94. The story of a good looking international guy at HBS


94.      The story of a good looking international guy at HBS

Thanks to one of my HBS friends for writing this! Here are his uncensored thoughts on the HBS dating life.

“Coming from a rather conservative culture, single life at a school like HBS can be a bit overwhelming. While I didn’t go to high school in the U.S., I did have some understanding of what to expect through my ‘extensive research’ from trashy Hollywood movies on the subject. Hence, I believe I could summarize dating life at HBS to be similar to dating at high school in the U.S. but WITH MONEY, NO PARENTS around and MUCH LESS RULES.

As a strategy consultant, I was looking for ways to summarize dating life at HBS through some kind of framework, and I found I could categorize people’s dating mindset at HBS into four different groups:

1) The I-am-here-to-play-group. This group tends to be led by Europeans and (Latin-)Americans. They tend to focus on new experiences and the multi-cultural, inter-class exploration of the human anatomy. All styles are welcome, and this group even tends to develop some internal competition driven by unclear goals and parameters.

2) The I-am-intrigued-to-know-what-is-out-there-group. This group is not focused on sleeping around as much as the previous group, but is rather on the lookout for a long-term partner. They go out a lot, in the hope of meeting as many interesting people as possible, and who knows… the sought-after prince or princess might cross their path!

3) The happy-couples-group. They seem to have found their perfect other half – no playing, exploring or fooling around for them. Some of the other groups kind of envy them, as they seem to have found all the excitement of the HBS life without much of the drama and the searching. But I guess they face problems and frustrations of their own…

4) The am-I-with-the-right-person-group?!? People in this group have a partner but tend to behave as if they are part of group 1 or 2. People in this group usually tend to get into trouble without necessarily actively looking for it. HBS, full of smart people of which most try to be in shape, provides an environment where the sexual vibes tend to be on the high side.

Besides having different groups, there are also different timelines to look at:

1) First few weeks at school. The first weeks of school are completely crazy. Few people know each other, so they all interact with each other with little or no prejudice. No reputations have been created yet and hence the young well-groomed crowd of HBS students intermingle in the most interesting of ways during which many personal social interaction rules are broken. But for some reason all this seems to work – and it seems to make a lot of people happy. This is the prime time of dating life at HBS!

2) The post-first-few-weeks-hangover. Here comes the drama. At the end of September, sections have their section retreat, and it will change the dating scene dramatically. This is the point in time when the first section couples come out into the open. But more importantly, it is also the time when the section really forms. After this point, mingling outside one’s own section becomes much harder as events start to become more section exclusive. Dating life, which had just peaked earlier, falls into a deep depression.

3) Black Monday. The Monday after Thanksgiving is when many people have found out that long distance dating is not working for them. Interestingly so, this pushes a lot of the people in earlier described groups 3 and 4 back into the first group, which creates a whole new set of dynamics and opportunities!

4) Off-campus opportunities. With things having found their way by year-end, it is the change of environment that pushes up a new wave of dating dynamics. Be it on a HBS-organized trip to the Bahamas or be it on the FIELD2 trip, these travels allow for easy cross-section interactions which again can bring fun and tears.

5) Compressed carbon and kids. The second semester of RC year sees a different kind of dynamic. Many of the people that came into school in a relationship see this as the perfect time of the year to get engaged (which would allow them to get married right after school – perfect timing, no?). During this time, ever larger pieces of compressed carbon make their way to the fingers of someone in the section – and with it come all the discussions about wedding venues, dresses and cake frostings. It is also the time of the year where the first MBA offspring start making their appearance on school, which is actually very cool.

6) And then there’s the start of EC year. Timing is crucial, as a new flock of RCs have just arrived on campus ready to be conquered and you don’t want to be left with seconds. But it is also the time where people aggressively start looking for dating opportunities outside of HBS (think the Law School, Design School, Kennedy School and MIT).

7) The rest of the year is mostly about consolidating your gains or hunting for the ever rarer opportunities (mostly coming from cross-section travels).

So how would one best summarize two years of romantic life at HBS? Well, based on my fully unscientific approach of making an educated guess, I believe that on average the single and available person at HBS slept with about 3.5 HBS classmates over the two-year period. Many of them actually do get more than just sex and end up being engaged during or right after school (which for me also means I’ll get another wedding invite in some part of the world soon). But overall I would say that my dating life at HBS was a very positive experience. Drama, tears and the risk of a minor STD are part of the game. And while it’s not something HBS is meant to educate on, it is something that just happens when you have about 1,800 young talented people together in a small space and with free time on their hands. And to be honest, part of me misses those days…”


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Accepted! - Getting in and Fitting in at Harvard Business School - Book cover



ISBN 978-981-09-9168-5
eISBN 978-981-09-9169-2

Authored by: Frederic D Mahieu