Carolyn Hicks









By Carolyn Hicks

A student once more

As I was brushing my teeth the night before I was to find out if I got in to the Oxford MBA program, I had a scary thought: “Am I REALLY ready to be a student once more?”.

Yes, I knew I wanted to pursue an MBA, and yes, I knew I wanted to study at Oxford.  But a student?  That time in life where you’re supposed to go to class, hand in assignments, study textbooks and course notes, and sit through seemingly countless examinations.

With no way to find out other than try, I packed, sold, and stored everything I owned, said goodbye to family, friends and colleagues and hopped across the pond (from Canada). I descended upon Oxford along with 236 fellow classmates, most of whom had just done the same thing.

We arrived as business professionals from around the world. The first morning was akin to bumblebees singing kumbaya – frantic networking and general awe of what each other had accomplished.  Here’s me on my first day (just as keen as all the other bumblebees):

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Four weeks later and I would say our transformation to students has not taken long (including my own).  A few things I’ve noticed along the way:

1)  There are many many more people to meet

The first day on any job will be filled with meeting more people than you can possibly remember.  Becoming an MBA student feels like three weeks of the first day on a new job, without the luxury of cubicle nametags. If you’re like me and forget names almost as soon as I hear them, there is no need to worry. There is plenty of time to get to know your classmates in class, during break, at the pub, in College Halls, during study groups, and maybe even at the after-pub location.

2)  I miss work

Brushing my teeth the other morning (apparently dental hygiene is when I do my best thinking), I realized that there was a big gap in my life, with no work meetings, work deadlines, bosses to keep happy, and colleagues to check-in with.  I used to think about my day every morning while brushing my teeth and now I had to find something new to think about.

3)  School has way more rules

Not only are class times assigned (no surprise on that one), but there are assigned groups (thankfully my group is totally awesome), and even assigned seating (thankfully my neighbours are also awesome). At Oxford, there is also and added layer of inheriting centuries of tradition, which prescribe things like when to stand during meals, and what to wear to exams.  Perhaps it’s my love of structure, but I must admit I enjoy the guidance.

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4)  School has way more freedom and a lot of really cool things

There is so much opportunity for exploration, I will never tire of things to do.  It would take three of me to do all the things I want to participate in each day, and not only that, but the nature of the course has a lot of freedom.  Things like “pick a company or organization you like, and study it”.

5) I have yet to figure out the dress code

Perhaps the most obvious part of the professional-turned-student transformation is their attire.  An MBA will often have business-dress requirements, but at times when it doesn’t, I find I’m at a loss for what to wear.  The last time I was a student, my wardrobe consisted of jeans and free t-shirts, not exactly ideal for the MBA.

After all these observations, would I say that I’m REALLY ready to be a student once more?  So far, all signs point to yes, not the least of which is my new attire:

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