Joaquín Víquez is a 2019-20 Oxford MBA and Skoll Scholar. He began his social impact career in his native country, Costa Rica, where his passion for environmental sustainability led him to many projects and ventures. Now Joaquin finds himself among 300+ other global MBA candidates in one of the world’s oldest institutions, the University of Oxford.
Like any great adventure, time does truly fly. It seems like yesterday my family and I were packing our “life” in a few bags to move to Oxford. It has now been almost 8 months since our big move; Michaelmas and Hilary term have come to an end, which means we are more than halfway to completing the MBA!
After having been away from school almost eight years, I must openly share that the first half of Michaelmas term was an emotional roller coaster. First, you find yourself working through the “jungle” of getting to know your fellow classmates. You think it’s easy but even now, ending Hilary, I’m yet to finish this task. Second, getting used to going to class and purposefully making the effort of acquiring knowledge and making sense of the dozen (if not hundreds) of frameworks to tackle pretty much any business (or non-business) problem you can think of, is exhausting – the expression “drinking water from a fire hose” does become quite literal.
Our first big assignment during the MBA as a team effort, was advising Kraft and Heinz (ketchup, Mac and Cheese, etc) to deal with its operational challenges. Being a social entrepreneur, you might agree with me, that this was a somewhat boring task (I mean there are bigger problems to tackle out there). So yes, at one point I was nearly convinced I had mistakenly chosen to do an MBA…
But, the advantage of being a [social] entrepreneur, is having perseverance which gave me enough juice to stick with it, in hope that things would get better. And like many fairy tales, it did! New courses came along, bringing much brighter, truly challenging and meaningful tasks; my adaptation phase was over, and days were literally getting brighter and better. With this I want to list a few highlights of the programme and the experience so far:
- The climate OBN invited me to share my personal story and journey of starting and running Viogaz (my former renewable energy from waste social startup). Preparing the slides and sharing the story was simply brilliant (as they would say here).
- This year’s Global Threats and Opportunities Oxford (GOTO) was on Climate Action within Food and Agriculture – it couldn’t have been more specific to my background and passion. I persuaded my team to focus on the future of food security driven by the unsustainable management of phosphorus and its impact on climate change– I agree, it was a bit technical but really enjoyed working on it! Plus, our group was randomly selected and is now featured in a series of documentaries which is pretty cool. Oh! I was able to start an Entrepreneurship project with an amazing team, with an idea that came out of the GOTO project!
- Oxford is just like they say – there is so much going on and “FOMO” (Fear of missing out) is pretty real. Balancing your time is difficult, especially with a family expecting you to be home for dinner. But! I was able to fit in a few things which added so much joy to the whole experience: formal dinners, Oxford half marathon, running club, thanksgiving dinner with friends, drinks after exams, climate change school, etc!
- As a young boy, I also experienced the great value of living overseas for some time (I spent a couple of years in the US as a kid). Having the opportunity to do the same for my children and witnessing the transformational experience it has been for them, is definitely a highlight of my time in Oxford.
Now to be honest, I started working on this blog at the end of February. Back then I had written how my next challenge was around deciding the future; should my family and I move back home or stay in UK/Europe for a while? What kind of job should I apply for? Should I go for summer courses or plan to do an internship? I am now finishing this blog a month later back in Costa Rica. One week after our MBA had been moved online until further notice and the day before the UK announced full lockdown, my family and I once again, packed our bags and left the UK.
So much has been said about this pandemic. All I can say for now, is that the decisions we make and the actions we take, can be seen as a form of test of how we handle adversities. For most of us, we will get a chance to see our true selves.