. A huge theatre geek my entire life, I have always loved singing and performing. I even worked in theatre prior to entering business school because I loved it so much. As you can probably imagine, I didn’t expect to have many opportunities to pursue my passion for performing at business school, and WOW was I wrong!

Through the HBS show and HBS’s first 80s-cover-band, Young Me and the Moons (named after a beloved professor!), I have never performed more in my entire life than I did at HBS! The chance to pursue these outside interests and passions was not just unique to me and performing, as I watched so many classmates pursue things outside the standard business curriculum. 

Whether it was art, hockey, photography, running, drones (seriously), or education - there really is time and a place for people to continue doing the things they love. Even if there isn’t, you can most likely make it happen, with the full support of HBS and your peers.

3.      “There is no way that a random group of 90 people will become my best friends.”

This is probably my favorite misconception to address, and definitely the generalization that I got the most wrong. I will admit, walking into Aldrich 108 the first day, I was incredibly intimidated at the idea that I needed to somehow find close friends amongst this new group of 90 very diverse individuals. Would any of them share the same interests as me? Would they understand my weird sense of humor? Would any of them even WANT to make close friends at this point in their lives? The answer to these questions is a resounding and emphatic yes.

Not only did I find people with the same interests as me, I found people who had very different interests, who exposed me to activities, places, and ideas I had never explored. Even sectionmates with families on campus put in an astounding effort to get to know each and every person on a very deep level, and to make us a part of their families. And that’s really it - in a way, my sectionmates not only became my closest friends, they became my family, and continue to be so today.

These are the people that challenge you, listen to you, cheer for you, and support you in everything. I know that if I ever need something, I can pick up the phone to any one of them, and they will be there for me. The bond that is created through the shared experience is so special, and unlike anything I could have ever predicted. I cherish this bond so much, and look forward to it continuing to grow and strengthen in the many years to come!

Now I am off to meet some sectionmates for drinks in New York, one of whom is also my current roommate. Needless to say, we will spend significant time rehashing all of the wonderful memories we shared at HBS and wishing we could be back on that glorious campus.