Sep 2017 - May 2019
Nothing really compares to the anticipation we experience when journeying to a new place or the complexity of emotion we feel upon arrival at new destinations. Whether it’s long-haul to far flung lands, your imagination having time to build exotic fantasies, or a simple walk to local exhibitions filled with artistic treasures yet to be absorbed, events help to shape us. Despite many such personal experiences from childhood to present I can honestly report this: there is nowhere quite like The University of Oxford and nothing prepared me for the sensation of arrival to begin an Executive MBA. Oxford is a rare gem. Many faceted with its colleges and ritual. Rainbow hued with life’s every colour as varying faculties welcome all sorts. Clasped in the palm of a unique and ancient architectural history. Engulfed in a deep atmosphere of spiritual longevity and the unmatched pursuit of excellence.
Naturally, I felt like an imposter. Who was I to be in a place like this? I went through the same selection process as everyone else but perhaps they made a mistake!
Rather overawed by a stunning ‘Welcome Dinner’ held in the Ashmolean Museum, the following morning rolled in bright and early. We were clearly an eclectic bunch, no mistaking that. But, as with any new group, personalities tend to refrain from overt revelation until, of course, a comfortable amount of silent assessment can be carried out on one’s classmates! As the week progressed naturally people began to open, becoming less concerned with best behaviour and more concerned with why we were all there in the first place; to expand our horizons. My personal confidence seemed to synchronise with the process as I began to realise how much we were really in it together; the confident women from Italy or South Africa, sharp men from Cameroon, Armenia and the USA or the quieter characters from other distant lands waiting to be discovered. From enormously different backgrounds, a vast variety of motivations and aspirations behind us, we started to gel. Connections started. Ideas were swapped. Thoughts were articulated with greater or lesser degrees of eloquence, fascinating either way. Patience was demonstrated by students and faculty alike as we navigated the newness of everything and everyone. Alphas pulling back. Introverts stepping forward. And laughs. Lots of laughs. In the lecture theatres, over the delicious breakfasts, lunches and dinners, during a double espresso sipped while standing on the West Wing terrace, a yellow glow over the manicured lawn, taking a break from the fascinating lectures (analytics included), the sound of joyful and intense discussion could be heard.
Sitting on the train back to London, leaving the week behind, I realised that I can’t. I can’t leave any of it behind. The week’s experiences are with me to stay. I couldn’t forget any more than I could stop being me. And there is so much more to come. Our new relationships will continue to develop and, in time, the unknowns of forthcoming modules will become the unforgettable memories of the past and things will change. We will change. And grow. I will change, and grow. We will reach toward the possibilities for impacting our own worlds with longer arms. The genuine likelihood of impacting the world at large will dramatically increase. And we’ll have a great deal of fun along the way.
Smiling as the train pulled into another station, I accepted. I’m not an imposter. I am Robert Sutton, Executive MBA student at the finest university in the world. And the journey is underway.
Back to top of article