Grace Chou







By Grace Chou

What I’ve been grateful for in Michaelmas term

Throughout the last few years, I kept a weekly gratitude journal on and off. At the end of each week, I would write down 3 things I was grateful for. When the MBA started, this was one of my past routines that I didn’t quite keep up with. So for this blog post, I’ve decided to do a high-level gratitude recap of my MBA experience so far.

A supportive community

Coming into the MBA, I knew I was going to experience a heightened level of imposter syndrome being surrounded by incredibly accomplished classmates. However, I’ve been heartened by how down to earth and supportive my peers have been, which makes me feel more at ease about voicing my thoughts about an unfamiliar subject matter and asking questions when I didn’t understand something. I especially appreciated this with my study group. For context, before the start of Michaelmas term, the whole cohort was divided into 8 sections of 44-45 people, and within each section we were put into study groups of 5-6 people. We took our Michaelmas core classes with our sections and worked on group assignments with our study group, typically on a weekly basis. My study group teammates reflected the diversity of our cohort – they came from higher education, management consulting, marketing, medical practice, and risk consulting. Even though it was challenging at times to complete the task at hand, I am grateful for all the hours we spent together learning from one another and bonding in the process, as well as providing moral support through our first assessment (a reality check that I underestimated how hard it would be to write papers again after not having done so for 8 years).

The college experience

Usually when I explain the college system to those outside of Oxford, I make an analogy to Harry Potter’s Hogwarts houses. After all, Oxford IS the closest you could get to a Hogwarts experience, and is hands down the best place to be for a Harry Potter fan. I’m a proud member of Exeter College, the fourth oldest college at the university. Looking back, we had Freshers Week at the start of the school year, which was jam-packed with events ranging from walking tours to scavenger hunt to BOP (Big Open Party), as well as a lovely formal dinner where I soaked in the wonder that is our dining hall with my fellow Exonians, including 7 other MBA classmates. One of the main highlights near the end of Michaelmas was the Christmas festivities at Exeter. I attended the Christmas Carol Service at our chapel, and remember getting goosebumps throughout from how beautiful and moving the choir singing was. That was followed in the same evening by a round of mulled wine and minced pie, pre-formal drinks at the MCR, a fabulous formal dinner in the dining hall where our choir sang Christmas songs every half an hour, and capped off with more wine and dessert in the MCR. Most of the time I already feel that I’m living in an alternative universe by simply being a student in Oxford, but on this particular night that sensation was elevated to a whole other level.

Living in Oxford

Having lived in big cities for most of my life, including New York the last 6 years, it has been refreshing to live in a smaller city where I can get around easily by walking and biking. As a history buff and medieval architecture lover, Oxford is a living dream. I can’t understate how amazing it is to have access to study in iconic places such as the Radcliffe Camera and Bodleian Old Library, including Duke Humphrey’s Library, where a part of the library from Harry Potter was filmed! My own college library, though much smaller in comparison, is also a gem, especially knowing that there are records of J.R.R. Tolkien checking out books here when he was a student at Exeter. I also love living in Jericho – highly recommend this part of Oxford to live in if it’s an available option – as it’s very well-situated to reach most parts of Oxford and is dotted with quaint restaurants, pubs, and coffee shops. It is also close to Port Meadow, a beautiful area for walks, runs, sunrises, and everything in between. When I feel the intensity of the MBA getting to me, I can always count on Port Meadow to help clear my mind.

Last but not least, despite the continued challenges and uncertainty, I am very grateful for the progress and availability of COVID-19 vaccines and free rapid tests in the UK, which has made a largely in-person MBA experience possible. On that note, another key highlight last term was listening to Dr. Sarah Gilbert, who developed the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, speak at Oxford Saïd’s Nelson Mandela Lecture Theatre. There is simply no shortage of incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experiences at Oxford – I am constantly reminding myself to cherish every moment here, because it is already going by way too quickly.

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