Back to School

I recently had the opportunity to attend a course of study at the University of Oxford, and have returned from the experience with a renewed appreciation for learning as a lifelong pursuit. Even though I completed my MBA a while back, I wanted to revisit the classroom to delve into the issues facing the global business environment today. I was thrilled to be accepted to the program, knowing what a unique and substantive experience I would be in for. The course covered a range of issues, giving us a lot of information to process in a short time, but it taught us so much about global enterprise and how interconnected international markets can be.

I found that the benefits of attending this course stretched beyond being better-informed on the subject matter itself. Here are some of those benefits that anyone could derive from getting back to school:

Meeting new people

Our class at Oxford consisted of about two dozen students, and each had their own unique business specialization. I not only got to converse on academic matters with bright and interesting people–I also made new friends.

Staying in touch with current issues

Tempora mutantur nos et mutamur in illis, says the ancient Latin proverb: Times change, and we change in them. As the times change, industries go through shifts to adapt. We can avoid professional obsolescence by keeping actively aware of the current issues in our field, not just through the media alone but as a part of a conversation with other informed and interested individuals. One of the topics we covered was the crisis in Ukraine, which led the headlines with new developments each day we were in session.

Sharpening critical thinking skills

Every student knows what it’s like to be given a problem to solve. I have plenty of business books I can read when I want information, but I think it takes even more brain power to actively listen, ask substantive questions, and provide answers as part of a discussion. Our class had plenty of engagement with the professors, and it made for a more rewarding experience overall.

Expanding your horizons

Learning begets learning in any field. It all comes from looking at issues from different angles and asking questions. The classroom challenges students to solve problems on an ongoing basis, and as they find answers to one question, they often are led to more questions. The learning that ensues can engender a spirit of curiosity that will serve the student well in any field that they pursue. For me, this was as true in my studies as it was when I was learning to sail; once you start asking “why” and “how”, you take your learning to the next level.

I’d encourage anyone interested in learning more about a particular topic to see what kind of educational opportunities there are to pursue it. It could be learning a language, mastering a technical skill, or just finding out more about an interesting subject. Whether it’s in the classroom or online, getting back to school can help anyone grow personally and professionally. The work notwithstanding, you just might have a lot of fun in the process!

Rick Arneson, M.B.A., is the author of Plotting the Course and a competitive sailor with over three decades of sailing experience.

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