Underwhelmed by Boston

I give Boston a four out of ten.  I was surprisingly underwhelmed.  Harvard and by default Boston is someplace I’ve wanted to live since I was 21.  Overall, I wasn’t convinced that this was the place I would want to study or live. The reality does not live up to the hype.

Caveat: In an effort to be fair to Boston my friend rated it as seven out of ten; but wouldn’t live there.

Boston in general

The people were amazing, friendly and chatty. We had a great time chatting to the locals. But Boston look wise wasn’t very inspiring. My camera hardly came out! I think, I have ten picture of Boston and four of them are the Duck and dDckling sculpture in Boston Commons.

The underground thing; well it is odd.  The Green line which I rode on most days is not a train, a tram or a tube.  I’m not even convinced it is trolley.  But it does squeak, a lot! No one heard of WD40?  Now the Red line out to Harvard, that is a train!

The Freedom trail; it’s follow the red line to lots of places that don’t exist.  Highlights I got to see Mother Goose’s grave and we accidentally came across Mike’s (the place where you obviously have to buy cakes.) honestly the trail needs a bit more work.

There not a lot happening in Boston.  There was lots of sport, but little else to do.  Though King’s Bowling was very good!


Harvard Business School

The highlight of the trip was a bit of a let down.  HBS is over the river from the main college; and stuck in the middle of nowhere.  The campus has some pretty bits and some 1970’s special concentrate buildings.

I sat in on a first year finance class.  The section gave us guests a very loud round of applause; and then I managed to leave without saying a word to anyone.  After the terrific support I got from HBS students when I was researching HBS, I was expecting better.  However if they have guests in every class; I do get the point that they get a bit tired after a while; and don’t really need to see the reason to engage.

The female participation of the class was very low.  The girls generally spoke if directly asked by the professor and generally didn’t volunteer.  Large tracks of the conversation as dominated by four blokes (I suspect they were the section’s usual suspects.) I was surprised.  Seriously girls; speak up! (See the NY time article for more background.)

The discussion wasn’t that engaging or dynamic. (Though my accountant friend said the lecture on WACC was a lot more interesting at HBS than what she had when learning about it for her ACCA qualification.) The professor was engaged, knew the students and knew the case and the issues very well.

Oh! I almost forgot to mention; The case study method.  It worked!  I learnt about WACC and how to apply it; and how would I use to inform a business decision that was actually made.  Stopped the subject from being dry and put it a real world context.

On a side note; almost all students had laptops or tablets in the class.  Most students had apple air notebooks. One or two had the black ugly IBM laptops and one or two enterprising ones had the Microsoft surface pro.  They got the benefit of having excel and a tablet.


After the class chat we went to Cambridge’s famous burger place.  It had burgers like the fiscal cliff, bill Clinton, Obama healthcare.  Burgers were good.  But neither me nor my friend could see why the sweet potato chips or onion rings had won prizes.  Just not that good!


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5 responses to “Underwhelmed by Boston”

  1. domotron says :

    Shame you didn’t enjoy Boston as much as you anticipated. Did you go to the Back Bay area and North End? North End reminds me of London a lot actually. Personally I loved Boston because it feels smaller and more accessible than London but definitely less going on. (I still love London and I’m a true Londoner at heart though)

  2. hbstimes says :

    Hey Sarah, I am a MBA student at HBS, and I agree with your 4/10 score. The weather is horrible. The city isn’t exactly the most vibrant and the public transportation system is squeaky indeed… 😉

    But Cambridge (where Harvard/MIT are located) is a pretty amazing please – the amount of brain-power gathered here is quite phenomenal.

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