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Alexis McGivern

Degree:

1+1 MBA

Location:

Switzerland

Industry:

Non profit

Year:

2019-21

By Alexis McGivern

It’s a sail-abration: Pershing Square scholars at sea

A few weeks before our MBA programme started, a group of six Pershing Square scholars set out to explore the coast of Britain on a week-long sailing trip. Our scholarship brings together a group of 1+1s, a unique programme within the MBA allowing students to study an MSc of their choice before the MBA. Our incredible cohort includes a doctor, conservationists, policy experts and entrepreneurial ecosystem builders, all committed to social and environmental change.

We sailed along beautiful Cornwall with Sail Britain, an amazing programme to create “a think tank for the oceans”, bringing people together to develop ideas and projects to better understand and protect the oceans. In our week together, we saw the incredible diversity of the landscapes across Cornwall, seals playing in the water, an incredible display of stars, and bioluminescent algae in the water. While our trip was wonderful and restful, I also took away a few key lessons from our experience.

One thing that came to mind several times on our trip was the African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Our trip only functioned through the deep collaboration of each of our members towards all the daily tasks on board. From the operation and movement of the boat to the meals that we prepared each day, we needed the contribution of every member. Together, we were more than the sum of our parts.

Two students on a boat with a dark sea in the background. They are working together, applying pressure to the handle of a winch

Winching the ropes to pull the sails. Photo credit: Alexis McGivern

When times are tough, lean into your community. For many of us, this was the first time we had ever spent a significant amount of time on a boat. Dealing with seasickness, the weather, and the physical work onboard was made easier by everyone’s good humour and energy.

Enjoy the pleasure of simple moments. We had no agenda on the boat: we moved when the wind was with us and spent the evenings chatting, cooking and drinking lots of tea. The braver ones amongst us went swimming in the chilly Cornish water! We are extraordinarily privileged in Oxford to be surrounded by highly intelligent, compassionate and kind individuals, with whom you can chat about anything – our topics over the week ranged from the challenges and opportunities in our respective fields of expertise to our assessment of British grime music!

Five students on a boat, all with wide smiles. They are wrapped in warm clothing. Three students are seated at the front, two are standing behind the helm of the boat.

Relaxing on the boat. Photo credit: Carla Grados Villamar

Carve out the space for connection. Most importantly, our trip taught me that it is vital to create and hold the space for connection with each other. We are lucky to be in an amazing cohort of 355 MBAs, and while it may be easy to get wrapped up in the large workload and the huge amount of tasks we have to do (!), it is important to not rush our time together and give everyone the time and space for long conversations and lots of laughter.

Six students grouped together on a beach smiling among a cloudy sky. Three students are stood up, three kneeling down in front.

An afternoon on the beach. Photo credit: Ollie Gales

I feel immensely grateful to be a part of the Pershing Square scholarship: this amazing funding opportunity transformed my life and enabled my journey at Oxford. Going into the MBA, I feel extraordinarily lucky to have a solid group of friends who I know I can rely on!

The nose of a boat pointing towards a bright yellow sun as it rises just above a dark skyline. The sun reflects in the water and bathes the boat in a warm light.

Sunrise on the boat. Photo credit: Marissa Ng

Find out more about the Oxford 1+1 MBA and start your application today.
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