Posted on August 23, 2019

A Merchant Navy Professional’s Journey to Oxford


Rishi Raj, a merchant navy professional, partnered with MER ( myEssayReview) for his application for  Oxford SAID and was accepted into it. Rishi is all set to begin his MBA education at the Oxford SAID.

In a candid chat with Poonam, Rishi shares the following:

  • His background
  • Career goals
  • Challenges faced during the application process
  • The most challenging part of the application process
  • Oxford SAID- his dream school
  • His advice to applicants regarding the application process

And now introducing Rishi…..

Poonam: Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What do you do now?

Rishi: I was born and brought up in a small town in Uttar Pradesh named Farrukhabad. I did my Bachelor's in Nautical Science from the University of Mumbai from a Maritime College, T. S. Chanakya. After graduation, I joined a container vessel to complete my cadetship, and since then, I have been sailing on various kinds of merchant ships. I have visited more than 40 countries during my sailings and thoroughly enjoyed it until I decided to do an MBA.

Poonam: When did you start thinking about an MBA? Why now?

Rishi: I started giving serious thought to my MBA three years ago and finally took my GMAT around 2 years ago. I had been sailing for almost 6 years then, and I thought of doing something more meaningful where I could exploit the niche work experience that I had gained in all these years of sailing. I could see a shortage of young management professionals in all the big shipping companies who understand the shipping business and all the peculiarities associated with it. With an understanding of international trade via the sea, I thought this was the right time for me to learn more about the business side of the trade.

Poonam: What are your career goals?

Rishi: My immediate post-MBA goal would be to work in a maritime MNC in its mid or downstream operations, and later I would like to leverage my learnings in MBA to converge tech at a larger scale in the maritime sector, as it is said that Maritime tech is at least 10-15 years behind the current innovation in the tech industry.

Poonam: You applied only to Oxford. Why is Oxford SAID the best school for you?

Rishi: While doing my research for colleges, I was looking for a one-year program that stresses the diversity of the class and entrepreneurial mindset. I found SAID to have almost everything that I was looking for in a college. A business school embedded in the University of Oxford with 93% of the class from 63 countries, SAID has an extensive and diverse alumni network, which certainly helps during and after MBA. After researching and talking to a few alumni, I was confident that SAID is the best 'fit' for me.

Poonam: Can you share your application strategy, planning, and preparation with our audience/ readers?

Rishi: For my application, I didn’t start researching much about colleges when I was preparing for GMAT because I found it very distracting to think about colleges while preparing for GMAT. Once I got my GMAT done, I started talking to alumni of colleges to gauge what kind of MBA experience a particular college entails. Once I decided on the college, I started researching the essays and application questions. As I applied for SAID in 2nd round, my strategy was not to mix the application of any two colleges, and had I not been able to crack SAID’s application; I would have applied to other colleges in 3rd round. I believe in concentrating your efforts on applying and researching 2-3 colleges rather than copy-pasting applications to 10 different colleges. Luckily, I got into SAID, which saved me some of my future time and resources.

Poonam: Looking back, what was the most challenging aspect of the school admission process? How did you approach that challenge and overcome it?

Rishi: For me, it was the whole application process and especially the fear of giving a wrong or stupid answer in my application. For this reason, it took me some time to finally start my application and essays. And while I was writing my application, I realized that it required a lot of introspection about what I want from an MBA or life in general. Later, I found it a very self-fulfilling process, where there is no such thing as a right or wrong answer. And, of course, Poonam, you helped a great deal in refining my essays. My essays became clearer and more succinct after each of your edits, and I must say that you showed sheer professionalism, which helped me submit my application on time, given the time constraint we had. So, thank you very much!

Poonam: It was a pleasure working with you, Rishi. What would you advise other MBA applicants who are facing similar challenges? Would you like to give some pointers to the prospective applicants?

Rishi: What worked for me, I think, was that I tackled one process at a time. We all have heard stories of people applying to 10 different schools in the same round and getting into 5 of them. If you can do that, by all means, go for it. But if you have picked your school list, it is better to concentrate on two schools at a time. The more you learn about a particular school, the better the parallels you can draw with the school culture and your personality in your application. And try to take GMAT as soon as you can. It will help you in focusing on your application, which can get very thought-provoking at times.

Poonam: True. What are your interests/ hobbies? What are your favorite books?

Rishi: I am an outdoor person, and I love to play almost every outdoor sport to get my hands on. Though I grew up playing cricket in college, I later fell in love with football. I love reading history and visiting the museum whenever I can find one in a city I am visiting. My current favorite book is Sapiens: 'A Brief History of Mankind' written by Dr. Yuval Noah Harari, who did his Ph.D. at the University of Oxford and was a professor there until recently. I hope to meet him if he happens to visit his alma mater next year.

Poonam: Is there anything I haven’t asked that you would like to share with us?

Rishi: I think the questions were comprehensive in covering almost everything. I would like to offer you my gratitude for helping me in getting into SAID. With the help of your experience and personalized guidance, my essays became much stronger than they originally were.

Poonam:  Again, the pleasure was mine. Thank you for sharing your story with us. It was nice chatting with you. I wish you good luck with your time at Oxford and continued success in your career.

You can connect with Rishi via LinkedIn

Click here for Rishi’s testimonial of MER Services.

Click here for Rishi’s GMAT Club Review.

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Since 2011, Poonam has helped applicants get accepted into the top 20 MBA programs worldwide. (MER owner Poonam is one of the top 5 most reviewed consultants on the GMAT Club.)

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