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An international MBA perspective: How to choose the right business school

Yoqtán Del Castillo - June 23, 2015

Meet Yoqtán, a Mexican national with a desire to make a positive social impact. He kept us on his experiences at Oxford Saïd Business School throughout his MBA.

International MBA looks at Oxford Saïd Business school

Ready to read? Get tips and insight from Yoqtán in these posts:

How to choose the right business school Take a look at this MBA's advice for choosing the absolute best business school to help you achieve your goals. 

A very enriching first month This is what it's really like to settle into life as an international MBA at Oxford Saïd Business School.

Lesson #1: Set your priorities Making sure you get to everything that's important, even when there's too much to do.

Oxford: more experiences in “the city of the dreaming spires” From group work to finance labs; you're always going to be busy.

Some thoughts on the nature of business Should businesses focus on corporate social responsibility? Learn what this MBA thinks about CSR.

A very exciting summer ahead Getting ready for internships, electives, and international consulting activities. 

Introducing Yoqtán

Yoqtan Del Castillo
Yoqtan Del Castillo

Prodigy Finance blogger

What was the last job you had before heading to Oxford?

Before coming to Oxford, I was working as Senior Analyst at OHL Concesiones, a Spanish business group at the forefront of the international market of public-private partnerships (PPP) in transportation infrastructures. I was in charge of developing financial models and implementing the financial analysis for projects such as toll roads, ports, railways and airports in regards to bidding processes, financing, share purchasing, among others.

What made you want to get your MBA and choose Oxford in particular?

I decided to get an MBA because I wanted to move to the next professional level and enhance my leadership skills.

I chose Oxford because its MBA Programme provides one of the best business educations in the world. Moreover, I personally think that society is largely transformed through business, and the Oxford MBA, through its three integrative modules (entrepreneurship, global rules of the game and responsible leadership), helps students to build the necessary skills to tackle world-scale challenges.

What are you most excited about, and most nervous about, for your upcoming studies?

I am excited about studying at one of the most ancient and best universities in the world, as well as learning from a world-renowned faculty and from my fellow classmates who come from every corner of the globe.

What are you looking forward to learning in your MBA – what classes are you most excited about?

I am looking forward to learning about the evolution of the way business is done in the world. I am most excited about the Strategy or Technology and Operation Management core courses. There are also very interesting electives, such as Social Finance or Leadership: Perspectives from the humanities section.

Do you know what you'd like to do following your studies? How do you think your degree will help you get there?

I would like to gain more experience in the financial sector and hold an executive position within an organization, as well as have a positive social impact on those around me. These goals lead me to think that social entrepreneurship is definitely something that I have to explore.

In this sense, Saïd Business School is one of the world's leading schools in the entrepreneurial field and hosts the Entrepreneurship Centre and the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship. These offer a broad range of programmes, events and many forms of support to students interested in this area.

Did you face any funding obstacles, and how did Prodigy Finance help?

Yes. Commercial banks did not feel comfortable lending money to a Mexican working in Spain who was leaving his job to study abroad without any collateral and who was also requiring a grace period. Plus, their interest rates were quite high. Prodigy Finance offered me exactly what I was looking for: no collateral, a grace period and competitive rates.

What will you miss the most when you leave your current country?

I will miss my family and friends.

If you could bring one food from your home country to England, what would it be?

I would bring many of the varieties of chilli peppers that we have in Mexico (habanero, chipotle…).

How to choose the right business school

June 23, 2015

Choosing the right business school can be easy or difficult for many students. In my case, it was really easy to choose what school I wanted to attend: Oxford Saïd Business School. Based on my experience, I want to share some advice on how to choose the right business school, so it can be as easy for others as it was for me.

Are you compatible with the school?

The first thing you should take into consideration is if your vision of business is similar to that of the school.

Most of the top b-schools provide a really good business foundation through their core courses. However, their electives, teaching methods, seminars and additional academic activities play a fundamental role in making them different, allowing you to develop your own ideas and skills to boost your career in a particular area. These are critical aspects directly derived from the vision of the school.

For example, some programmes focus more on entrepreneurial thinking while others on finance. In my case, I found the unique Integrative Modules of the Oxford programme extremely useful and interesting, especially if you want to tackle world-scale challenges.

What is the diversity and alumni network like?

The second aspect is the student and alumni network. Even though we live in a globalised world and most of the schools have students from every part of the world, there are some schools that have a few nationalities making up the majority, while others have a more international community. This is an important factor because your classmates will contribute to your learning and whole MBA experience. It is also important to keep this in mind if you want to have an international business career or go back to your home country after the MBA.

What are your financing options?

A final thought, when I was doing my research to find the right school for me, I read about how funding could influence your choice.

Obviously, funding is an essential part of an MBA, but in my opinion, it is becoming less determinant. Prodigy Finance already provides really competitive loans for most of the top business schools in the world, making funding an easy problem to resolve and helping international students to focus on what really matters when they´re choosing their business school.

A very enriching first month

October 22, 2015

Four weeks have passed since my classmates and I started our MBA journey and many things have happened. When you move to a different country and meet people from 54 nationalities studying in one of the most ancient universities of the world, writing down your ideas and experiences is a great exercise to reflect upon them.

The first thing that I would like to talk about is how unique the experience of studying an MBA at Oxford is. You are not only part of a world-class business community, but also part of a world-class university. You become a student at Saïd Business School as well as a student at one of the colleges that constitute the University of Oxford. As a graduate student at Somerville College, I have been interacting with students from all over the world that are studying a broad range of subjects such as biomedical engineering, history, classics or experimental psychology. As a business professional, I will be facing new types of challenges in the near future and leveraging the knowledge and perspectives of such a diverse community will help me to get a better understanding of the world.

The MBA Launch lasted three weeks and was a great success and an unforgettable experience.

We had the opportunity to get to know each other and ourselves in many different ways, from taking part in a wide variety of workshops and lectures – including a debate about the social purpose of the corporations at the Oxford Union – to having pints in the numerous pubs of Oxford.

We have also had a very busy first week of Michaelmas Term (the first of the three terms that constitute the academic year in Oxford) attending our core courses, seminars, company presentations, conferences and many other activities. The best thing about these activities has been the interaction with my classmates; they are so brilliant, and I am learning a lot from them. They ask such deep questions, have experience in many different industries and their contributions enrich our debates in class. It is exciting to think that we have one year ahead together!

Today (17th October) the MBA class 2015 - 2016 entered the Sheldonian Theatre, the official ceremonial hall of the University of Oxford, wearing traditional subfusc (from the Latin for ‘beneath dark coloured’) for the matriculation ceremony in which we officially became members of the University. We have an unforgettable year ahead of us.

Lesson #1: Set your priorities

December 23, 2015

Michaelmas term is ending, and everybody has been extremely busy. We've had to work hard in our courses, submit applications for potential summer internships, take part in sports, and attend academic and social events. Moreover, during the last two weeks we've had one exam and submitted several assignments in teams.

The main lesson I have learned from all of this is how important it is to manage your time smartly. It may seem obvious, but when you see all the things that the University and the city of Oxford have to offer, it can be challenging.

Being self-organised is not always easy, maybe because you are simply not an organised person or because no matter how hard you try, something unexpected always comes up that make you change your plans.

One of the most common things I've heard from my classmates is “it is impossible to do everything you want!” And, after almost three months of studying my MBA, I can say they're right.

Setting your priorities should be your priority

That's why I would like to share one piece of advice on time management that, obviously, I'll put in practice during the next year and that I hope will help other students along their MBA journey.

The magic word is priorities.

Setting your priorities from the beginning will help you to enjoy the activities that you like the most to the absolute fullest. For instance, in Oxford, you have hundreds of societies that are very appealing and no matter what your hobby or passion is, you will find the right one for you. The problem comes when you want to join more than you can humanly afford the time to do. Just choose one or two and you´ll be able to attend all their events and not only some.

Most MBA programmes offer a lot of events, conferences, workshops, and more. You may want to attend most of them, but as your classes and assignments go on, you will realise that you'll have to give up going to some events. Your classes and interaction with your classmates are the most valuable parts of you MBA; don't forget that.

Once you set your top priorities, you'll see that there is more free time to do some sport. That's one of the most important things you can do no matter whether you're studying or not. And, visit the surroundings of your city or other countries in the continent you're living in, and even to chill out and rest!

And now, it's time to do just that!

Oxford: more experiences in “the city of the dreaming spires”

March 15, 2015

Nothing has changed in terms of workload! As I mentioned in my previous blog, you really need to be selective on what you want to do, especially in such an amazing city like Oxford. Nevertheless, the learning and experiences that you have every day are always worth it.

Hilary term is coming to an end. Time really flies and there is only one more term before all the MBAs do their internships or Strategic Consulting Projects during the summer, while others will stay in Oxford to study more electives. I still don´t know what I´m going to do…

The most significant experiences during the last 2 months have been intense and enriching. Last month (February), I have the opportunity to participate in the Hermes GPE Private Markets Challenge organised by the Business School and the Oxford Saïd Finance Lab . I was in a team with two of the most talented financial guys that I´ve ever met.

We decided to participate with the design of an Impact Investment mega fund in Latin America aimed at investing in the high priority sectors of Health, Education, and Renewable Energy. Latin America has witnessed a significant number of deals in these sectors and, along with the increased foreign investment and the governmental appetite for PPPs, there is ample opportunity for investors.

In addition to the learning experience, one of the most exciting things was working in team with people from different backgrounds and nationalities (Canada). We all had different approaches to problem-solving and designed a plan that tackled the issue from different angles.

It´s really nice learning so many things, while making life-time friends. And it makes the crazy workload worth it!

Some thoughts on the nature of business

May 16, 2016

On the 6th of April, we had the last exam of Hilary Term. The last two weeks of that term were a real challenge. Writing eight assignments, taking two exams, and preparing an entrepreneurship project made the MBA an enriching experience not only in terms of the workload in some subjects that I had not studied before, but also in the sense that I felt more engaged and passionate about what I was doing. It is different being a full time student when you have several years of working experience and are in your thirties.

We are about to start Trinity Term, the last academic term of our journey, in which all our courses will be electives and we will think more about careers and activities for the summer (more electives, an internship, or a strategic consulting project). In my case, I am really looking forward to the Responsible Leadership integrative module. 

I personally think that this component of the Oxford programme is extremely important because society is largely transformed through business and that many of the positive and negative changes that take place in our world come from business policy. The recent global financial crisis has shown us that, unfortunately, not all leaders were socially responsible within their institutions nor they had a long-term vision of their actions. Since we started the programme we have had discussions in class and many other situations about this issue and the importance of socially responsible businesses without losing sight of economic sustainability and profitability.

At the same time, and looking what is going on in many parts of the world, it makes me reflect on how business leaders have to be aware that companies are embedded in political scenarios and building socio-political networks is fundamental for creating sustainable businesses. Moreover, businesses´ interests have to be responsibly aligned with those of the common good, while being aware of the problem of collective action, in which conflicts of interest can take place, increasing the costs for companies. Businesses are the reflection of the societies in which they operate. They shape and are shaped by the way humans interact.

This journey is so much more than I ever thought it would be.

A very exciting summer ahead

July 15, 2016

Summer is already in Oxford and weather is getting better, changing a lot during the day, but generally warm and sunny. Nevertheless, there are still several things to do before we finish our MBA. Some people have already started their internships in many parts of the world and in Oxford, others decided to take summer electives and take a time to really enjoy Oxford, which is really beautiful these days. Finally, several students, like me, will start our Strategic Consulting Projects at top companies worldwide.

Three classmates and I will spend our summer working on a very exciting project at Atkins, in London. Atkins is one of the most prestigious consulting firms in the world, specialising in design, engineering and project management. Coming from an international infrastructure background, this a unique opportunity to learn and share my expertise. And, I’m very excited about collaborating with a company at the forefront of the innovation in sectors that have a huge impact on our lives.

The goal of our project will be to analyse how new and disruptive technologies are changing the landscape in the industry - and how to get the most out of it while being prepared to face the challenges ahead. It will be an incredible chance to apply all the tools and learning from our MBA to an issue that is at the top of the agenda of many governments and companies worldwide.

In September all of us we’ll gather again in Oxford for our last weeks together, a period known as Capstone. As an MBA class, we'll be taking our final lectures and workshops. Of course, we’ll be celebrating one of the most important years of our lives at one of the best universities in the world.

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