Sara Jane Ho

Year of Graduation: 
Sarah Jane Ho

"You’d be surprised how much joy a smile can bring someone."

A Hong Kong native and global traveler, Sara Jane Ho ’03 founded China’s first high-end finishing school, Institute Sarita, which opened in 2013. Since then, she has parlayed her global approach to etiquette into a book (due out next year) and a Netflix show, Mind Your Manners, coaching an international cast of students in skills as diverse as eating oysters, revamping résumés and appreciating fine wine. Here are her tips for the Harkness table:

Be the first to arrive and the last to leave.

You can pick up golden nuggets of intelligence, whether from the teacher or your peers, before or after the formal discussion.

Smile whenever someone makes eye contact.

You’d be surprised how much joy a smile can bring someone, especially in high school. Always try to sound nice, especially if you are in disagreement.

Don’t attack anyone across the table— it will make you feared or disliked. Even if you find someone’s comment ridiculous, say something like, “I see where you’re coming from, but if you look at page 7, I interpreted things differently. ...”

If you feel yourself getting emotional, focus on a tiny detail in front of you: the lines in the wooden table, the grain of a piece of paper. This intense focus is akin to meditation and will help calm your nerves.

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the spring 2023 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.