Coming from Australia to join the MSc in Major Programme Management, I was very aware of the experience of travelling to the UK, and to Oxford and that indeed meant about a 20-hour flight each way. It also meant the perfect escape time to immerse in readings for the course.
Right now though, as for many, because of the context related to Covid-19, the September 2020 cohort has commenced from afar across our respective nations and locations. Made up of 59 participants and with 29 nationalities represented, it is no mean feat virtually, let alone from a physical logistics point of view. Despite this, our cohort has made it their own and the rapport-building place is inspiring and so very heartwarming.
Oxford Saïd and the greater University of Oxford community have demonstrated a commitment to creating a sense of belonging from before the start of Michaelmas. Prior to commencement, we were all invited to join introductory sessions and meet each other and have questions addressed by academic staff. We then later had our matriculation virtually… we received our academic dress by post, which was so very impressive and such a considered effort from Saïd Business School (we now have our academic dress ready for on-campus celebrations!)
Our classes in the modules have been held at 1pm UK time, which has meant extending into the early morning for my eastern time zone colleagues… or early morning starts for my far western time zone colleagues.
My wonderful cohort has established ‘thinking cap sessions’ held on Saturday afternoons… extending into Sunday morning for me. It took some getting used to at first. However, it is such a privilege and a joy to spend time with a calibre group with diverse minds and experiences. These sessions have typically kicked off with a pre-session virtual coffee (or wine, pending time zone) and have been fully student self-convened, to support each other remotely. We have established our own WhatsApp groups that host lively chat and support, and colleagues have held ‘getting to know you sessions’. I’ve also held virtual coffee sessions with the cohort, working them into my early morning or late evening weekdays to suit the time zone.
From a college perspective, I’ve had the chance to participate in virtual trivia evenings. I’ve also had the chance to get to know college operations and have been allocated a college advisor whom I can reach out to and I’ve been looped into on-campus events, helping me to feel connected, from afar. My latest update is joining the Keble College Women’s Rowing Club!
The thing is, the opportunities at Oxford are too good to miss: we are all making sure we bring each other on this journey. I’d like to thank Oxford Saïd, the MSc programme staff in particular and Guy Ainsley for their dedication in making sure no one is left behind. What I do know is that, when we make it to campus, there will be celebrations and I am determined to remain optimistic that this will be sooner rather than later.
To the Oxford Saïd and faculty, thank you so very much for ensuring the Oxford spirit has translated through our initial experiences. And to my wonderful cohort, I look forward to seeing you in Oxford soon.