Marla Woodward




United States





By Marla Woodward

6 tips for thriving during your first month of the Oxford MBA

1) Know what you want out of the MBA – for real
Do you want a position at a top investment bank? Do you want to be the king/queen of the balls and go to all the formals? Doesn’t matter if it’s a personal or professional goal, make sure you know what you want and make a plan to go after it.

My Advice: To balance your time, pick an activity for your mind, an activity for your body, and an activity for your spirit. For example, this term I’m leading a project for the Oxford Strategy Group for my mind, I’m participating in fencing for my body, and maintaining weekly family dog walks for my spirit. (My husband and golden retriever joined me on the MBA, so having them here is great for the spirit!)










2) Get outside your comfort zone
You’re not here to be comfortable. You’re here to grow and to challenge yourself. But how do you do that when there is SO much going on?

My Advice: Attend Freshers Fair. Freshers Fair brings all of the university and student clubs together in one spot for you to pick and choose what you might want to regularly attend. Notice I said “might.” Don’t be afraid to sign up for random things that seem interesting. Explore everything Oxford has to offer, and then use the strategy mentioned above to decide which term you want to try what in.

3) Try and meet as many people as you can before finding your “crew”
I get it – you’re away from home, everything is changing around you, and you want something familiar. Make sure you don’t let the comfort of hanging out with people from your own country hold you back from meeting the other amazing people in your cohort.

My Advice: Be fearless, be brave, and walk up to people from parts of the world you know nothing about and ask them to tell you about themselves. Without doing this, I never would have met some of my favorite people in the MBA. Someone has to be bold and initiate the conversation; make a goal to have that person be you.

4) Make a plan to stay on-top of readings and assignments
Oxford professors are amazing and at the forefront of research in their respective fields; they are also very hands-off when it comes to reminding you that you should do the three readings that were assigned or that your team has a group presentation next week. That sort of administrative detail is spelled out in your course syllabus, and they’ll expect you to be on top of that stuff.

My Advice: Map out all readings, exams, and group projects in your calendar so you know what’s coming when. This will help you anticipate how to budget your time when you have multiple group projects all due on the same day, and it will also come in handy when, heaven forbid, you can only find time for a portion of the readings and you need to decide which are the most valuable (HINT: Always read cases, and if you have a class that does a class participation assessment, try and get those ahead of the other readings).

5) Vitamins & Sleep – the fresher’s flu is real!
With all of the diverse classmates you’re about to meet, with all of the late night socializing you’re about to do, and with the damp and cold weather that is quintessentially UK, you’re probably going to get a head cold at some point in your first few weeks.

My Advice: You’ll have a lot more fun if you’re healthy than if you’re congested and exhausted. Get a good amount of sleep, take your vitamins, wash your hands, and don’t feel like you have to go out every night. See the next point on how you will survive FOMO.

6) You will survive FOMO
On any given night, the president of some country could be talking at the union, a famous CEO could be speaking at the business school, a Blues rugby match could be happening, and one of your classmates might have invited you to formal hall. How do you choose?

My Advice: Remember the part at the beginning about knowing what you want from this experience? About having goals and focus? Even the best of us are tempted at times to lose track of what is really important.

What I do is:
1) Attend all events that help me towards my professional and personal goals
2) Give myself permission to miss events, even if they sound cool, that don’t meet those goals
and 3) Give myself permission on occasion to throw the rules out the window because going to the Harry Potter ball just sounds like fun and all the MBAs are going.



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  • Tiffany

    Marla–great advice! Fresher’s flu is real–and it goes round and round, doesn’t it? Love the tangible problems laid out with practical solutions.

  • Saad Alhamidi

    Thanks for this authentic article about Oxford. I felt as if I were listening to you talking in a one-to-one conversation…

  • Akshat Sapra

    Such awesome advise coming up from an alumni really charges you up for the once-in-a-lifetime experience at Oxford.

  • Khanya Okumu

    Thanks for this awesome post. It’s really helpful.