Thando Mbele-Sibotshiwe


Diploma in Strategy and Innovation


South Africa





By Thando Mbele-Sibotshiwe

In the battle of town and gown, it was gown that won

This is my third trip to Oxford. As I write I’m on the bus.

I remember the first time I caught this bus. I walked all the way from terminal 2 to terminal 5, today I got it from terminal 2 because I learned when I took the bus back after we finished module 1 that the bus does stop at all the terminals.

Things are getting so familiar… I definitely will not be using GPS to get around Oxford this time around. That’s not entirely true, I think I will use it to get to where I’m staying when I get off the bus and that’s it. Yes things are getting familiar, but the novelty is not wearing off at all.

Going to school is so much different as an adult. I am always amazed at how much knowledge I can now retain, when I compare it to my days as an undergraduate. The difference I think is because then I had to do it, now I want to do it.

Studying in England has always been a dream of mine, not one that I talked much about, because looking back it seemed so unattainable. But as I watch the cars drive by this bus on this English highway to Oxford, I am trying very hard to connect the dots, to see how what seemed so unattainable not too long ago is what I am experiencing now.  Some may say to experience this privilege is serendipitous, I prefer to say it’s God who walks before me and makes the crooked path straight.

I found out about this diploma when I was searching for something to study… my thinking at the time was that I need to become a subject matter expert in strategy. That is still the plan. I was looking for a university in England specifically. As I mentioned earlier, studying in England was a dream. I was content with distance learning… it would have been ideal.  But alas… this was the only course that aligned with what I wanted to do, but it was not distance learning. I needed to be in Oxford a few times for class attendance, and as I found out, during module 1 for exams. I was not ready for that. So I thought I wouldn’t do it.  Natalie Meade, from Saïd Business School, called (she called a lot) and sent emails (many many emails)  to find out how far my application was… eventually I gave in and applied. I figured if I apply and get accepted then this definitely would be God’s plan for me, and He will help me figure things out as I go along, and He has.

It hasn’t been easy… the course is demanding… the reading is a lot. But I do see it bearing fruit already. It doesn’t take me as long as it used to read a case study with understanding. The joys of learning curves. It hasn’t been easy… because with all of that I still have to work, I still have to be a present wife, mother, daughter and friend. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it.

I cherish the little time I have now, and when I am with my family or my friends, I am with them, I am present in the now… when I am at work I do much better than I did before because I know more than I did and I apply it. This experience has really worked out for the good.

The time I spend at Oxford is a time I will always cherish. I sit in a classroom of 69 people (or is it 70 I’m really not sure anymore) from so many different parts of the world who do so many different things. Before the modules even begin, the things that I learn from interacting with my new friends are things I would have never learned on a distance learning course. As if that wasn’t enough, there are very few schools in the world where one gets to meet the authors of the theories, frameworks and models. My brain muscle gets the most exercise when my body takes it to Oxford.

But of all the things that have amazed me, I am still trying to get over the fact that there is no gate or sign that says welcome to the University of Oxford. It’s just Oxford… colleges next to hotels, next to restaurants, next to departments, next to bus stations… I guess in the battle of town and gown, it was gown that won.

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