- Class: Senior
- Major: Environmental Sciences
- Gender: F
- High School: Fairview High School
- Transfer Student: N
The best thing about Stanford is definitely the people. Although at first it is easy to feel lost and not feel like you have a great connection with people you meet, especially since freshman dorms are a total crap shoot and many people come from a group of incredibly close-knit friends from home, but once you do find a community you fit into, the people are awesome. I've met so many inspiring, creative, passionate people who are genuinely just good people. I think Stanford's size is just right. Not so small that you aren't always meeting new people, but not so big that you feel lost in the crowd. One thing that can be hard about going to Stanford is, when you are away from the farm, telling people you go to school there. I often try to avoid it, and I know many other people who do the same. People definitely react strongly, and definitely change their perception of you. Young people at state schools all the sudden think you are an elitist, or that ridiculously smart kid in their high school classes that was annoying and answered all the questions right. They think you don't know how to have fun or relate to people. Adults or the ambitious type often think you are a greater force to be reckoned with, and might take you more seriously. I spend most of my time on campus at the Earth Systems office (my undergraduate major has a sweet lounge where students hang out), in classes, or in the library. I like it though. Once you find something you love studying, spend time in a rigorous academic community is thrilling and inspiring. I also spend a lot of time just chilling with my friends in my coop. Palo Alto is a miserable college town. It has a few hole-in-the-wall kinds of places that are nice to be at, but there is nothing worse than going out on a Friday night to a bourgeoise bar and being surrounded by all other Stanford students. However, San Francisco, Berkeley, Santa Cruz are all amazing places. If you make it a priority to get out more, there are tons of awesome things to do in those places. It is more of a trek though. There isn't a whole lot of overt school pride, but I think people really do love Stanford and appreciate all of the amazing things it has to offer.
I've had many phenomenal professors who really take the time to learn their students names, and then continue to remember them months and even years later. That is definitely a validating feeling. Not every professor does it, but those who do are awesome. I have a few favorite classes, but one of them was Ethics and Politics of Public Service. The professor is one of the most engaging, phenomenal teachers ever, and he crafted the class in such a way that a large room full of 60 people felt like a seminar--and he brought us all on a personal emotional roller coaster that examined our ethical obligations to the world in the form of public service. It was a formative class in my conception of who I am and what I care about, and was one of the most intense and powerful academic experiences I have had at Stanford. Students study a lot, but that isn't a bad thing. Many study because they want good grades to go to grad school or do something else ambitious, but I also think, especially by senior year, that many people study hard because they really really care about what they are studying, and just generally intrigued and want to learn more. When that is true, studying doesn't feel like an obligation, it feels exciting. Not everyone participates in class, and whatever happens at the beginning of the quarter usually develops into a trend. People who are too shy to speak out early often never get over that, and never speak out. I never used to ask questions or speak out in class, and then I realized I was letting my pride get in the way of my education, and I forced myself to ask questions and offer comments, and my experience in my classes has been greatly improved. There is definitely a lot of intellectual discussion that happens outside of the classroom, and it is guaranteed to be engaging. I've had many an awesome conversation that I just stumbled upon and it turned into hours of debate. My major is amazing. Earth Systems is a group of students who are all so creative but also really care about the world and making it a better place. There is no limit to the number of interesting ideas and conversations that take place in the Earth Systems office. It is a great community of people to be in. Very accepting, very open-minded, very inter-disciplinary.
I don't think there is enough radicalism on campus, but part of that might be because I am not highly engaged in those communities. I have spent some time in the political activist circles, and I just remember feeling so frustrated at how difficult it is to get other students to care about these prevalent and overwhelmingly important issues. That is the trade off for Stanford students being so busy and engaged in what they are doing--they often don't have time to be "sidetracked" by other important things you are doing. I don't know that there is necessarily a type of student who would feel uncomfortable at Stanford, because I feel like there are a lot of niche communities, and everyone seems to find people they can relate to and form solid relationships with. There is definitely interaction between the different types of students, as long as both are open-minded to each other. For example, one coop I lived in is directly across the street from one of the most notoriously "fratty" fraternities. Every year for Halloween the fraternity and the coop have a "Pumpkins and 40s" party, where frat guys dress up as crazy hippies with flowing skirts and marijuana leaf necklaces, and coop hippies dress up as ridiculous frat guys, with three pastel polo shirts with starched popped collars and designer sunglasses. It is a hilarious satire, all in good jest, and together the two houses drink beer and carve pumpkins. Most Stanford students are solidly middle to upper class, but I think for the most part the issue of economic status is pretty well masked at Stanford (unless someone intentionally wants to make theirs known). I'm not sure whether that is a good or bad thing, but it seems to be the case. Students are definitely predominantly left, but there is still a healthy amount of political debate (at least on the individual level, but definitely not on the university-sanctioned event level). There is a wider representation of the political spectrum amongst the faculty, with the Hoover Institute and the Economics department being notoriously conservative.