Sep 2018 - May 2020
“Congratulations. You made it.” These were the opening words from Associate Dean Kathy Harvey on the first day of our first module on the Oxford Executive MBA. Before her were 70 eager faces, drawn from almost as many professions, and hailing from all corners of the globe. We were EMBA September 2018. We were finally here. We had made it.
The Oxford EMBA is an extremely prestigious program at the most prestigious university in the world. While the application process was smooth, it was certainly no cake walk. Essays were written, GMATs or GMAT waivers were completed, and interviews were attended. Kathy’s words resonated strongly with me as I took a moment to look around the room and pinch myself. Was I really here?
It was easy to believe I had somehow fallen down Alice’s rabbit hole. Around me entrepreneurs sat next to accountants, managing directors sat next to philanthropists, investment bankers sat next to government officials, authors sat next to brain surgeons, and I – fortuitously as a social scientist more comfortable with words than numbers – sat between two mathematical geniuses. Every conversation with an EMBA colleague opened a Pandora’s box of new thoughts, ideas, and perspectives. It was hard not to feel overwhelmed by the sheer brilliance of the group, and wonder whether I had been included by mistake. But as Kathy impressed on us on day one, no one was here by accident, no one was “making up the numbers”, everyone had strengths, and everyone was expected to contribute. The application process had been very deliberately designed to bring together an extraordinary group of individuals. We had all made it.
Perhaps even more astonishing than the experience, expertise, and intellect of our group was the friendliness, humour, and support that was generously shared. The intensive nature of the Oxford residential served as a crucible. Friendships were forged quickly during the long days, which stretched from breakfast until after dinner. Practically that meant a starting at 7.30am and ending sometime after 9pm. There was little time for anything else, yet it felt energising rather than draining, and the program team had balanced the timetable with a mix of classroom time, group work, and plenty of fun.
Talking of fun, our first week set the bar high as we managed to squeeze in a welcome reception at Oxford University’s Museum of Natural History, followed by a formal dinner at Keble College; we visited our own colleges, each with their own unique history, social scene, and facilities; and we were formally inducted into the University through a matriculation ceremony (followed by another fantastic dinner!) at Convocation House and the School of Divinity respectively. It is hard to do justice to these experiences with mere words. Suffice to say these events are etched in the memory of those lucky enough to be there.
The week went by incredibly fast, yet by the end it felt like we had been together forever. With promises to stay in touch (since honoured through regular use of LinkedIn and WhatsApp), and excitement about the modules to come, we parted as friends and collaborators, with a different perspective on our connectedness to the rest of the world. All that in week one. Heaven knows what module two will bring!
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