Helena Pozniak
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First Weeks of Business School

The Guardian

When IT professional Rajan Dua arrived at the start of his MBA in January in London, winter was on his mind. “I’d relocated my family from India and we were all braced to see snow for the first time – we were disappointed but it was probably a blessing in disguise.” He had plenty of other things to worry about – both he and his wife had left their work and he was funding a £19,500 business degree as an international student with no guarantee of a job at the end.

“I was worried how I’d cope returning to a formal learning environment, what the work load would be and how I’d manage to spend any time with my young son.”

During the first week of an MBA, students enjoy a hectic schedule of ice-breaking exercises and advice ahead of a gruelling year. Before he even arrived, Dua had made contact with fellow students via webinars and social media. Once in the UK, students hit the ground running in the first week – after a tours and introductions they meet the careers team and begin the core curriculum.

“Our first two days of orientation really helped calm me down. I was so relieved – the environment of an MBA has much more in common with the professional world than an academic setting – it’s not just reading books and writing exams.”

In Oxford, Said Business School student Natasha Garcha remembers sheer excitement at the start of her MBA – she’d left her job in the Indian office for a New York-based hedge fund. “I was hell-bent on switching to the social impact sector and I love learning.” She’s now close to achieving her aim, and made sure she’d fully read up before starting, not only on political and financial news but also on everything to do with social enterprise.

Back in South Africa, Sam Peter is preparing for an MBA at Said this month (September), and knows he’ll find some parts of the course tough. With a background in financial services, he needs to brush up on his soft skills “I might be behind the curve on those”. He’s braced for the culture shock of downsizing from the bustling Johannesburg to the collegiate Oxford environment. His aim is clear – he wants to accelerate his career – at 25 he’s relatively young for an MBA - and move into private equity. So while the £45,800 he’s spending does feel a huge amount of money, he’s seeing the bigger picture, including an anticipated return on investment. “An MBA is a holistic experience, you can’t put a financial value on it.”

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