Justin Saia


Diploma in Strategy and Innovation


United States


Cyber Security



By Justin Saia

Settling In

I recently returned from my first round of examinations at Oxford. While any time in Oxford is undeniably a glorious departure from the concrete reality that has become commonplace to an exhilarating life in New York City, it is far from a vacation. Nightly visits to medieval pubs like The Bear or Turf Tavern are prescribed medication to numb a sore bum derived from long days revising on the hard wooden benches of the fanciful Hogwarts Library. Yes, that’s the one. In all seriousness, the Duke Humfrey’s reading room is breathtaking and instantaneously transports you back to a simpler time of elegance and glamour. The place has a mystique to it with its oak panelled walls, painted ceiling, dusty ancient tomes, and uneven hardwood floors from centuries of use. You immediately feel a connection to the generations of scholars who’ve studied here through the ages, including no less than five kings, 40 Nobel Prize winners, 25 British Prime Ministers and the likes of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Oscar Wilde. Perhaps this is why one willingly obliges the sometimes draconian rules of studying at The Bod.

Any feelings of apprehension over forthcoming examinations were quickly forgotten amidst the scholarly dialogue of nightly dinners with classmates in the grand dining hall at Oriel College. On most weekdays, ravenous students flock to Informal Hall, as it is known, for an inexpensive meal and camaraderie with other members of the college. This is by far one of the most sociable aspects of studying at Oxford. It really is hard to turn down a three-course dinner under the watchful eyes of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for less than a fiver.

Oriel College, which was established in 1324, is one of more than 40 constituent colleges and permanent private halls that serve as the epicenter of life and study at Oxford. On most days, I can be found at Oriel enjoying a traditional full English breakfast with my cohort or engaged in friendly, pedantic banter about the nonsensical U.S. presidential elections over a pint of ale at the college’s bar. There is a real sense of community here and I will cherish being an Orielensis long after my academic study is complete.

As the sun rose on the morning of examinations, I slunk into Saïd Business School likely looking haggard after weeks of gruelling revision and many a sleepless night. There was a palpable excitement in the air as students clumsily dressed themselves in subfusc for the very first time. A perhaps premature sense of relief washed over me as I knew this initial hurdle was nearing an end. After posing for a few quick photos in our chic new garb, we shed our personal effects and boarded motor coaches to be whisked off to the Examination Schools for assessment. Armed with a mound of black ink pens and a stack of blue test booklets, it began. I wrote feverishly for nearly three hours. And, then it was all over. All I remember is the stinging sensation surging through my hand from hours of bearing down on a ballpoint pen. While I’m not entirely sure what I spilled on to the pages of the test booklet, we’ll know in the months ahead whether the Examination Board viewed my quips favorably.

Of course, there is no rest for the weary at Oxford. Following a quick lunch break, it was back to the classroom. We labored away for nearly eight hours each day, with the occasional pause for a compulsory and fanciful afternoon course of tea and scones. God Save the Queen for this time-honored tradition. However, I’ve somehow managed to miss out on the ecstasy that is apparently a hot, buttered English crumpet. Visiting scholar from Babson College, Victor Seidel, was tremendous in his instruction and explanation of the various foundational frameworks of entrepreneurship and strategic innovation. And, one evening we were treated to a fascinating lecture on innovation at the Museum of the History of Science by leading geneticist and ion channel physiologist, Professor Dame Frances Ashcroft. Ashcroft is splendidly brilliant and has earned an international reputation for her work on insulin secretion, type II diabetes and neonatal diabetes.

After nearly a week of immersion in the T-M-O (Technology, Markets & Organizations) framework, on the flight back to the States, I found myself in total material overload. But, after a much needed respite stateside, I’m beginning to feel rejuvenated and stress free for the first time in quite a while. This sensation is sure to be short lived as the next round of examinations is in a mere eight weeks. For now, I’ll try and savor this moment.

Dinner at Nuffield College

Dinner at Nuffield College

Exam Day

Exam Day

Breakfast at Oriel College

Breakfast at Oriel College

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