If there is one thing we are all universally struggling with at Oxford, it’s time management. On any given night you could be going to a dozen different interesting talks, seeing a show or a gig, chatting with college friends or coursemates, or (gasp) actually getting some reading done!
I’m currently in my MSc year studying Environmental Change and Management and I’ll be doing my MBA at Saïd Business School next year as part of the Oxford 1+1 MBA programme. I feel deeply grateful to have two years here as it’s allowed me more time to explore and try out all the various extra-curriculars this amazing university has on offer!
Here are some principles that have helped me organise my time in my first term here:
1. Say yes to new experiences – they might surprise you
“Who wants to get on a bus with blacked out windows, get dropped off somewhere in the UK and try to make it back to Oxford within 12 hours without spending any money?” When one of my fellow MBAs posted this on our group chat, I said yes before I really knew what I was getting into! What followed by saying yes to that kooky event called LOST was a super fun, challenging and memorable day as our team of three (dressed up as Mario, Luigi and Princess Peach) got dropped off in Darbyshire Dales and hitchhiked and smooth talked our way onto public transport to get all the way back home. We raised money for Oxford University’s Raising and Giving (RAG) wing, supporting 4 national and local charities doing amazing work from assisting people recovering from eating disorders to raising awareness of meningitis.
On a whim, I also tried out for the Oxford Imps, an improv comedy group here in town that is both students and townspeople. This has ended up becoming one of the cornerstones of my experience here and has led me to a group of amazingly talented and warm people. Had I not been in the mindset of “say yes to weirdness”, I might not have ever gone to auditions!
All of this to say – getting out of your comfort zone is extremely valuable and underrated. And even if the only conclusion is that you truly hated every minute, that’s still a good thing to know going forward!
2. …but also, learn to say no!
While it’s great to say yes to new challenges and opportunities, it’s also so vital to make space to absorb and reflect on all of the new experiences you’re having. In my first weeks at Oxford, I felt such intense FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) that I tried to fit in everything to my schedule: I was running from place to place constantly and scheduling in 30 minute coffee catch ups with friends! When I (inevitably) succumbed to freshers flu, it was a reminder that all of these experiences will be less meaningful if I don’t build in time to take care of myself and reflect on them from time-to-time. Since then, I have tried to be more intentional about saying no: taking time instead to go on walks in the beautiful green spaces around Oxford (the canal by SBS has become one of my favourite places!) or through the University Parks. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so make sure you are taking time to replenish.
3. Decide: What do you want out of this year?
It’s really easy to get to Oxford and feel like you’re “doing it wrong”: I’ve heard this from so many fellow students in all different disciplines. With your time always crunched, it’s important to set out your priorities from the get go. For me, this was spending time with my wonderful coursemates (this year I’m in a cohort of just 30 people), taking advantage of all the great speakers that come through Oxford and building up a range of different extra-curriculars.
To my lecturers, please skip over this bit: I decided what I wanted out of this year was not to do every single reading on our reading list fully in-depth by spending hours in the library, but rather to understand all of the material enough to be able to engage with it in class and understand the concepts. There are just so many interesting people to meet here and I felt I was missing out on this unique experience by just keeping my head in my books. For other classmates, though, they know that they want to engage with as much academic material as possible, and that’s also wonderful. It’s essential to know what kind of experience you want so you don’t have to constantly feel like you’re spending your time the “wrong” way and instead recognise that everyone’s time here will be different!
4. Take advantage of all the different spaces for learning across the university
The wonderful thing about being at Oxford is that you are deeply embedded into a vibrant (and busy!) university life from the get go. This was one of the key reasons I chose to come here: my interests stretched far beyond traditional business and I wanted a place where I could cultivate my many different curiosities as well as learn and explore new facets of my personality.
As a 1+1 student, we are already really meaningfully integrated into Saïd Business School from our first year and I have already learned lots about the business world through my relationship to Oxford Saïd. These range from lunches with interesting and accomplished classmates (enjoying the delicious food at the SBS cafeteria!) to getting involved with some of the Oxford Business Networks (OBNs), like the newly-established Climate OBN.
However, the thing I love most about being here is our capacity to get out of the business bubble: I’ve managed to meet professors in the Zoology, Development Economics, Chemistry and Physics departments and learn about their research and how they view the world. This would never be possible at a traditional business school, so I’m delighted to be able to take advantage of these uniquely Oxford learning opportunities.
5. Make time for the people back home
Finally, make time to stay grounded by putting time into your relationships back home. This can be through small things, like sending voice notes to friends or catching up with family at odd times of the day (like me calling my Dad while I biked to the gym in the early morning) but they will be important in giving you some perspective on the “Oxford bubble”. These are the people who supported you through your entire journey and will want to be a part of it as well, so make sure you are taking some time to keep them in the loop (even though it’s easy to feel like you never have time!)
Above all, the most vital thing is just to hold on tight and enjoy this wonderful ride – Oxford is a unique, beautiful and challenging experience that I’m grateful to be undertaking.
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