Michaelmas term ended and I could not have gotten out of Oxford quickly enough: oh the grey skies, the drizzle, the all-too-brief daylight hours, the cobblestone streets that catch my heels, the insistence that a baked potato is a meal.
Then I got mugged on a beach in Brazil and thought: “So, Oxford, eh?” I’m almost positive I had Bieber’s “Where Are You Now (That I Need You)” playing in my head.
There is a lot to be said about studying at Saïd. And now that I’ve gotten my emo, new-student posts out of the way, I can write a blog about actually being an MBA. It is difficult and it is easy, depending on what you come here to accomplish. If the MBA is a purely social adventure, you’ll be spoilt for things to do and people to frolic with. In November, I saw musician Hozier speak and perform in the same Oxford Union hall I’d danced my face off in weeks earlier at the Masquerade Ball’s silent disco. There are tens of thousands of Oxonians to meet. There is Tinder and Happn and Hinge. There are countless pubs and societies. There are the unnamed houses in Jericho where we inexplicably congregate regardless of the corner of Oxford in which the night began.
If you come to SBS to prove how clever you are, good on you. There is no end to the group projects and papers and exams. If you came here to prove how clever you are OUT LOUD, there are the classes with mandatory class participation to satisfy you. Knuckle down, absorb everything, annotate and reflect and analyze. Get those distinctions. You can regale your kids’ kids with the story of the 74 you got in Firms & Markets. It won’t be a long story, but not every story need be long.
If you come here to land your dream job, you’ve got your work cut out for you regardless of whether you’re in the McBain-BCG mad dash of autumn or on the “Nuts to all this: I’m starting a business” trail. I go selectively deaf whenever I hear talk of case prep and second round interviews and seed funding; I’d go mad with envy otherwise. Piecing together the career you articulated so well in your application essay is a beast. Mercifully, you’re not alone in the arena.
If you came here to figure out why you’re alive, I adore you, you fantastic, honest creature. “I think there’s a nobility in not knowing, in never finding out,” Hozier said between songs at the Union. I couldn’t agree more. This is a labyrinthine year in which to say Yes to everything. Yes to the trip to Blenheim Palace with the people you don’t know. Yes to New Year’s at a French château or Hogmanay. Yes to one more round at The King’s Arms and one more pizza at The White Rabbit. Yes to taking on the group assignment no one wants to do. Yes to bops and balls. Yes to photographs. Yes to a trek to Johannesburg, to Tehran. Yes to the Assassins Club and obscure Korean martial arts. Yes to the countryside. Yes to meeting the EMBAs (who know everything you think you do but don’t). Yes to other people’s formal dinners. Yes to company presentations. Yes to applying for the job you think is out of your league. Yes to talks at the Oxford-Cambridge Club. Yes to doing nothing for a minute. Yes to the weirdo in Section B.
Amid all these Yeses, naturally, there are things that must be said No to. Each of us makes our own combination of compromises. Whatever you do say Yes to as an MBA, know that this is a year you’ll never get back, and whatever you focus your energies on will either haunt or humor you for decades to come. Me, I say No to doing laundry, eating vegetables, cardiovascular exercise. But (to borrow a line from a favorite film) “why would I want to do a thing like that?”Back to top of article