South African native Josh Sandler came to Harvard with a goal in mind: making a tangible and relevant impact on business and policy in Africa. A joint degree student at HBS and HKS, Josh plans to return to Africa after graduation and work at the crossroads of business and government in some capacity. 

Far from home as he is, Josh has invested himself in creating a community here at Harvard. Here’s what he had to say about his classmates and life at HBS so far.  

How did you meet people outside your section at HBS? 

I met some of my closest friends at HBS through Admitted Student Welcome (ASW) - I formed a very strong bond with the people I connected with there.

I highly recommend connecting with classmates before school begins (many opportunities will be posted on Facebook). This gave folks a nice way to come to campus and already know a few people across different sections and already have a sense of community. 

I also found that joining clubs and attending the club retreats gave me a unique way to connect with people across sections with similar interests to me.

Does HBS feel like a big place?

It does! But I do not think this is a bad thing. There is so much going on every day. So many interesting talks to attend, people to meet, ideas to explore that it keeps me constantly stimulated and constantly looking for more time. It is overwhelming, but does force me to learn how to prioritize on a new level.

I did not fully appreciate how helpful it is to have such a large class until I began my summer internships and travels. No matter which city I went to, I felt like I had either a classmate there or a friend of a classmate there. Classmates are very open to introductions - not to mention the large alumni network who have also been very open to cold emails. Arriving on the ground with a network has been so helpful, especially as I am spending much of my time abroad. 

Are you close with your joint degree cohort?

The joint degree cohort has become perhaps my closest support system and contains many of my closest friends at school. We have a weekly class together for 3 straight years. My peers in the program continue to serve as a strong moral compass, as therapists, and as mentors. I look forward to us continuing to grow together.

What has surprised you most about HBS?

Hands down I was the most surprised by the community's openness to dialogue. Fellow students are for the most part very curious and interested in having conversations in topics and areas that they are not familiar with. I have found that asking the questions is the most important step. Once this is done, a lot of knowledge will be provided. I have also been surprised by how approachable the professors are and how quick they are to respond to emails - they too remain very open to conversations and mentorship.

What is your favorite memory?

I think one of my favorite memories of the experience has been during ASW, when I was eating late night food with five of my future classmates. They were explaining to me their lives and experiences growing up and working in the Middle East. There were Lebanese and Israelis at the table. Every one spoke freely and openly without any perceived judgment being passed. The comfort that I immediately felt in this situation was indicative of much of my experience.

HBS can facilitate an environment with people from many different backgrounds and can give you an opportunity to hear and even experience their lives - all over the world. This has allowed me to better understand people in general, hear of issues that I was not even aware of - it has been wildly beneficial in bettering me as a person and as a (hopefully) future leader.