One of the most common questions, when I catch up with friends or mentors, is ‘what is it like being in business school during a pandemic’, and while it has been uncertain and constantly changing, I’m excited to share some of the most incredible opportunities and experiences that have come out of this pandemic.
From engaging in an Oxford Energy Hackathon with students from across the UK to participating in an International Sustainable Investing Challenge with a team of brilliant peers; from attending events with the Medical Director of the CDC to attending a talk with Tim Burners Lee, the world is, virtually, at our fingertips. From the comfort of our bedrooms in Oxford, we can engage in interviews with corporate leaders, speak to entrepreneurs on the ground in East Africa, learn about the emerging world of kelp farming as carbon sinks and grab a cup of tea in between. The opportunities are endless to meet and engage with more people than ever before! Amidst a strange year, this has truly been a highlight.
An MBA is an inherently social program, but in a year with Covid-19 where we had a lockdown in the fall and then more restrictions over the holidays up until now, many of the social aspects were diminished. However, this made us all far more grateful for the rare chances that we had to meet and spend time with people when we were able to. It made running into people when you walked down Walton Street something to savour and enjoy, it made college Zoom pub quiz nights wild affairs to spark some intercollege virtual rivalry and made us truly value the nice days when we could enjoy the sun and see other people walking around! This also made friendships happen outside on walks to Port Meadow or on bike rides to Blenheim Palace.
A usually very touristy city, Oxford has become quiet, especially at night and with very little light pollution and with a full moon the city comes alive at night. You walk the streets where just a hundred years before soldiers had marched home from WWI and brought with them waves of the ‘Spanish Flu’. This city was and is resilient, it holds 1000 years of history and this shared experience of the Covid-19 pandemic is only a small blip on the map of human history. But the dreaming spires still rest quietly looking over the city welcoming exploration and evening walks. Where cobblestone paths hold the history of brilliant writers, mathematicians, poets and researchers who have continued to bring ideation and invention to the heart of the city.
Now more than ever before, the discussions amongst professors, peers and friends center around how the world is shifting. What will the new normal be? How are attitudes shifting in business and in policy because of Covid-19? How are we going to continue to carry out the decline in carbon emissions after the pandemic is over? How will access to healthcare and social security shift? How will the future of work change? And from these questions comes innovation and answers: from exploring an entrepreneurial approach as a way of addressing mental health, to research that is developed at Oxford to solve global challenges faced in agriculture. Each conversation had held excitement, promise and desire to be a part of the big, positive changes that our world could benefit from because of this pandemic. Courses like Global Opportunities and Threats Oxford (GOTO) and the Entrepreneurship Project has allowed us the time to brainstorming and explore global challenges and from this exploration, ideas have come to life!
With so many aspects of life feeling uncertain, there is nothing more inspiring than my peers at Oxford who have passion to strike change, bring ideas to life, explore a quiet city together and who have a desire to be a part of the positive changes our world is experiencing. While attending Oxford during Covid-19 has certainly been an experience, unlike each of the previous years, it is an incredible to be here right now.
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