Course: MBA (postgraduate one-year course)
From: South Africa - University of Cape Town
Living in: Main College (Third Quad)
"You never did tell me", said Lady Nuttal, "what it is your fiancé does for a living." "He's finishing off his MBA" replied Lamia, with an annoying sense of being on the defensive. Lady Nuttal was obviously taken aback. It had not occurred to her that such people entered into normal social relationships. The species, she would have surmised, was perpetuated in some collateral manner, like mules.
(With apologies to K.A.C. Manderville)
Even before classes at the Saïd Business School had started, I was unnerved. This was not due to completing the preparatory readings and thus better understanding the daunting task ahead, but rather because everyone I met at Oxford had looked at me slightly quizzically whenever I happened to mention my intended area of study. Urban legends had sprung up about these furtive creatures, who were heard of but rarely spotted. It was whispered that they spent all their time locked up at the Business School, frantically running from one lecture or work group to the next. When they did emerge in college, it usually was in the dead of night, lest they actually bump into a fellow graduate and be forced to go to the MCR.
The particular species did, admittedly, have cocktail events, but here the main task at hand was apparently to "network" and "seek synergies". The fact that wine was used at such events as a means to an end- in this case, networking - rather than being an end in itself was sacrilege to most Jesubites. In short, such students were not fit for proper social company.
Having been here almost a full term, I'm now in a better position to appraise the situation. It's a relief to have found out that not only is the work manageable, provided one keeps one's wits, but perhaps more importantly that most Jesus graduates don't share such prejudices. My time here has been enhanced by being attached to this college, and being part of the wider graduate community within it. Oxford's unique collegiate set-up means that as a graduate student, one is never isolated from the rest of the campus- in fact, one feels closer to it by being in such close contact with students from a wide variety of other disciplines. I share my "staircase" with a German, a Nigerian and a Mexican, and learning more about each culture has been a highly enriching experience.
The MBA work schedule can be gruelling, with lectures, group meetings, work assignments and research. A typical day begins at 8:45 am with a 3-hour lecture, interspersed with a short break. Afternoons, if not filled with a second lecture, are usually spent working in your pre-arranged groups on assignments, or in support classes.
Part of my method of maintaining some degree of sanity has been to be as involved in Jesus life as possible. No matter how busy my schedule, I aim to return to college for lunch a few times a week, and also to return home in time for dinner every day. These times, especially if followed by tea and cookies in the MCR with other grads, are the best for switching off from class, and for building lasting friendships within the Jesus community. It's great to be able to get away from the grind of class by having a quiet source of relaxation, and that's what Jesus provides.
The MCR committee has also been great this year, in terms of organising loads of events, bops and exchange dinners. The event calendar is jam-packed up until the end of 8th week, and it's always a good sign when you have to decide which Friday night party you want to attend! Generally, the sense I get is of a very strong bond existing between the grads, but not so strong as to ever be cliquey. One of the best times of the week are Sunday mornings, when all of us meet in the MCR room for brunch, organised by the committee. People end up staying long after the food has been picked off (although whether this is due to the friendly atmosphere, or due to a determined effort to stave off studying, is open to supposition) And I'm particularly keen on the idea of our mailing list, which means that anyone, anytime, can email the group, even if it’s to see if anyone wants to have a quick cuppa.