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Thea Sokolowski

Degree:

MBA

Location:

United States

Industry:

Social Impact

Year:

2014-15

By Thea Sokolowski

Decisions, Decisions

In this place, we encounter an enormous amount of compelling choices on a regular basis, not just in the business school but everywhere within these city walls. Outside of typical MBA decisions (do I study or do I go to a bar?), I’m forced to decide between attending professional panels on management consulting and watching a chat with Google’s Jonathan Rosenberg and Eric Schmidt after classes, or between engaging in a Launchpad event on Women in Leadership and attending an Oxford rugby match with friends. We have the chance to be students again – with all the freedom and responsibility that notion entails.

This is where, I believe, we are truly tested. We’re not meant to know exactly what our plan is when we come here (despite what the application may say), nor perhaps exactly who we will one day be. These small decisions, with some actual introspection, in fact begin to shape that idea. How we choose to allocate our attention and our interest in a way dictates the conversations we end up having, the people we end up meeting and the experience we will walk away with when this ends. I learn just a bit more about myself every time I choose between a crash course on How to Start a Startup and an exchange dinner with a sister college.

The most incredible thing about Oxford is, quite frankly, its blatant Oxfordness. This place is even more Oxfordy than I imagined it could be. 700-year-old traditions still find their place amid a present-day institution filled with young people who simply shrug, laugh it off with an “only in Oxford” and find a way to make it modern. From formal matriculation ceremonies held in Latin later followed by (enormously popular) “sexy sub-fusc” parties to formal Union debates that tackle the most controversial of today’s issues, bringing in the likes of Naomi Wolf and Ammar Al-Hakim, the rich air of prestige and tradition is not lost on any one of us.

What is perhaps most surprising is the number – and success –of organizations run entirely by students, many of whom are still in undergraduate study. Today I attended a meeting for the Oxford Microfinance Initiative, an intensive and wonderfully organized program that tackles several consulting projects for microfinance companies in developing countries across the globe. The organization is lead entirely by undergraduates who have put on their leader hats to keep this sort of professional undertaking off the ground.

Students at Oxford don’t simply have the opportunity to participate in this plethora of opportunities, but in a way that doesn’t seem to be felt in many other institutions, we have the nearly autonomous responsibility of bringing about new initiatives, taking control of long-standing organizations and breathing a bit of ourselves into this community. We have the ability to make Oxford what we wanted it to be. I can feel my insipient FOMO threatening to overwhelm my already restless schedule.

As I exited the OMI meeting today, walking back through the campus of Exeter College, I was drawn toward its massive chapel by the sound of the Exeter choir rehearsing for Sunday’s mass. I peeked in, staring up at the ancient, vaulted ceilings and took in the full effect of their harmony. Never one for church choirs, I nevertheless felt compelled to stand there listening for hours.  Smiling, I walked out, my musical self vowing to seek out more secrets like this that can be found behind nearly every door.

As students, we have the ability to explore through a series of decisions, trying on all of our different selves while developing the one that will persist. By day, we’re well-dressed and responsible representatives of the business world and all its constituent parts. By night, well, these sub-fuscs can get awfully sexy.

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