Having spent my childhood in a small Indiana town, and having worked the past four years within family-owned companies in the calm, open spaces of Colorado, I was incredibly nervous about the culture of HBS. I had artificially painted a picture of a graduate school that may not be inviting to someone like me.

After just three short months on campus, I have been overwhelmed by the genuine kindness, curiosity, and support of my classmates. Within my first week on campus, I enjoyed the following:

·        Going for a run with a fellow Midwesterner and sharing wildly similar stories on the simplicity of our upbringing; stories of working summers on a farm and crowded high school basketball gymnasiums.

·        Sitting next to a young man who worked in manufacturing operations in China, while we listened to General David Paetrus inform us on the future of the U.S. economy.

·        Enjoying a coffee with a young woman from Slovenia, who took hours out of her afternoon to educate me on the current dynamics of Eastern Europe.

This is a place where a young man who completed his term as a Navy Seal was able to stand alongside his wife in front of 93 of his newfound section mates and share some of the most powerful stories I’ve ever heard. We all teared up together, and saw how an amazingly loving life partner can help someone recover from the pains of the battlefield.

This is a place where my mother, a quiet Midwestern librarian, walked up to a friend’s home on a beautiful fall Saturday afternoon and was greeted by a dozen strangers. They spoke with her for two hours, shared stories of her son, and inquired about her life growing up in a tiny western Ohio manufacturing town. She had more genuine, inspiring social interactions in that afternoon than she’d had the prior six months. And it was all completely random; driven by the kindness and curiosity of my peers.

This is a place that is truly excellent at unearthing individuals with big hearts and a passion to help others. It gathers young men and women who yearn to be a part of something bigger in life than just an impressive LinkedIn page; these are people who strive to one day be recognized in a moving eulogy that celebrates a life of compassion.

I hope some of these stories will remind you of your undergrad days, where many of us enjoyed richly fulfilling experiences, and created lifelong friendships. Prior to this August, I thought those would be the last real “new” friends I would have in my life. In less than 100 days, I have found friends who I know will stand beside me in my wedding and visit me at the hospital upon the birth of my first child. 

This is a place that is igniting my heart as much as my brain.

This is a place which I will cherish forever.