Matriculation and Week 1.

Time is running at a lightening speed here. I now realize that when seniors said the year will go by really fast, they meant it quite literally. Each day is packed with a bagful of activities, all of which need to be fitted around the seven hours of classroom lectures. And the classes have only just begun!

340 of us from 2015-16 batch, with 31% female representation, come from 54 different nationalities. This diversity makes up for a very enriching experience in the class and I am enjoying getting to know others from up close. Last week we were divided into 4 sections, and I’m in section B which I must mention is an extremely dynamic and energectic bunch. Each section is further broken down into study groups of 5 students each. My study group has (apart from ofcourse me, a Techie from India), a Financial Analyst from Michigan US, a Copywriter from Canada, a Finance major from Kenya and an entrepreneur from Australia. That’s quite an impressive mix, and I think I am youngest in the group.

Apart from Technology and Operations which is for 1.5 hours, other lectures (Analytics, Strategy, Business Finance, Leadership) are 3.5 hours long with a 30 min break in between. This Week (MT W1*), we also had GOTO Design Thinking workshop where we outlined and discussed the water scarcity problem, which is the GOTO topic for us this year (read more about it here). I gather that Dean Tufano is quite passionate about GOTO and the aim for including this as a subject in the term is to get us thinking about adressing large scale problems concerning us globally.  I’ll confess that getting back to the classroom rigor after years is not an easy feat, I am absolutely relying on the coffee to make it through (bless them for giving 10 free drinks per week!).

The high point for the week for me was ofcourse the Matriculation ceremony yesterday. Matriculation refers to the ceremony which marks the formal induction to the University records. This is in contrast to India where the term loosely refers to completion of High School! It also got a bit funny after all the pictures from the ceremony put up on Facebook, where my friends back home confused it with graduation (“but you just went there, how come you’re wearing the graduation cap already?“).

Going by the ancient Oxford tradition, we are required to wear the academic dress for all our exams and other academic ceremonies. The attire is called the ‘sub-fusc’ – dark suit, white blouse, black skirt/ trousers, mortar board/ cap, black ribbon / bow tie, black socks and shoes – alongwith the graduate gown which is longer than the undergrad (commoner gown). By rule we are not supposed to wear our mortar boards on our heads until we have ‘earned the right’ to do so upon graduation.

 The matriculation ceremony in itself was no more than a 15 minute affair at the Sheldonian Theatre, where we were led to by Dr Gerald Myatt (the Dean of Degrees) from our college campus (Matriculation takes place with your college, not the entire MBA batch) after group and individual photographs. Till now we were affiliated to our colleges, by matriculating we became part of the University of Oxford. This goes back to the medieval tradition where Matriculation was an examination conducted for students to prove their worthiness for admission to the University. Those formally inducted had their details recorded in a register, which also tracked their progress over their courses. Over the years, once the colleges and departments began to conduct their own admission process and with external assessments, the examination was done away with but the Matriculation remained the formal University ceremony. It is mighty impressive to see a University so soaked in history and equally humbling to be a part of the same.

My view of the Sheldonian

I found a video from 2012’s matriculation ceremony, which will give you an idea of what the ceremony is like.

What made this cermeony the most memorable and special for me is that my parents were around too, although they weren’t permitted to see the ceremony from the inside. And that my big brother also matriculated from Kellogg the same day (he studies masters in Computer Science)!. I couldn’t have been happier 🙂

ps: *MT W1 – Michaelmas Term Week 1.

Michaelmas, Hillary and Trinity terms here are more commonly reffered to as MT, HT and TT in Oxford lexicon.

Launched, and ready to go.

Today was the last day of our three-week Launch, that ended on a high note with a drinks and dance reception. The class decided to shift the party outside of the school, while I excused myself to some quiet time in my room. As I reflect on the three weeks gone, my mind is getting overwhelmed trying to register all that I have experienced so far – met 350 future friends from 54 countries on the first day; interacted with an Olympic silver medalist (Said alumni); spent an evening with Dinosaurs; attended live Oxford Union debate (bucketlist item checked off); mastered an African hymn (also shamelessly sang the same outside the Oxford Union at midnight yesterday!); discussed the complexity of Brazilian indirect taxes with a stranger over dinner; pitched a business idea to the American Ambassador to UK; learnt punting from a high school student at Oxford; pondered over how a group of business students can help make a significant social impact– and many more.

My motivation behind joining an MBA program was much beyond the academics and recruitment. The idea was to spend a year on introspection and self-development, to push my boundaries to learn something new each day and to get a broader perspective of life. Three weeks of the Launch, apart from acclimatising us to the course, staff and the place also taught us to introspect and reflect. A few activities during the Launch made us sit back and think about why we do what we do, why are we here and what we hope to achieve. These are questions my mind often wonders about, or rather, wanders around. It would be unfair to say that I have found my answers already (as a classmate rightly joked about at the end of one such session “I find it hard to talk to myself!”), but I did find the sessions extremely useful in identifying and understanding various aspects of my personality to be able to leverage my strengths and work on my weaknesses going forward. 

Dean Tufano in his keynote on the first day mentioned that joining Oxford was a choice we made for ourselves. But I also strongly relate to what Dr. Kurt April pointed out to us during discussion on Leading from own Diverse Narrative – that it is a privilege to be here among the brightest and most talented minds from all across the world. Coming from a developing economy with an experience level below average in the class, I find it intellectually exciting to look through the narratives of others from the other end of the telescope that I have been accustomed to. What strikes me the most about my batch is, regardless of the personal accomplishments, the humility and enthusiasm with which each one of them comes with to learn and collaborate. The diversity in my class is incredible – teachers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, ex-servicemen, models, economists, journalist – which will make for a truly enriching experience. 

Before coming to Oxford, there was just one thing every body I spoke to from the school had to say to me, which is that time runs at lightening speed here and before you know it is over. It has been three weeks since I came here, which in hindsight would mean that roughly about 6% of my MBA is over. That really does hit hard, doesn’t it?

If the Launch is any bit an indication of how the coming year is going to shape up, I am excited to be here.