This is the blog entry I submitted which the nice people from Imperial Comms used to choose me to be one of the Imperial student bloggers. I find it cringeworthy now…
Memories of my last stint at university nine years ago make me feel old, especially when I’m sitting next to the MSc students in the café. Every time I check my email with my smartphone using the Imperial wireless (thanks Anas), or plug in my laptop under the lecture desks, I suppress the urge to sound like my Dad: marvelling about how things have changed, but I do find myself drifting off and pondering just how I’ve ended up here.
My first degree was in English Literature and frankly I was a stereotypical English student. I attended very few lectures and generally woke up when the medics were getting back from morning classes. But this time round things will be different (I tell myself).
For starters, the expected rate of learning has accelerated. Instead of spending a week or two pondering the drama of Christopher Marlow or William Blake’s madness, I have to cover several subjects at once and at high speed. Remember that bit in the Matrix when Keanu Reeves aka Neo says “I know Kung fu” – well now “I know multiple regression”. Twenty hours of teaching in the first week, 26 next week, with approximately 1.5 hours personal work required for each hour of teaching. Along with careers events, eating, sleeping, feeding my cat, and commuting, there literally isn’t enough time.
I’ve also realised that being a ‘mature student’ is not just a euphemism for being old, it means having a motivation made strong because it is borne from experience. I arrive with seven years in my chosen field: public sector management. I’ve been a consultant and worked inside a local authority, as well as developed and sold software to public sector managers. I am excited by the prospect of taking the best business knowledge in the world back to the public sector, and ultimately tax payers and service users, and that drives me to get the most out of the opportunities for learning and networking.
Another thing about the MBA and Imperial as a whole is that it’s all about the real world. People don’t study or research at Imperial to preserve the past, they do it to make the future (ding ding, cliché, sorry). The ambition is sky high, and our pep talk from the head of the business school, David Begg, was to the point, even a little brutal. He said to this year’s MBA cohort that Imperial is about using science and technology to face the world’s toughest challenges, and if you’re not here to do that then you’ve chosen the wrong place. A little overstating it I think, but I see his point. The point was made a little more frivlously later in the day, when we made home made rockets and launched them in Prince’s gardens across the road.
But perhaps the best thing about going to university second time round is the people you’re doing it with. I’ve heard a lot of the MBA clichés but Imperial’s mission to change the world through science, technology and healthcare attracts a diverse bunch with an intimidating array of achievements, not limited to the usual set of blue chip companies and consultancies. I’ve met students who’ve started primary schools in their spare time, quite a few who’ve started and sold businesses already, and lots who’ve moved continents to do the course. I think the trick will be to absorb and reflect as much as possible – I hope this blog let’s you absorb some of that too.