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Gerhard Mulder

Degree:

EMBA

Location:

Netherlands

Industry:

Not for Profit

Year:

Jan 2017 - Sep 2018

By Gerhard Mulder

Fidelio

We walk slowly in procession past Roman and Greek statues on a cold Sunday evening in January. At least two dozen frozen faces stare down at us. Nobody says anything. It feels like we have entered a Stanley Kubrick movie. At the end of the long hallway there is some noise. We enter a room with more statues and paintings. I am about to meet my fellow students at the welcome dinner at the Ashmolean museum. The first thing I notice is that most females wear a bright red dress. Gawd, I didn’t read about the dress code. I have a knack for not reading dress code instructions correctly and it has gotten me into uncomfortable situations before. But it appears that female EMBA students coincidentally just have similar tastes. At least this evening. A case of great minds …….

Immediately there is a flurry of conversations with several people. I speak with Mike who is from New Zealand and lives in London with his family. We exchange the usual pleasantries, but we quickly come to the conclusion that we are very lucky people. We are lucky for many reasons, but for now we both feel lucky because we have significant others who have accepted that they will have to sacrifice so much while we embark on this 18 month journey. Many of us will miss children’s birthdays, sometimes two years in a row. That hurts.

So why put our families through tough times, spend every single free hour studying and still feel like we are not doing enough, travel from every part of the globe, being challenged intellectually and sometimes feel pretty insecure about it, and in some cases taking out a second mortgage to pay for tuition? Couldn’t you just be happy with two graduate degrees, an interesting job, and spending Saturdays on the soccer field?

I started this journey because deep down I felt that there is so much more to learn. The world around is changing faster and faster and so every now and then you just need to put the brain through a major overhaul. Think of it like you are staring at the books in your bookcase. And you realize that these books are starting to get old and outdated. You have bought a couple of good books in the last few years. But you feel that it just isn’t enough. You need something drastic. What you really want is to kick that book case down, empty it out and buy 5 meters worth of new books and knowledge to prepare you for the next phase of your life.

I really don’t know where this journey will take me. Yes of course, we will learn about finance and leadership and strategy and no, it doesn’t hurt to put Oxford on your resume. But this isn’t about just that. This will be a collective and transformative journey that will impact us for the rest of our lives. It is about meeting people who have decided on go on this same journey, and sometimes for the very same reason as you.

We sit down for dinner. The food is excellent, the company terrific, and the dining room still Kubrickian. My neighbor on the left just landed from Canada only a few hours ago. The neighbor on my right lives a 10 minute drive from the university. We chat about everything and nothing. But when the questions come up on why did you choose to come to study from an EMBA at Oxford, I answer sincerely ‘to meet you and all the other people here in the room.’

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