Alma C. Gutierrez Toledano






Private Equity



By Alma C. Gutierrez Toledano

Warning before you accept your Oxford MBA offer

When I decided to pursue my MBA, I didn’t even consider the Oxford MBA in the first place. This was not because it was not good, but because I never thought I would be a good enough candidate to be accepted… I didn’t trust myself enough to be considered part of this amazingly smart community. However, I was fortunate enough to be encouraged by people who did believe in me, and who helped me identify my strengths and what I could offer to the Oxford community. I can’t describe the happiness I felt when I received the invite to interview, but honestly, it was nothing compared to how I felt on the 9th of March of 2018, when the final decision was going to be announced. It was 3am in Mexico when I received an email from Charlotte Kelshiker in the MBA team with the subject “Oxford MBA Final decision”:

“Dear Alma Catalina,
I am delighted to confirm the decision of the MBA Admissions Committee is to offer you a place on the 2018-2019 Master in Business Administration programme.”

My heart still beats fast – just like on that day – when I remember it. I never thought I could be happier until I also received an email from Financial Aid offering me one of the two Forté Foundation Scholarships available for the women in the cohort. Indeed, I had no excuse not to quit everything I had in Mexico (even leaving my fiancé there) to come to the best University in the world to concrete my MBA.

Now that classes are over, and that I am halfway through my summer internship based in London, I wanted to share with the community reading this what I would have liked someone to warn me of what would come when accepting the offer:

  1. One year might look too short compared to the traditional MBAs, but really it is time enough to learn, discover and shape yourself, and engage with the people around you. It goes by extremely fast, but when it comes to an end, somehow you are so full of energy, positivity, learnings, and thirst to change the world, that you realise that the timing was actually perfect!
  2. The MBA experience itself is absolutely impressive, but the Oxford experience itself is something that no other school can offer you. Living in a magical small city, with access to the student College life, formal and informal dinners in Colleges, having meaningful and engaging conversations with people from hundreds of different disciplines across the university, and witness deep and controversial debates in the Oxford Union will become a fundamental part of the MBA experience and will even help to better integrate the business school classroom’s knowledge.
  3. FOMO (Fear of missing out) is extremely real and overwhelming. With so many things to do and so little time, you will feel you are not doing enough, or that you are missing great memories with people, and this is true… but at the same time you will be building your own experience here. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and do things you have not done before. Don’t be afraid to speak out your mind, to share a thought in class, to go to that social event on a Tuesday, or to run for any student council position in Saïd Business School or in your College. I was the Section D representative (our cohort is split into sections for classes), did rowing for one term with the Christ Church rowing team, attended every social event during weekends, went to different treks in London, represented Oxford and won 3rd place in the 2019 IESE Impact investing competition in Barcelona, and won $25,000 USD for a social enterprise in Uganda through the MIINT (MBA Impact Investing Training & Network) competition held in Wharton, took a one-week-intensive international elective in Johannesburg, South Africa, attended formal dinners in more than 60% of Oxford Colleges, went to more than 3 balls throughout the year, attended controversial debates in the Oxford Union, went dancing to Latin music every Friday night, joined the MBA running crew, ran the Oxford half-marathon, went for beers to debate about interesting topics in the middle of the week, travelled across Europe, joined the Finance lab and part of the Impact lab, volunteered with the Oxford hub and as a Saïd Business School ambassador, joined the dancing, dodgeball and basketball teams for MBATs (where by the way, we won the Cup for the third consecutive year in a row), and will even co-author (with a great professor and a great friend) to write about a social impact business case for future generations and schools. Even though my “to-do’s” list never ended, I enjoyed every second.
  4. You won’t be the same person than the one who accepted the offer. With more than 63 different nationalities, every region in the world represented in the MBA class and people from every sector you can think of in a single building, the Oxford MBA will not only show you a different way of approaching problems but will shape your personality and help you discover a new version of yourself that you might have no idea existed before. The Oxford MBA’s diversity makes you be more aware of the world’s needs and opportunities and getting to know these amazing people will change any concept of “success” or “great achievements” that you may have. Each one of them will transform and contribute to your “new you” and will change your way of thinking in a way you might not even imagine. You might find here your partners in crime to brainstorm ideas in how to change the world, the Cyprian impact mentor you never had, the Romanian friend who identifies as Indian and loves dogs more than you do, the Korean, wise person that will help you go through tough times, the Kenyan friend that will admire you and make you feel you are capable enough to transform the world, the Turkish friend that will make you feel supported every time, the Spanish, crazy friend that will always be there to support you, the Nigerian friend that will trust you to transform his NGO into a social enterprise, the Colombian friend that will never let you dance alone, the Mongolian friend that will open your mind, the Chilean friend that will show you that no matter how old you are, you can still do whatever makes you happy, the brave American friends that left their country and moved to Peru and Rwanda to start a social enterprise to create positive impact, the South African friends that will give you wise advice about marriage, or the Mexican friend that will show you that tolerance is key to a peaceful world. You might find here 300 new people that will support you anytime, anywhere, from now on.

If you end up accepting the offer to study your MBA in the University of Oxford just know you will be transformed forever, and not only will you have, by far, the best year of your life, but you will also be prepared and inspired to become the purposeful leader the business world needs to create a better future for humanity.

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