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It seems just like yesterday that we began Hilary Term and by the time you are reading this, I’ll be starting my second round of examinations.
I suspect it’s the intense workload that has made time fly. The pressure is significantly greater than in Michaelmas, although most of us seem to be approaching this term in a much less frantic way.
As veterans of one term at Oxford, we are better equipped to understand the system, manage our available time and most importantly keep a level head.
For me, the turning point came when I received confirmation that I had passed all Michaelmas Term examinations - yes Steve, you can do this. Further, my study group experience this term is much improved on the last.
In fact, I have been very lucky to work with four different groups of outstanding people over the six subjects. All of this has contributed greatly to the more balanced outlook I have for the coming weeks.
I have really enjoyed some of the subjects this term and have been taken into the new world of Organisational Design and Marketing while extending my existing skills in Financial Management.
The Oxford faculty continue to open my eyes and mind to the amazing opportunities that companies have and I am excited about taking this knowledge back to Australia. If nothing else, I know I will enjoy my role much more and be a much better contributor for it.
Another key factor has been the five days my wife and son took to travel to visit friends in Switzerland. This time “flying solo” in Oxford allowed me to really churn through much of the workload, particularly the assignments. I now feel I am reasonably on top of things and prepared to go into examinations again.
In many ways these few days on my own put doing an MBA “without” a family into perspective and I realised how much less time those of us with spouses, kids and or other commitments have available to get everything done.
As one of my married colleagues put it: “At times, it’s like sailing headlong into the wind.” His third child arrives before the end of the course.
It is also worth noting that this term we go straight from lectures into examinations, without the “free” week of study that we had in Michaelmas.
If this is not challenging enough, the following week leading into Easter is probably the busiest of the year with three very large assignments due, as well as a presentation to external parties of our New Business Development projects (“NBD”). Post presentation, we technically have a break albeit knowing that the 40-something pages of our NBD business plans are due the day we come back for the start of Trinity Term.
So I guess you can probably see why there is much talk among my classmates that once we break the back of Hilary Term, things should start to look up, with the added benefit of the arrival of warmer weather and longer days.
To be honest, I think that’s what is really driving us all forward to complete this term - the chance to truly experience Oxford, the Oxford that has eluded us for the past six months.
There is much anticipation and talk of commemoration balls, Pimms and punting, croquet, twilight cricket matches and picnics in the parks.
Whether any of this materialises is another matter, but there is a general view among the class that the heaviest part of the workload will be behind us come April.
It’s difficult to believe that the warmer weather will ever arrive with the past couple of weeks being the coldest for our time so far in Oxford.
Initially, it was great to watch the snow tumble down and make a snowman in the garden with my son Michael. And as an Australia, it was special to wake up to frosty white mornings, but it quickly outgrew its novelty factor and became more of a hassle than anything else.
There’s something very English about putting on four layers, scarf, hat and gloves and then to riding your bike through the sleet, slush and snow to class. However, it is one cultural experience I’ll be glad to see the back of.
I did actually manage to experience a University institution when I took a break last weekend and cycled down to the river to watch the College “bumps races” in the annual Torpids regatta.
Apart from the cold, the rain and the mud on the towpath, it was really enjoyable watching a dozen college eights chase each other up the Isis, with the dual aims of bumping the boat in front and not being bumped by the boat behind.
The afternoon was made even more enjoyable by the fact that two of my MBA colleagues rowing with Hertford College bumped crews on each of the four days to win “blades”. As a reward, each now has to work out how to transport an 18 foot oar back home at the end of the MBA.
While the stress levels are rising as the examinations and assignment deadlines loom, there is also a part of me that can’t help remember that this wonderful year is now approaching its end.
We have all only been here for six months, but I’m sure that the next six will fly past before we know it.
Accordingly, there is a growing feeling in my stomach that we must make the most of what this city of dreaming spires has to offer, as we’ll all be back to the real world soon enough.
Stephen Coakley is using a 12-month sabbatical to take an MBA at the Said Business School at the University of Oxford.
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