Oxford by Proxy

2001 > England

Behind every MBA grad is a supporting spouse

the big reunion
We all suffer together
I paddle better than I punt
I paddle her around..
the jaozai experts
..and Ma & Pa cook for her

When Jingmei first started her Masters and I would join her at social functions, her classmates would ask if I was also attending Oxford. My reply would always be: Yes, by proxy. That would confuse the students long enough for me to change the subject or flee the scene, for the Oxford bunch is pretty self-important. They didn’t know what I meant, but I know all their relatives did.

As anyone who’s had a spouse in grad school knows, s/he doesn’t attend grad school alone. Oh no, you’re right there with them, and we’re not talking physically. We’re talking living every success, crisis, and defeat in real time with the enrolled spouse. They talk about football widows in the USA, but that ain’t nuttin like being a Masters widow/er.

Lets take Labour Day weekend for example.

The week before the holiday, Jingmei found out that one of her Summer Business Project team members was MIA. He’d split from Oxford when the last exam’s grades came out and he’d failed a few tests. Instead of re-sitting the exams, an amazing treat for Oxford students, he split from the program. He may have even split from himself by now, for when Jingmei tracked down his family in India (can you tell she was pissed?), they said he’d already left for Afghanistan.

Now down to three people, and a Monday deadline for the project’s report approaching, Jingmei went into overdrive, working and re-working the sixty (60) page business analysis. Don’t think her team was working alone though. Frantic emails and phone calls flew across the Atlantic, and yours truly was put to work.

From finding photos to go with her presentation, to researching the number of foreign students in England taking English as Second Language classes, to editing the report for grammar and style, I worked side-by-side with Jingmei, albeit via phone and email. I even enlisted my Mom for eagle eye final editing.

The real drama came when Jingmei’s team tried to print out the final document. First, the laser printer was agonizingly slow, taking thirty minutes to print out the paper in color. Then, it ran out of toner, and Jingmei’s teammate had to call the University IT department to fix it. Amazingly, the IT department responded quickly, and even gave the team printer credit when they ran out of money on their student printing card moments later.

With ten minutes left before the deadline, Jingmei grabbed the finish report, jumped on her bike and raced for the collection center. She was in such a rush, a bus hit her, and before the bus driver could get out to see if she was okay, Jingmei was up & off, screaming obscenities over her shoulder.

She then had to fight a huge crowd in the middle of Oxford, where the usual crazy tourist traffic mixed with locals checking out a street fair. Finally, after a sprint up several flights of stairs, Jingmei slammed down the report with one minute left.

How do I know about all that? Because Jingmei told me in painful detail, all her trials and tribulations in finishing her report, and in fact, with my twice-daily calls to her, I’ve heard about all the previous challenges too. From the exhaustion of pre-exam study, to the depression of post-exam failure, to the exam re-sit success, to the aggravation of lazy teams, to the stress of last-minute reports, I’ve listened to it all.

Well, I’ve tried to listen, for sometimes Jingmei gets a little carried away and then anything and everything I do becomes part of the problem. Thankfully, I’m an understanding kinda guy and never take it personally, and Jingmei always apologizes when I point out her anger miss-assignment.

Hopefully soon, this too shall pass, and we can look back on her MBA experience and laugh. Hopefully…