My advice to the incoming Oxford MBA class

4 minute read

I arrived in Oxford last year during the St. Giles’ Fair, a two-day festival in September which transforms the city into a summer carnival.

As I dragged my suitcases across the cobblestone streets, I weaved around families walking home with sugar-loaded kids and stumbling students who'd enjoyed one too many Pimms. Immediately, I sensed that I had entered a special place filled with history, tradition, community and vibrancy.

Ten months later, my time at Oxford has been even more transformative than I ever thought possible. As next year’s MBA cohort prepares for their journey, I wanted to share a few tips from my experience. This is by no means a comprehensive list – it is a compilation of napkin notes jotted down at the pub, reflections on long runs through Port Meadow, and learnings from respected classmates and life-long friends. Enjoy!

  1. The Oxford MBA prides itself for creating a diverse student body. My cohort is one of the most culturally rich communities I have ever been a part of. That said, congregating people from different backgrounds is not simple. Have conversations about diversity with classmates and professors. Be humble when you inevitably make a mistake or say the wrong thing. Be bold enough to keep learning and trying to do better.
  2. Get to know the staff at the School and the porters in your colleges and thank them as often as possible. The staff have brightened my day more times than I can count with their relentless positivity.
  3. It is a different experience to engage with people on a 1-1 basis, in small groups and at large gatherings. Each have their own value. Find the right balance for you.
  4. Invest in your relationships outside the ‘MBA bubble,’ whether that be with a partner, family, or friends. It is easy to become absorbed in the day-to-day MBA.
  5. The Arepa truck in front of Christ Church and Peppers Burgers in Jericho are the two best post-game (or pre-game) spots after a long night out. 
  6. It will be difficult to get to know all 300+ of your classmates in depth. However, it is possible to have at least one meaningful conversation with the majority of the cohort. Do not get lazy with meeting new people once you start finding your closer friends.
  7. There is no 'right' way of doing the MBA. People have different priorities, backgrounds, and goals. Do not compare your experience with someone else’s, either personally or professionally.
  8. Embrace the history and tradition of Oxford. Go to quirky town events, attend college balls, explore new colleges. Visit museums and go on walking tours. This town has an unlimited amount of culture and history that is yours to explore.
  9. Yellow Submarine is the best coffee shop near the School. Not only does it have great coffee, it also has a wonderful mission to help local adults with disabilities to find jobs in town.
  10. Host and go to as many formal dinners as you can. Formals are a unique opportunity to explore colleges and have conversations with a group of MBAs that you do not interact with as often.
  11. Enjoy the ambiguity in terms of 'what comes next'. It is ok, and even encouraged, to spend the first 6-10 months of the program exploring different opportunities.
  12. The value you receive from the MBA will depend on what you put in. Go to class. Be the person that organizes social plans (small or large). A year is an extremely short amount of time, so maximize as much as you can.
  13. Cowley and Summertown are not THAT far away…spend time outside of Oxford City Centre and you will be rewarded with some of the best restaurants, cafes and pubs in the area.
  14. Be conscious of the 1-2 things that are important to your mental health and make them an unwavering part of your lifestyle. For me, the daily hour of physical activity I planned into my schedule was worth the one hour of less sleep or a slightly earlier departure from the pub. The evenings I spent cooking at home with friends grounded me on a weekly basis. The MBA is not conducive to routine. But committing to one or two priorities helps to prevent burn out.
  15. You are privileged to have this experience. Be grateful every day and make the most of it!