Emerging from the Obstacle Course (MW Marathon Lap 4)

Last week, I officially registered to sit the MW Stage 1 exam on July 25th.  Per MW guidelines, students must take this exam at the end of each year that they are registered in S1 unless they have “special consideration” approved. For a brief moment – I considered this. 

I am nowhere near where I’d planned to be in my exam preparation process.  Losing my Dad in January sent me off my carefully constructed path. Since then, I feel like I’ve been stuck on an obstacle course – and unfortunately it hasn’t been the fun, colorful type of course where everyone is laughing and covered with paint.

There have been a couple of times these past few months when I’ve felt like my “normal self” – motivated, focused and in study-mode.  During those times, I’d buckle down for a few days and start to get into a groove.  But then I would encounter the obstacle course yet again, and realize that my brain wasn’t ready for intensely focused study. And with my exam on the horizon, panic was setting in.

Thankfully, since attending my WSET Diploma graduation in London last month, I have felt a slow and steady rhythm building – and there are several people responsible for this. 🙂 I spent some unforgettable evenings (and bottles of wine!) with my Diploma study group – most of whom I’d met only virtually.  Throughout much of 2020 and a chunk of 2021, our group met weekly on Zoom to review an area of the wine world – and to share our struggles and support one another.  Although we were spread out all over the world, the D3 exam and the global pandemic brought us together.  Through births, deaths, new jobs, moves and divorces – our group was there for each other.  To finally see them in person and hug and laugh and raise glasses together was something I will treasure forever.

Members of my WSET Diploma Family!

Some fellow Diploma graduates . . . and hopefully future MWs!

While in London I also clicked with several new friends. These individuals know a lot about wine, but they’re also able to just enjoy and not overanalyze every glass – something all too rare in wine geeks (myself included!) A few are considering the MW program and I will do everything I can to help them succeed!

And I finally met one of my fabulous mentors – Jim Gore. His positive impact on students is something I aspire to have 1/100th of.  After briefly mentioning to him my struggles with the MW program so far, he’s already reached out and connected me with a small group of other MW hopefuls. Thank you Jim!

On graduation day, I introduced myself to several fellow graduates and was met with responses of “oh, you’re Outwines!” This brought a HUGE smile to my face! 🙂 Having worked so hard on social media to create edutaining content for a community of wine geeks, celebrating with them in person gave me such a sense of comradery.  We all managed to accomplish this huge goal – and during some incredibly fucking difficult years!

When I walked up, Paul Symington said to me “Sounds like you have a lot of friends!” And you know what . . . I think I do!! 🙂

There were times during my Diploma studies when I questioned why the hell I was doing the program and whether all the time and energy I was expending would be worth it.  My graduation celebration proved to me that indeed it was.  But not simply for the piece of paper, the friends I met on my Diploma journey are just as important to me as the certification itself.  So, to each and every one of you who I crossed paths with: from the bottom of my heart, Thank You for inspiring me, putting some wind back in my wine study sails – and helping me emerge from the obstacle course.

Most students will go through obstacle courses over their MW journey.  Some might be fun or adventurous: starting a new job, moving to a different city, having a baby, getting married.  And others will be more of a struggle: dealing with unemployment, suffering an illness, losing a family member or loved one.  So, after briefly pondering whether I should apply for “special consideration” for the S1A – I decided to go forward and sit the exam.  I have wind in my sails and I am confident that over the next 8 weeks I can get myself in a decent spot for success.  Plus – I have that pile of outlines I diligently researched whilst preparing for the entrance exam!

However, I’ve also reached a point of acceptance that I may not pass the S1A and move onto stage 2 this year.  Admittedly, this would be a bit deflating.  But I’m trying to change my mindset about this possible outcome and view it as an opportunity instead. Repeating S1 would give me another year to prepare for the HUGE leap to S2 and having (almost!) completed one year of the MW program, I have a better idea of how to more efficiently spend my study time. There are a number of repeat students in my S1 class – and whenever I’ve spent time with them, it’s clear to me how far ahead they are in their studies. I also know several applicants for the new S1 class, and I would love to be surrounded by these awesome individuals. And finally, repeating stage 1 would give me another chance to better document the first year of the program.  What I’d intended to be a detailed and transparent blog series to help future MW students, turned into an incredibly personal and emotional outpouring of the feels. 

So for now, I’ll leave you with this poignant pic I saw on Liz and Mollie’s Instagram account. Success and strength come not only from climbing mountains, but also from getting ourselves out of trenches – and out of obstacle courses.

One thought on “Emerging from the Obstacle Course (MW Marathon Lap 4)

  1. Noelle, I’m only commenting here because I can’t find a “contact” or “ask” button anywhere else on the site – apologies in advance.

    First, thank you for all the advice about outlining (and outlines themselves) as it’s really improved my Diploma studies. I am wondering, though: Why no outline published for Port?



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