Monthly Archives: December 2013

Year End

This year was arguably one of the most memorable of my life – getting into HBS, settling into Boston, and spending an amazing first semester at HBS. The year passed with surprising swiftness. Now I’m spending the winter break traveling South America to recharge my batteries. Here are some highlights:


Machu Picchu, Peru.

Two hours from Lima to Cusco by plane and another three by train, Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Inca site located 7,970 feet above sea level, often referred to as the “Lost City of the Incas”. I coincidentally ran into two of my section mates at the train station in Cusco and we enjoyed a great journey to the castle in the sky.



Uyuni, Bolivia.

A one-hour flight from La Paz, the capital city of Bolivia, is the world’s most beautiful salt lake, Uyuni. I had long hoped to visit here. The uninterrupted white terra and the mirror like shallow lake, which reflects the sky, were just spectacular. My only regret is that I forgot to buy some Uyuni’s salt for pasta.



Huilo Huilo, Chile.

Taking a one-hour flight from Santiago to Temuco and then driving three hours south, the Huilo Huilo appears in the backwoods of a deep forest. This is the Eighth Wonder of the World. Who built such a magical hotel and why? In contrast to the bizarre exterior, the interior is reminiscent of a five star luxury hotel. Fortunately, I was able to make a reservation to spend the last three days of the year at this amazing hotel.


HBS life starts anew on January 5th with the FIELD 2 program in Shanghai.

I wish you all a Happy New Year.

Finishing the 1st Semester

We’ve just finished final exams. That means – our first semester has ended.

Time went by surprisingly fast. It seems like just yesterday that we first gathered in our classrooms and introduced ourselves to each other. It is unbelievable that we have spent 112 days and finished almost a quarter of our life at HBS.

Looking back, the first semester was, in a word, busy. Just busy. I was always overwhelmed by the massive amounts of homework, the intensive classes, and the never-ending parade of social events. HBS intentionally throws out more work than students can handle, and consequently, we had to make decisions as to what to regard as priority and what could be ignored

Fortunately, when I arrived at HBS four months ago, I knew life at HBS was hectic, making it all but impossible to remember everything, and thought it wise to keep a log. Since September, I have been blogging here, as well as keeping a daily journal.  Spending 30 seconds every day, I have been logging my daily activities by the hour. Here is the aggregation of the first semester.

Time Spent

As can be imagined, the core of my life consists of class and study, accounting for 38% of my time. In the past four months, we’ve gone through 133 cases, meaning we have made almost 133 critical decisions as a case protagonist. Interesting thing – I spend twice as much time studying as I do in class. In other words, I’m studying 2 minutes for every minute in class. A finance guy would say that the self-study class ratio is 2:1.

Another remarkable thing is that I’m spending 8% of my time with my family, which is much longer than when I was working. At that time, I was spending just 3-5 % maximum. I’m also sleeping well. Since coming to HBS, I have been consistently sleeping 8 hours (33% of my time) a day. It is also hard to believe that when I was working at a consulting firm and investment bank I often spent the entire night at the office. Although I feel busier now, the quality of life at HBS seems much better than before.

I’m spending the remaining 20% on networking, events and meetings, and other daily chores. This time composition would be totally different for each student. Some focus on recruiting, others focus on club activities, and there are also people focusing on their own startup. The great thing about being a student is that everything is up to us.


Anyway, the first quarter of our HBS life has simply flown by. The next phase starts in the second week of January. And the End of Semester Bash Party starts at 10pm tonight!

Final Exam

We are in the middle of finals. A very stressful time indeed. As I wrote in a previous post, our grades are comprised of 50% class participation and 50% final exam. Ergo – even if we performed well in the class discussions, our overall grades won’t be stellar should we blow the final.

At HBS, even the finals are case studies. In four short hours, we have to read a case and write an essay. Some exams are location-free, meaning we can take the exam anywhere we want: at home, café, hotel, or airport.

Case based exams are not a big deal to us since we do cases each and every day. However, reflecting on the fact that the four hours determines half of our performance, we cannot help but feel stressed and anxious. On top of this – there is little we can do to prepare for the exam. It doesn’t ask our knowledge, “only” requiring us to read the case (15-20 pages) as usual and think on our feet to make critical decisions as the protagonist. For example, the only question we were asked on the LEAD exam last Friday was:
“What actions should Jim Reit (the case protagonist) do?”
That’s all. To answer the question, we had to analyze the situation, develop specific action plans, and articulate said plan in the 1,000-1,500 word essay. It’s not much about knowledge cramming, but about decision making as a leader.

Essay writing

Fortunately or unfortunately, it started snowing in Boston yesterday and we are getting into the real winter season. Having nothing to do outside, I’m just staying in my apartment reviewing past cases. The amazingly intensive first semester is now nearing an end.


Attired in tuxedoes and formal gowns, approximately 1,700 HBS MBA students and their families entered the Westin Hotel in downtown Boston to attend Holidazzle – one of the school’s biggest events. Every year almost the entire RC (first year) students participate, celebrating the survival of the first semester. It is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the intensive three months we have just completed.

The first half of the evening’s program was a section dinner. Much to our delight, our section had the highest participation rate, and was assigned the most spacious room in the hotel. It was spectacular to see all ninety section mates in formal attire. Some were so nicely dressed they were hardly recognizable. We enjoyed dinner and wine, relaxed conversation, and a great film some of our section mates had created looking back at the too quickly gone time we had just shared. When it came to the surprise movie from our professors, even though it was terribly humorous, some of the participants were almost crying. The semester was really an emotional journey for us.

The latter half of the evening was a school wide dance. Removing the partitions, 1,700 participants occupied the 3rd floor of the Westin, and were madly dancing to live music.



But, it’s not the end of the semester. We still have a very very important part before the winter break. Whether or not you realize, final exams start next week…