Alozie Benson


Diploma in Financial Strategy







By Alozie Benson

“How did you get to study at Oxford?”: Alozie’s story

In 1998, having worked for 7 years with Budget Rent A Car as their Europe, Africa and Middle East Financial Accountant, I decided to contract out my services to other organisations. The experience took me to companies like the British Airport Authority, the University of Westminster, Santander Bank, the UK Ministry of Defence and the National Health Service. I have covered several sectors and gained vast experience in financial, management, costing and project accounting.

Another chapter of my life began in 2013 when I was offered admission to study at Saïd Business School for my Postgraduate Diploma in Financial Strategy. These are the things memories are made of.

Whilst attending an alumni dinner early this year one of my fellow alumni said to me, “isn’t it a shame that we had to get open doors because we went to Oxford, I mean, is such privilege fair?” Without a moment’s hesitation I told him that coming from where I came from, to be sitting in the room that nurtured several law Lords, that helped form the American constitution, to be known to have been to Oxford is a privilege I will never take for granted. Growing up, Oxford and Cambridge are places that you dare to dream of, and is such a farfetched dream, but: “I had a dream”.

On 13 September 1986 I came to the United Kingdom as a young 18-year-old, with his future in front of him. I owe a lot to one of my uncles that used to come to my brother’s house then, sometimes three times a week. He used to always tell me to “go back to study”, and that I should not lose my focus. He did this for about six months. Back then I found a job working in a Guinness warehouse in Park Royal, parking cartons, earning £28 a week. Little did I know the impact those visits were having in my mind.

One morning, after coming back from another night shift I started having these self-analysis questions. And the question that kept coming to me was “is this all there is to life?” That was the very first time I posed this question to myself: “where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?”. After several career analyses, I decided that firstly I needed a profession that would sustain me and any family I would have in the future. Secondly it needed to be a very straightforward qualification, no long drawn-out studying. This decision resulted in me applying and gaining admission to study for Association in Accounting Technician at the then Kilburn Polytechnic.

This self-analysis has carried me through my life. At every stage in life (it is occurring more often now) I feel the need to stop and take stock of where I am and where I am going. The decision to apply to study at Oxford came out of one of these self-analysis exercises. “If you want to be the best, you need to aim to be the best, associate with the best, work with the best and do the very best you can do” – Zig Ziglar. I sought to study at the best institution in the world.

Imagine my elation and absolute surprise when I got the acceptance letter. I was in my living room with my sister who was going through chemotherapy then. I leapt for joy and she asked me what it was: I told her that I had been accepted to study in Oxford. She jumped higher than me, and the dancing, oh the dancing.

Getting the admission was the battle half won, but being in Oxford turned my whole life around. It was not just the lectures, but my fellow cohort members that I used to study with when we were preparing for our exams. These people do not know how much they taught me.

One example that stood out was a fellow student that worked for a company procuring trains, as the manager responsible for ensuring that there were no loopholes in the contracts that may implicate the company. He used to come to the evening studies we had every Tuesday with a huge amount of paperwork, with sentences covered in highlighter. He lived two hours away. I asked him what the paperwork was: he explained to me that if he missed an important line, the company may lose millions, so he reads it through while travelling, preparing for the 9am meeting the next morning.

That encouraged me to stop making excuses and just get on with doing what I need to do. Success does not come with excuses, and excuses never make success.

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