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Jessica Swafford

Degree:

MBA

Location:

United States

Year:

2020-21

By Jessica Swafford

What led me to the Oxford MBA

Last year, I completed a decade long goal to visit all 50 American states before turning 30. I road tripped from one ocean to the other, I went glamping in Montana on the way to Glacier National Park, and I attended the Houston (Texas) Rodeo after touring NASA among other trips and adventures.

While visiting all of the states was a fun goal I accomplished, the point of sharing my travels is not to stroll down memory lane. Rather, the point is to share my background and what I learned along the way that led me to attend Oxford for an MBA.

My 20’s were a decade of fun, for sure, but when I invented my travel goal at age 19 I didn’t think I’d make it. I was a first generation college student from a rural area, and I, like most of us, had no idea what I was doing. My first “job” was driving a hay bale truck at age 12, and in undergrad I worked everywhere from the school newspaper to McDonald’s. My paternal grandmother passed away when I was 17, and at age 19 I learned that she never saw the ocean or left our home state. This changed my trajectory as it prompted me to create goals, and I never stopped chasing them.

I contemplated these things last year as I sat in a kayak in Alaska just before my 30th birthday. I reflected on a decade prior when I’d been on the cusp of turning 20. So much had been accomplished since then, I thought. What would my 30’s hold?

Essentially, I was in a place of uncertainty when I contemplated this question. I had big ideas with little idea about how to execute them. Much like being in a kayak without a paddle, it was pretty useless. That autumn I began thinking through what I loved about my life (so many things) and also what I wanted to change (so many things)—loving your life and wanting to change it can, and often do, coexist. Grad school seemed to be the best choice so I took the GRE and applied to Oxford in Round 4. It was ironically the same feeling as age 19… I didn’t think I’d make it, but I did.

As I have now embarked on my 30’s I see them unfolding in a similar way to my 20’s. I am in school, and I am unsure of what the future holds. Perhaps every decade begins this way (minus the school), so my best advice is to think through what you’d like to accomplish, make a plan, and start chasing it.

I made so many excuses of why Oxford wouldn’t work for me. I thought people “like me” didn’t attend Oxford, and I was wrong. I thought by starting to study for entrance exams later I’d never make it, and I was wrong. I thought if I applied in a later round I’d never get in, and I was wrong. I thought people in their 30’s didn’t attend grad school, and I was way wrong.

One of my favourite quotes is, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” It is often erroneously attributed to famous Oxford graduate CS Lewis (Magdalen College), but it is uncertain who actually said it. Perhaps there’s a poetic meaning to that. The unknown isn’t essential, but rather, it’s what you see and put energy towards that matter.

Attending Oxford will undoubtedly be a highlight to my life, and I am glad I started a new decade here. I can only guess how it will impact this upcoming chapter of my life. New beginnings are around us all of the time. All we have to do is chase them.

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