Moving anywhere is hard – but moving halfway across the world can come with even more challenges. MBA students come to HBS from every corner of the world, some with families, and some having never left their home country or state before. Kate Grosch (MS/MBA 2020) shares her experience growing up in a small town in Alaska - where wilderness survival and fishing were necessary parts of her childhood education. 

I grew up in Alaska, where we spent much of my childhood outdoors. Our house was on a dirt road outside of town, and we spent long hours exploring the woods behind our house. My dad taught me orienteering, wilderness survival, and more. I remember once we even ate carpenter ants we found on a log, just to learn all the different ways a person can subsist in nature. My mom and I liked to spend time together in late summer, preserving food for the long winter. We would make cherry preserves, freeze fresh-caught fish, and boil down rhubarb.    

I’ll be spending the last week before my Elective Curriculum (EC) year at HBS visiting my parents and getting back to that lifestyle. We’re planning to visit the family cabin on the Talkeetna River, which is going to be a great way to relax and unplug before the fast pace of the school year. At the cabin, there is no running water, no plumbing, and the only electricity comes from a gas-powered generator. It’s an off the road system, so you can only reach it by boat or snow machine. I can’t wait to be able to focus on time with family, in a setting that’s hard to find outside Alaska.  

When I moved to the “Lower 48” (what Alaskans call the continental United States) for college, one of the things I missed most was the way Alaskans weave the outdoors and nature into the fabric of everyday life. Since leaving Alaska, I’ve lived in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Boston. They’re all amazing cities - and I’ve loved each of them - but there’s something about visiting my parents in Alaska that just feels like home still.   

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also grown to realize how precious time with family is. As a kid, it seems like your parents will live forever; as an adult, I’m much more aware that with busy schedules and long distances - time together is precious. To do some math: when I was a kid, my family ate dinner together roughly five nights a week. Over the course of 18 years living at home, that added up to about 4,680 dinners together. Since then, I’m lucky enough to be able to visit home maybe four times per year – adding up to about two weeks in total annually. If I keep that up in the future, even if both of my parents reach their full life expectancy with another 28 years, that’s only 392 more family dinners. In other words, I’ve probably already had 92% of the dinners I’ll ever get to have with my parents.  

So before I fly back to Boston and immerse myself in the pace of life at HBS - engaging late-night discussions with section-mates, busy lunches at Spangler, and the glorious leaves of Boston in fall - I’ll be soaking in time with my parents in Alaska. We’ll grill fresh-caught salmon, enjoy the 11pm daylight of summer, and get plenty of mosquito bites. We’ll pick fruit and can it for winter. And we’ll have dinner together every night.