2024 MBAs Abroad: Ifeoluwa Olokode, University of Oxford (Saïd)

Ifeoluwa Olokode

Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford

Home City and Country: Lagos, Nigeria

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Helium Health, Head of Public Health and Data Partnerships

How has studying business in the United Kingdom enriched your learning experience? I’m a 1+1 MBA candidate in my MBA year, meaning this is my second year at Oxford. A few weeks before starting the MBA in September, I completed the MSc in International Health and Tropical Medicine, a degree focused on addressing health challenges in resource-limited contexts like my home country, Nigeria. One of the reasons I chose to study in the UK is because Oxford is one of the few business schools in the world that offers a programme where you can combine depth in one non-business degree with the breadth of a business degree.

The UK’s history, diversity and geographic location have greatly enriched my experience studying both my global health and business degrees. “Tropical medicine”, the study of diseases common in the tropics, has its roots in Britain’s colonial legacy. UK universities’ acknowledgement of this history and continued efforts to decolonize global health makes the UK one of the best places to study global health. The commonwealth and the UK’s proximity to Europe and Africa also make it one of the best countries to get an international, well-rounded business education. My classes at the business school – which include cases on non-western businesses like Oberoi Hotels in India and the Dabbawalas of Mumbai – are further enriched by the perspectives of my classmates from 63 countries. This diversity also energizes our co-curricular offerings and social life. In our first term alone, we’ve heard from a speaker building one of Africa’s most celebrated FinTech companies, celebrated Diwali, and had a Christmas Fiesta hosted by the Latin American Club.

What has been the toughest transition to living in the United Kingdom so far? What have you done to overcome this difficulty? The winter and the UK’s general dreary weather have been the most difficult parts of my transition to living here. This is the most common answer for most of my peers, for good reason. We’re typically in class from 9.00am to 4.45pm, so it is easy to miss the sun, a vital mood booster. I overcome this challenge by eating lunch in the sun when it is out and basking under the sunlight lamp in the Exeter College MCR.

What school service has been the most helpful in transitioning to living in the United Kingdom? How has it helped you adapt? I have a disability, and the University of Oxford’s Disability Advisory Services (DAS) has been crucial in helping me transition to living in the UK. The stressors of adjusting to life in a new place and being back in school after a long time away are compounded by having a disability. I am grateful for the disability accommodations Oxford’s DAS has put in place to mitigate these stressors. I encourage anyone with a disability or chronic health condition to seek support from their school’s disability support services.

What has been the most interesting cultural nuance of people living in the United Kingdom? Why has this struck you? The queues and general orderliness! I’m from Lagos, Nigeria, and I’ve spent some time in New York; both cities can get quite chaotic. Experiencing the contrast between those places and the UK has been amusing and aspirational.

Are you seeking a Visa to work in the United Kingdom after graduation? If so, what obstacles have you faced and how did you overcome them? I am not seeking a visa to work in the UK, but many of my friends are. The major obstacles they face are the cost of the visa – which some people have to bear while job hunting and strapped for cash. They also face the uncertainty around immigration policies that seem to change every few months, and the disheartening general anti-immigration sentiment in the UK.

What have you done to make it easier to make friends with people from outside your home country at business school? I am one of the co-presidents of my cohort’s student council, and one of the reasons I ran for the position is to get to know as many people from our warm, diverse cohort as possible. So far, this has been a brilliant strategy!

In addition to getting involved with co-curriculars like student council, I would encourage students to participate in other things. These include saying yes to spontaneous outings with classmates; having coffee dates with a new, randomly-assigned classmate each week (courtesy of the #coffee-roulette slack bot created by a coursemate, Saksham Kapoor); and striking up conversations with people I haven’t spoken to yet have been great ways to connect with people outside my home country.

What piece of advice would you give to an international student looking to study in a UK graduate business program? Business schools in the UK and Europe tend to be more diverse than their North American counterparts. This diversity spans country of origin, age (Oxford has a broader age range than North American schools I was considering), sectors, and course content. Another advantage of business degrees in the UK is that they tend to be shorter (and cheaper!) than those offered in other countries. Of course, tradeoffs include an accelerated pace and a shorter (but no less rich) experience. My advice would be not to let those tradeoffs deter you from exploring if a graduate business school programme in the UK is right for you and considering its many advantages.


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