Paulina Abramowicz


Diploma in Strategy and Innovation







By Paulina Abramowicz

Module 1

So what is Oxford really like? Below is an account of a flurry of my emotions and first impressions.

Just as I had imagined, there are intimidating and almost draconian protocols in how Oxford operates…from examinations to marking schemes (you receive the average of two marks by independent proctors which are ratified by an external examiner) to sub fusc “academic wear” specifications….all articulated in pages and pages of rules refined over 800 years. Indeed, cultural changes are rather unlikely at Oxford….after all, it is how things have always been done.

The class is truly diverse and global – everyone from the FBI to bank regulators to surgeons to chief executives to published authors to academics  – from Norway to New Zealand to Kazakhstan to Turkey to the Americas, 32 nationalities in total. Needless to say, I felt inadequate. Now that the readings have started, I am really enjoying and absorbing them. We formed study groups on WhatsApp, Google Groups and our Oxford portal…it is amazing how we manage to connect across all time zones (and commute across them as well)…sometimes I wake up to 146 messages!

My classmates are truly humble, and upon learning more about them, I discovered they had no reason to be – and hence the paradox – the more accomplished one is, the more humility one gains through self-awareness and empathy. That was a huge source of comfort. We learned that an average grade of 63 is a ‘great grade’. That scares me but if I do the work, I hope I will be ok…I do not know if I will reach the distinction status of a ‘70’ but I will most definitely try! I firmly believe that I have a sustained competitive advantage writing with a Pelikan fountain pen, as I am convinced it will increase my writing speed. It will be put to the test during next exam!

I will never forget my initiation into strategy in our very first class – never having touched a case, not understanding what a “framework” is, I felt intimidated, yet not deterred. I tried to look as engaged as possible by reading and observing the dynamics in the room hoping that I would not get ‘poked’ in class. However, my efforts failed a couple of times…professors know students’ tricks it seems. I seemed to be affectionately labelled as the one with ‘good fashion sense’ therefore it would seem fitting to test my preparation on the LVMH case, as well as a ‘boxing analysis’, clearly a sport of expertise for a dancer. It was fun, I am open and excited to learning and growing and to these new challenges!

Oxford’s deep and rich history is nothing short of remarkable…we were fortunate to visit the Oxford Union, where we met with the president, Stuart Webber, an impressionable young fellow who masterfully worked the room with flair, knowledge and the body language of a seasoned politician. The stories of the Oxford Union are numerous and funny – for example, people in the early 20th century used to steal pictures and replaced heads of people with their own heads (just to show that they debated there, at least that is how I understood it). I was impressed with a picture of Malcolm X, pictured below, just as much as I was impressed by reading his biography.

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