Kaitlin Thompson




United States





By Kaitlin Thompson

The Transition Across the Pond

As I prepared to move to the UK for the MBA, many remarked “it won’t be that different” and “they speak English too”.

I too understated the adjustment and culture shock I would experience, probably because I worked in Spain for two months after my first year of university and studied in Chile for a semester in my third year of university, both living with host families and working / studying in my second language. I figured a move to the UK – that’ll be simple!

I have experienced a fair bit of culture shock, which has surprised me and made me reflect quite a bit on my own identity, country, and culture. Because you never should speak about politics or religion with strangers, we’ll keep away from my thoughts on politics at this quite interesting time in our world, and dive into one of my favourite topics- food! Of course there are always new things to get used to – new names for foods, brands, and local dishes. These small things have made me both appreciate some of my home favourites (Trader Joes grocery store, Newman’s salsa, and my favourite protein bars) and try new things (I now love crumpets, delicious curries you can find almost anywhere, and newfound delicious British protein bars). It has also been fun to share with my non-US classmates some of my American traditions- Thanksgiving / pumpkin flavoured everything and Christmas cookies.

Another fascinating discovery thanks to my English classmates are a few English words that I plan to incorporate back into my American English language because they are so perfect  – keen, proper, and cbb (can’t be bothered). These seemingly small differences add up to some culture shock and a period of adjustment.  The transition from work life back to school life is also a significant change as you adjust shift to new priorities, schedules, and deadlines. As I have said before and will continue to say, I am profoundly lucky and privileged to be here and am learning and growing a lot, but in my top value of authenticity, it would be a disservice to not say that change is hard.

A reoccurring theme I reflected on quite often during my first few months of my Oxford MBA is that it had been harder than I imagined. From mastering (or even halfway understanding) business finance and accounting, to juggling the many demands, and finding my rhythm, it has taken time to adjust and grit to dig deep and keep working hard (maybe a few good tears too –  I believe a good cry cleanses the soul and reminds of us of our humanity). However, recognising I am now more than halfway through the MBA program, I see how much I have grown and learned. I am feeling more at home now than ever, having found amazing friends that I know will last long beyond this year, and have found my routine and way of life. I am beginning to see the hard work I have put into pivoting in my career pay off, and even enjoyed writing two of my class papers this term (     ). Challenge breeds growth and I know I am growing every day- both academically and personally.

And a little peek into life in Oxford these past months in pictures:

St. Catherine College’s ball, spring is slowly coming, I’ve had a few visitors and enjoyed showing them around the city, and we are finishing our second term (Hilary) with presentations, papers and exams.

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