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Georgia Psyllidou

Degree:

Diploma in Strategy and Innovation

Location:

United Kingdom

Industry:

Technology, Media, and Telecommunications

Year:

2017

By Georgia Psyllidou

The Oxford international airport

Ten years after last setting foot in a university amphitheater, I decided to go back for a Diploma in Strategy and Innovation. During these ten years I have been in and out corporate coaching and training sessions, seminars and online learning modules (MOOCs). While all these experiences and learnings have got me places in one way or another, the more of those I did, the more striking their difference to a higher education curriculum became. Interacting with information is one thing but living your learning goals should be something quite more impactful.

I don’t exactly remember what I wrote on my motivation letter, but it should have been something along the lines of “gaining perspective by opening up to a different set of approaches, personalities and challenges to what I tackle every day” – maybe with nicer vocabulary.

And it was true. Working in the tech industry, jeans, t-shirts and releases make my world turn along with the stereotypes and jargon of it. How can you be innovative if you cannot break out of your bubble? Wear a sub-fusc instead of a hoodie for a change?

I figured out that an educational institution that is around for ten centuries could teach me a thing or two about core focus and time-proof strategy in and outside of class.

Would Oxford help me crack the mold? I packed a very proper version of my long weekend suitcase and set out to discover…

I arrived in the small-big town of Oxford in the evening, too late for the welcome drinks and went straight to my guesthouse – big mistake. It was raining a wintery version of British rain and it kept raining throughout, but to quote one of the locals “forget about the weather and get out there and do things”. And out there is the entire town : the school, the libraries, the colleges, the pubs, the parks, the museums – stick to the classes only and you’ve missed the point.

The first coffee at the school made, already, one of my dreams come true. When stopping over a hub airport I am always humbled by the immense, and mostly missed due to social norms, opportunity to learn from all these people that are about to dispatch themselves to a hundred different places with a hundred different stories. So, dream coming true on day one, a hundred different people from around the world with a hundred different stories, all gathered in the hall, sharing a cup of coffee, or tea, and starting to explore the similarities and differences that brought us all in the same room. Two of my classmates had done business together in the past, many hundreds of miles far from the English countryside and could not believe in their eyes meeting each other again. The amazing intuition of the school’s admissions? The coffee was very good too.

And then the lectures. I guess most of us were expecting to just sit in the comfortable seats and receive the wisdom but soon it turned out that was going to be “mental mambo”, so to our feet we were. Some of the most interesting conversations happened on the bus to the Ashmolean museum, while strolling up the staircase of St Hugh’s college library and while having dinner at St Peter’s College monastic tables. All these peripheral, yet fundamental, experiences fueled the amphitheater dynamics and made us live our learning, not in a professor-audience set-up but in the context of a living organism of a hundred different minds and their stories. If that is all too encrypted, you might feel better knowing one of the answers : 550 macaronis. I am pretty sure it was a different number last year and will be a different one the next one.

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After these first four days on the site, I was happy to onboard my plane to my destination (actually it was a train, but hopefully you remember my metaphor above), overwhelmed and more curious than ever before.

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Unfortunately my handwriting is still very rusty and I’d better stop typing on our group slack or this posting and start practicing that, as first exams are less than a month away. Because at the end of the day it is Oxford and you become part of the tradition.
(Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0)

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