Why Oxford?

The number one question I have been asked after letting people know I am headed to get my MBA at Oxford has been a variation on the question “Why Oxford?”

From “Why not a US School?” to “Why did you think to apply to Oxford?” this has been a central theme as I talk about picking up my life and moving 3,600 miles away.

So why DID I apply? Why did I say yes? I could tell you about how it is the oldest university in the world (it was 300 years old when the Aztec Empire was founded). I could tell you it was because the business school is ranked in the top 5 international programs. I could tell you it was because I wanted a school where I could focus on making the world a better place instead of making a bottom-line. I could tell you that its because it will expose me to more international students than any other US program. And while each of these is certainly a reason why I justify my choice to go to Oxford, the truth is simply. Magic.

Like most kids from my generation, I found a love of reading in the words penned by J.K. Rowling. I fell into the world of Harry Potter, waiting for MY letter from Hogwarts, standing in line for hours for book launches and midnight movie showings.

Hogwarts & Oxford were synonymous in my mind and after I finished the Deathly Hallows as a college student I paid special attention to anything coming out of Oxford. When I started on my thesis just a few months later, I read papers from the Oxford Internet Institute about the impact of technology on politics and government. My thesis cited these papers heavily and in 2010 I decided to apply for a Master’s program at the Oxford Internet Institute. Here was my chance to get my letter from Hogwarts.

Instead, I was politely rejected (read more here), which turned out for the best because just a few weeks later I received an offer to work at Google. I put Oxford up on a shelf with my Harry Potter books and figured I’d never get a chance to attend. Most importantly, I made peace with that decision.

Flash-forward to 3, almost 4 years into my career at Google. I am looking at MBA programs in the US, visiting campuses across the US to get a feel for the school I want to go to. My chain-of-command at Google went Fuqua, Kellogg, HBS, HBS, Boston College, Larry Page and so I felt the need to get an MBA and not the Oxford Master’s program I had made peace with before Google.

I looked at most top 20 programs and before I started the application process, I took one last vacation with friends before the busy season of the election. We were going to Ireland and I figured I’d leave a few days early and visit London as I had never been before and I couldn’t be THAT close without at least a few days of playing tourist.

One of my precious days in London I woke up early, hoped on a train up to Oxford hoping to see the Bird & Baby pub where Tolkien, Lewis and the Inklings met each week; hoping to see the Oxford Internet Institute and think on what might have been; hoping to see the atmosphere that gave us Oscar Wilde and of course catch a glimpse of the Hogwarts great hall at Christchurch.

I spent 7 hours in Oxford wandering around the city, visiting colleges and just taking it all in. I took one of the last trains back to London, headed to my hotel and promptly had a bout of insomnia. I couldn’t stop thinking about Oxford. It just felt right for me. It wasn’t until I opened up my laptop and looked at the Oxford MBA website that I could fall asleep.

When it came time to pick between a couple of schools, there was little doubt in my mind. It is, after all, the wand that chooses the wizard and in my case, Oxford had chosen me. harry-potter-gets-wand

Next week I’ll be back to talk about Oxford Colleges including my own, Lincoln College.