Carolina Navarro Sarmiento









By Carolina Navarro Sarmiento

When reality exceeds expectations

As soon as I was admitted to the Oxford MBA, and my dream of coming to Oxford became a reality, I tried to gather as much information as I could to get the clearest possible picture of what my life was going to be like here.

I talked to alumni, I followed all social media accounts, I followed MBA students on Instagram, I read blogs, I read the website, I learned about Oxford Colleges, Oxford Traditions, Oxford weather, and I even met some of my classmates at the Forté conference in Chicago in June.

The day I left Colombia I had a pretty clear picture in my head of what it was going to be like to be here. I knew it was going to be a busy year, it was going to be transformational, it was going to be amazing, fascinating, overwhelming, it was going to be stressful, and I was even told it was going to be the best year of my life. I created this amazing picture in my head. But little I knew that there were no words, no pictures on Instagram, no blogs, no website, NOTHING that could describe the real Oxford experience. Yes, I had a close idea. Yes, it is absolutely amazing. But the reality is: IT IS WAY BETTER THAN I EVER IMAGINED!

Two months ago, as soon as I arrived in Oxford, I realised that you don’t know what it’s like to be here until you are actually here. There are no words to describe the fruitful talks, the diversity of our cohort, the openness and kindness of everyone around you, the FOMO, the feeling of having to choose one event over the other when both events are amazing, the wine nights, the class jokes, the smart, inspiring, funny and stunning people from all over the world, the Latin nights at the oxford retreat, the inspirational words from industry leaders such as Paul Polman and Vivian Hunt, the purposeful leaders panels, the peer support, the diversity of my study group, the feeling of wearing a Sub Fusc for the first time, the excitement of matriculation, the drink nights at colleges, the feeling of being part of an Oxford college, the support from classmates to study for exams, the feeling of submitting your first assessment, the feeling of doing your first group presentation, the nights at Hanks, the Piano Bar, and in general the everyday life as an MBA.

During these two months in Oxford, I’ve had fascinating experiences and opportunities. Some I pictured in my head before coming, and some I never even contemplated. But certainly, the feelings, motivation, passion and excitement behind each of such experiences are way beyond what I imagined before coming here. I had drinks with dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History, I officially matriculated as a member of the University of Oxford wearing my sub fusc , I started learning about mindfulness, I was inspired by Richard Thaler – the father of behavioural economics and Nobel Prize in Economics – at the Oxford Union, I went rowing at the river Thames, I went to my first Oxford Ball and had so much fun at the silent disco, I went to Harry Potter style diners at some of the pretties colleges in Oxford – still so many to go – , I had my first presentation with my study group advising Tesla on how to improve their processes, I wore my white carnation at my first Oxford Exam, I had a private tour of the “Last Supper in Pompeii” at the Ashmolean Museum, I met the Colombian ambassador in the UK, and I even had the opportunity to organise and host a breakfast with a former president of Colombia!

Today, looking back at the last two months, I realize that sometimes I get lost between lessons, case preparations, dinners, events, etc. and forget to stop and remember how fortunate I am to be here. Fortunate not only because I am living my dream, but because my dream is way better than I ever imagined!

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