I started at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland in July 1980.
At first, I couldn’t understand well my classmates (it toook me a long time anyway, to understand my classmates, and yet…) who spoke a mixture of English with a local jargon, difficult to understand by anyone, but especially by a foreigner.
Even worse was outside, on the streets, where if somebody stopped me for any reason, or if I was asked something I wouldn’t understand a word!
At the class, however, I was performing well.
I understood the professor perfectly and could read the “Marketing” textbook that we used, without any problem, so I got an average “B” in all the monthly quizzes that we got during the year.
At the end of the course, the University required a thesis to graduate and to obtain the Postgraduate Diploma, so I started thinking about a theme to choose.
I had the luck of meeting in a conference at the University a professor, Ms. Smith, who had just finished a survey in Glasgow to 10,000 buyers of a variety of goods and had obtained some 5,000 answers.
After going through the questionnaire of some 25 questions, I asked for her permission — which she granted to me — to use the questionnaire on my thesis, as well as the answers she obtained (She also accepted to be the professor-guide of my thesis!).
The main hypothesis of my thesis sustained that the opinion of family and/or friends were the most important, decisive factor, at the time of choosing a store to buy furniture.
Even though the questionnaire was not designed specifically for that purpose, because its questions spanned other industries as well, I was able to demonstrate, with the help of the survey and its answers, and the computers at the University, a strong mathematical correlation (95 % with a variation of +/- 3%) between the decision of where to buy furniture, and “word of mouth”, or the recommendations of family and/or friends, as a crucial factor on that decision.
Thus, I prepared a solid theoretical foundation about Consumer Behavior, used the mentioned main hypothesis, and the strong correlation results that I’d found, and finished my thesis, graduating in June 1981, to the pleasure of my family, my professor-guide, the University, and myself.
I took again the M1 highway, this time South, to the Milton Keynes (MK) area (Approximately at 1 hour by car from London), where at Cranfield University, School of Management, I’d follow the MBA’s studies, in 12 intensive months, from July 1981 to June 1982.
I was lucky that in the final acceptance interview, a professor, Ms. Kennedy, was in charge of the interview, because she together with a Mr. Corkindale were the authors of the textbook “Marketing”, which we used as textbook on the course I’d just finished at Strathclyde University, of which of course, I talked about to Ms. Kennedy -who very pleased- approved my acceptance, saying that never before had they had a student from Venezuela.
At Milton Keynes, we were able to rent a modern and beautiful, furnished, one floor, house (a cottage, as people call it in England), in a closed roundabout near Cranfield University.
Milton Keynes was a new residential town and a bit boring, without shops or commerce of any kind, which were reserved for the town of Bedford, very old, distant of MK some 15 minutes by car, at the bank of the river of the same name, river populated always by canoeists, who sweaty, seemed to live permanently in the river, as at all times they were there practicing that sport, very popular in England.
The MBA required of many studies and a lot of time, practically the entire day, between classes in the mornings and assignments — in group or individual — in the afternoons. It was really intensive, there was no time available for anything else.
I remember having seen for the first time ever a PC, in that British University. It was a Commodore of 64K and at first, I was awestruck by it.
Until then my experience with computers was limited to use Strathclyde’s on-line mini-computer screens, and to deliver the perforated cards of an IBM 360, for collection of the content at the following day, at the Computing Department of the Catholic University, UCAB, in Caracas, where I obtained my first academic degree in Economics.
The idea of having your own computer, and to save the pertinent data on a diskette, was an extraordinary and useful novelty to me (And even so, to some of my British classmates as well).
My son, who was only 4 years old when we arrived in England, and who started his education there, spoke English like a British, to the extreme that, on a vacation in Spain that I took with my family between terms of the MBA course, he was amazed: “ because nobody speaks English here”, he said.
On his innocence, he believed that everyone, everywhere, spoke English!
Interesting to observe how a child’s mind works: on one occasion, my son asked me for money to buy something I didn’t want him to have. Rather than saying no, I said I didn’t have any money, to which he immediately responded: “ No problem. Get it from the machine (The ATM machine).
Used to see my wife and me extracting money from ATMs, I guess he thought the ATMs were machines put there to freely administer cash to whoever needed it!
I still can see him wearing his school uniform: with short grey trousers, white shirt, and a red tie.
He looked like the perfect British gentleman!
My wife Isabel, already spoke perfect English when she arrived in England (She was brought up in an American oil camp, in which her “father” was the camp’s pharmacist, and she attended the camp’s American school in her infancy), so she was not affected at all by the change of language.
An Argentinian student, Rodolfo, was the one with the best marks of the three groups of the MBA (They had separated us into three groups or “streams” of approximately 35 students each: red, green, and blue streams).
Rodolfo (Who we had for lunch with his family at our house once) was feeling uncomfortable at the beginning of the Malvinas’ war on April 1982, mainly because in the Cranfield’s cafeteria (Which all of us visited twice a day), there was a big crystal jar for money donations, probably put there by the cafeteria’s employees, with a handwritten sign that read “for the boys at the Falklands”, as the British called the Malvinas’ islands.
Very sad to see how the two Governments (That of “the Iron Lady”, Margaret Thatcher in the UK, and the military dictatorship ruling Argentina by then), used the war to distract the population in both countries of the multitude of internal problems they faced: a very unpopular, criminal, and inefficient military dictatorship in Argentina, and a Ms.Thatcher’s Government, in a Britain plagued by rampant unemployment (more than 3 million people unemployed), and huge riots in the streets of the major cities in the UK.
So, both Governments needed a distraction!
If the British Government had shown the same zeal they showed to go to war to defend some pieces of rock, located at 12,000 Km away from Britain’s coastline, “populated by some 2,000 locals of British origins”, as Ms. Tatcher said, they could have easily overthrown the Argentinian military dictatorship, instead of sacrificing young lives vainly on both sides, as they did and, at the same time, free the Argentinian population of such a band of armed felons.
And how about Hong Kong, which the British handed so easily to China?
Was it not “populated by locals of British origins” as well?
Heck, but one thing is to go to war against Argentina, but China…
And I’m not going to talk about the genocide Maduro and the USA…
But please, forgive my digression, and allow me continuing with the original story:
... the discomfort felt by the Argentinian Rodolfo at Cranfield University because of the war, turned unbearable at the beginning of May that year, when a British nuclear-powered submarine — the “Conqueror” — , sank the Argentinian cruiser “General Belgrano”, causing 323 deaths, and then Rodolfo had to leave.
We were told that the Cranfield University had made arrangements with France’s INSEAD, which also ran a 12- month Executive MBA course, to admit Rodolfo well into the initiation of the course.
We, the students, collected some money and organized a farewell party for him, at the end of which the British students, in typical British fashion, gave Rodolfo a shipmaster spyglass as a farewell gift.
The MBA was really stressing.
To increase the pressure even more, on a Friday’s evening they would leave in the guard’s cabin, outside of the campus, every fortnight, for instance, the 200 pages of a company’s Annual Report, for us to collect it and prepare a written paper on the adequacy, (Or lack of it), of the price of the stock at the Stock Exchange, having to deliver our report on Sunday, at 8 P.M. at the latest, in the same place, with the guard under strict instructions not to receive the report after that hour.
By the time I finished reading the Annual Report at home, it was almost time to deliver our paper!
With a lot of suffering and complete dedication, we reached the end of the MBA course, continuous stress that seemed endless.
I’d made a good relationship with the professor of Computing, who may have detected my interest in the subject that he lectured to us.
To the point that he accepted being my professor-guide for my year-end paper, about a practical Computing subject.
In those days we all worked with a program named VisiCalc, a spreadsheet, the Excel of those days. Its creator, Dan Bricklin, devised the program originally to help him crunch numbers for an assignment at Harvard Business School.
VisiCalc, however, didn’t draw any graphics, but instead, we all had to use another program named VisiGraph, for that purpose.
The problem was, that those two programs functioned separately, didn’t talk to each other, so if you wanted a graphic of a table of numbers while working at VisiCalc, you had to introduce all the data once again in VisiGraph to get it.
Meanwhile, in the study room where I spent a lot of time in the afternoons, I’d developed a good acquittance with Andrew, a British student working hard to obtain a Ph.D. in Computing at the University.
Somehow, I managed to get Andrew to write a little program which allowed the communication between VisiCalc and VisiGraph, in such a way that data needed to be introduced only once to obtain the desired graphics.
Therefore, I presented that solution to a problem, as my year-end paper.
In my paper, I described the problem, how I’d arrived at a solution, the solution itself, I mentioned Andrew and his role, and handed my paper.
I felt great satisfaction and was very proud when I got an “A” on my year-end paper.
The professor of Computing described my work as “a Management solution to a problem common to many people, an authentic breakthrough and a priceless solution”, sort of.
Just before I finished my studies, my family left for Venezuela and I was alone in England, to finalize my academic year-end paper, to receive my certifying Diploma, and to visit the London office of the Fundacion to announce my return to Venezuela, having obtained an MBA.
As my family was leaving, I returned the rented house, and transferred myself to the student’s residences of the University, with plenty of vacancies at the time, as most students were on vacation, or had finished their courses already.
I stayed for two more months in England, and then I returned to Venezuela.