JJ van de Vyver




South Africa


Management Consulting



By JJ van de Vyver

And I wander

I write this letter tucked in a jersey on the third story of Pembroke College. From the gentle hold of my chair I can hear the bells of St Aldates Church, just make out the façade of mythical Christ Church, and rest easy in the knowledge that my favourite ice cream shop is just a two-minute walk away.

I tune into the spirit of J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote much of The Lord of the Rings while he was a Fellow in this very college. Did he also pour a cup of tea before sinking into thought? Was it ever Rooibos?

JJ MBA Student Blogger (2)


It was not clear what kind of welcome an earth-child would receive in this place. Blood red with the sands of Africa, feet clumsy in awe of this grandeur – I am a wanderer in this sacred land.

The last glimmers of Summer gifted us a few marvellous days of sunshine. I took full advantage, treading through the meadows feet bare. The ancient trees line the pathways, stooping towards us human guests eager to share wisdom from the centuries. There is so much to learn from this epicentre. As I walked, I became acutely aware of the shoes that I wasn’t wearing – how curious that I should be the only one seeking the welcome of the grass, the story of the stones and the quiet of the waters. Hmmm – perhaps being an earth-child is just the contribution that Oxford intended.

The MBA cohort plunged in together on Monday the 17th of September, the day I came to know that my life would never be the same. It was reminiscent of the first day of school: Is this the right place for me? Will I make friends? How will I find my way? A bubbling excitement danced with the mounting nerves, culminating in the first welcome by Dean Peter Tufano.

To paraphrase one tiny segment of an incredible speech, “The truth is none of us ‘deserve’ to be here. But we are here, and so now we must act from this place of power and responsibility.”

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With each day of the Launch Programme my convictions grew stronger:

I am in the right place;
These are the right people;
This is the right time;
I will not return the same.

Finding my tribe and recognising this city have both come far swifter than I imagined. Within a day I realised that this would not be a process of emptying my cup to make space for the new, but rather a stretching of that cup into something far more expansive than I can currently conceive.

I am excited – by the promise of this city, by the influence of my peers. Most of all, I am excited that I have the space to shape the story of my personal development over the next year. Not through what is easy, but by having the courage to stand in the face of the annihilating night sky and to know that my very surrender invites Mufasa to emerge and bring order to the chaos.

Last night we had bubbles with dinosaurs, as one does in Oxford. Here’s a picture of me chilling with a T-Rex.

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I’ll finish this magical first spell with a poem, the title quipped by a good friend.

Not all those who wonder are lost

as I wander these streets of spires
and cornered corridors,
I sense the centre –
that of the world
and my own,
passionately intertwined,

It draws near
and then away again,
under my pillow,
over the horizon.

no talk of retrace or chambers left behind,
no speculation or surmise.
the only path is now,
and I wander.

JJ MBA Student Blogger (1)

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