Jennifer McGuinness


Diploma in Financial Strategy




Public Sector



By Jennifer McGuinness

Don’t be afraid to fit in as an Oxonian

When asked to write a blog about my Oxford experience I thought back to the very first hurdle, the decision to apply. Sure, you automatically think about the daunting aspects first – the funding, the time commitment on top of a full-time job, time away from your family, the exams. But then you think about the bigger picture – world-class lecturers, the network, intelligent classmates from whom you will learn a great deal.

These people become your part-time family while you are in Oxford. You will form bonds and create long term friendships, an added bonus to the Oxford experience that I didn’t quite expect and am so grateful for.

I would imagine that my classmates like myself can remember exactly where they were when they received their acceptance notification. A brief moment, in my case, of breath-holding overwhelming hope followed by immense excitement and a sense of achievement, but this was only the beginning.

I was also fortunate to be awarded one of the Scholarships for Women, which had a very positive impact on my experience. Not only did this assist in the context of funding, it encouraged me to be more involved in all aspects of college life and motivated me to work even harder.

Oxford itself has a unique atmosphere, influenced by beautiful architecture and immersed in history that you simply won’t understand until you visit. Before each module, I arrived early to soak up the culture and appreciate my surroundings. I studied in all sections of the Bodleian library where it is difficult not to ponder how many of Oxford’s brilliant minds had studied in these very rooms, and the reason they were there was the same as us – to learn.

Jennifer McGuinness classmates

The beauty of the Financial Strategy course is that it is aimed at qualified and experienced individuals. You not only learn from world-class lecturers but also your classmates who bring a wealth of experience from diverse backgrounds. Our group was impressively one of 35 nationalities, many of whom had long journeys and fought jet lag before each exam/module. This emphasises the resounding effort and commitment that people make simply to attend Oxford. I almost felt guilty that Ireland was so close.

Before each module you will be provided with a reading list. My first tip is to read it! This will ensure that you get the full benefit of the class discussions and have more of an opportunity to contribute (especially if you have the wonderful Tim Galpin, who never stopped challenging us and brought the class to life even after the social events). The material will to an extent affirm what you know, make you question what you think you know and may highlight that you really know quite little in a very broad subject. It sounds obvious but give yourself sufficient time to consider the pre course work, start early as you will naturally prioritise exam revision closer to the next module. Expect to run out of time, unplanned work and general life commitments will demand your attention too.

My second tip is to walk around! Explore and embrace your surroundings. Getting your bearings will become very useful for social events and to locate colleges, some of which you will have the opportunity to dine in with your cohort. I would also highly recommend staying in one of the colleges during your stay if possible. You will meet some truly interesting people at breakfast and learn about their links to the college.

Finally, don’t be afraid to fit in as an Oxonian. You might only be there as a part-time student but all the more reason to make the most of your time there.

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