Change in to High Gear


I’m Janne Vepsäläinen, and I was one the lucky six that got to experience Stanford in the summer of 2013. I haven’t written nearly as prolifically as Tiina, Mikko, Arttu, Antti or Suse, and while there are many reasons for that, I’d rather not get into it. Let’s just say, I’m not much of blogger.

Since I never got around to posting anything while I was at Stanford, I thouht I’d write a longer, more detailed story on the whole experience when I got back, with pictures. A sort of Janne’s Odyssey, if you will.

But as I writing it (For a not-insubstantial time, for that matter…) I realised something: I never had the time for it. I hadn’t had the time since I had my first lectures at Stanford.

For the last 4 months I’ve been working my ass off in a  two major school projects, of which the other is due next June (Yes, it’s huge. No, you don’t get enough credits for it.), I’m on the board, vice-president, treasurer and assistant trainer at my budo-club, I attended the European Iaido Championships (Came home with silver), and I was a TA in two laboratory experiments (Two weeks of 9-19 days. Each. Wohoo!).

All in all, work. Lots of it.

And I’m loving it.

I’m very aware that my girlfriend might not love my working enthusiasm as much, but she’s supportive nonetheless, of which I couldn’t be more grateful. 🙂

Stanford wasn’t a place to meet people. It is a place to ramp up your life, meet amazing friends and, if you can take the moment (Take the moment, courses will wait), see amazing sights and enjoy California.

Go to SF, visit Mountain View for the best Burritos in California, play tennis and golf, swim and tan with friends, eat clam chowder from a bread bowl at Fisherman’s Wharf, visit Six Flags and go hiking in Yosemite, have a burger and fries, Animal Style, at In-n-Out. Courses at Stanford are amazing, but they’re just courses.

Take the plunge. Fear the Tree.


Buy a bike as soon as you get there. Craigslist or Walmart are both good choices.

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Last words

Some time has passed after leaving the Branner Hall and Stanford campus for the last time, so now it is a good moment for my last words regarding the amazing summer experience I had at Stanford.

At first I want to thank Aalto for making the summer possible. I hope that the investment will pay off later in a way or another, and that this program produces also something else than just our individual (but still amazing!) experiences.

After reading Suse’s and Tiina’s posts I feel that almost everything important has been already said. I can especially agree with them that you should also do things outside the organized programs with your new friends – at least my best summer experiences were from this kind of trips. In addition to the things Suse and Tiina mentioned, I want to remind that it is also possible to explore what kind of research is done at Stanford in your own study area. During my stay I contacted the head professor of the Structures and Composites Laboratory, and got a chance to attend their weekly meeting and visit their laboratory. Discussion with their PhD students gave a good overview what it is like to do postgraduate studies at Stanford.

If you are wondering whether you should apply to the program, I only have one advice: go for it! It might be one of the best decisions you will ever make.

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Dreams do come true

I guess it’s also time for me to realise that I’m not in Stanford anymore. Adapting to my life here back in Finland has been hard, to say the least, but on the other hand that only tells how great summer I had. Seriously, it was the best.
I wanted to write some final notes about my stay in Stanford this summer, and hopefully give some kind of written form for my experience for the future applicants to read. I must warn though that you could never quite grasp the Stanford experience by only reading about it: this is something you have to experience in person. Without further note, here we go:
My Stanford studies consisted of weekly lectures, individual assignments, and above all of group work and presentations. The lecture part didn’t differ that much from lectures in Aalto: the main difference was of course that Stanford lectures took everything to their own scale, everything was just top-notch. This summer I enjoyed speeches from for example Evernote’s CEO, CIO of California and Guy Kawasaki. Also, the teachers are truly passionate about their subjects and experienced within their field, not to mention that he pronunciation of English is for once correct. At the same time you are surrounded by smart fellow students and conversation is really flowing; that is what makes the learning experience much better in Stanford!
A major part of my studies consisted of group work. As Arttu mentioned in his post, the group you will get is mostly depending on luck (which doesn’t mean that they would randomly draw the groups but just that you cannot know the people and their ways of working beforehand). Well, I can say that I had my share of frustration with my two groups during the summer and I wasn’t the only one. However, I must note that in the end everything turned out better than expected. Still, for group work it’s better to be prepared for everything, some “rules” that apply in Finland are rather unknown for most other cultures. A good example of this is the concept of time and being on time: when a group meeting is set up at 1pm sharp, don’t expect the whole group to be there before 2pm, and always check your phone because somebody might try to change the time/location of the meeting 5 minutes before the “start”. Still, I would recommend some kind of group work for everyone coming since it’s really a great learning experience.
I have to agree with Suse & Arttu that you should take courses from outside of your own major and expertise. I had maybe too much similarity between my normal studies and Stanford studies, so I definitely recommend taking something really random and not worrying about including everything in your normal studies! Also, sports courses are great fun and a good addition to daily routine there (and you don’t even have to be enrolled in all of them to take part!). Still, whatever courses you choose to study, you will definitely learn a lot.

My TechEnt Team

During the summer there was always something going on. Summer Session organised their own trips, our dorm had specific events and there was always friends asking you to join somewhere. So be prepared, you will not have time to do and see everything, but also you should join whenever you can. Unfortunately most of the activities come on a really short notice so you can’t really plan ahead… Still, if you really want to go somewhere or see something, you should start planning it from the very beginning! Yours sincerely missed for example chance(s) to go to Yosemite because of realising it too late (since it will take you a whole weekend). Also, if you want to visit some specific companies around Silicon Valley, try to make contacts and see who’s going! Best trips and activities are usually planned within groups of friends. And don’t just stay within Stanford area – while in California you should definitely go places: I can warmly recommend a road trip before/while/after school in Stanford!

Justin Timberlake concert

Stanford is the best place to be for sports. First, the weather is always great (no, I didn’t miss the rain!). Second, the facilities are awesome (especially gym and pools!). Third, you don’t have to exercise alone. If you are interested in sports, you should definitely hike the Dish, swim in Avery and try beach volley – and go to sports classes!

Not a bad place to run

The american culture is really different from Finnish; everyone is more social and open! You will get used to “How are you?” and “What’s up” culture. Be social and you will get lots of friends fast and easy.
As a SSIHP student the cultural diversity is also vast. Some people will be “weird” and some you will never learn to understand fully. At least in our year, certain “country-groups” were formed and were harder to socialise with (since they didn’t use too much English…). Don’t become that group! The Finns going to Stanford are of course awesome, but still you should really hang out with people from all different countries and cultures! At least for me, Branner Hall was a great place to socialise, and the group we had living there was something extraordinary. I hope that the future participants will cry as much as I did when I had to leave Branner community behind.

Branner Hall @Prom

For me, Stanford was really a dream come true and more than I could have ever expected. I want to thank Aalto for giving me and us this incredible experience: this was a memory that will last for a lifetime and a learning experience second to none. For the future applicants all I want to say is that you really should apply, you will not regret it! And for the future participants, you are in for something amazing: be open-minded, be social and make every day in Stanford count. I’m always open for any questions, comments or sharing stories about anything Stanford-related so you can contact me either in fb or by mail (
Like one of my new friends from the summer put it; The hardest part in Stanford wasn’t studying. It was saying goodbye.
Fear the tree,

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It’s over and done

Finally it’s all over and most of us have left the US and gone more or less back to our normal lifes (well, I’m still travelling in Germany and on the way back to Finland but at least I’m back in Europe.).

There have been a couple of things left to say so maybe if I start it others will follow up with a resume on their experiences in Stanford.

First and foremost it’s my turn to say thanks!

watch thanks-video here (sorry I cannot embedd it in this blogpost)

I have a couple of friends who are in the Startup Life internship program in the Bay Area and every time they came over to enjoy the Stanford sun (it doesn’t shine often in San Francisco) and invited them for lunch or dinner with the Stanford meal plans (we had a couple of guest meals even) they made the same joke: It’s all paid by Finnish tax payers’ money and it became like a never ending joke about my Stanford stay. I understand it’s very true and I kept a record of how I spend my time in Stanford. I want to share this and say thanks to Aalto for the opportunity to go in Stanford and ultimately the Finnish taxpayers for your taxes well invested. (No offense or anything, just an artsy statement).

There are a couple of questions banging around in my mind all the time while being in Stanford, travelling in California afterwards and back in good old Europe so I will try to answer them here:

What was great about Stanford?

The sun mainly, the swimming pool and the courses, especially “Social Psychology of Large Scale Media Interventions”.
I started missing rain at some point, but I instantly ran into a hurricane in Arizona and southern California during my travels after the summer school. So I started missing the sun again. That’s life.

What sucked about Stanford?

To understand how the elite reproduces itself. It’s only the people with enough money who get the elite education in the US. I knew it before but now I really understood. Stanford is one of the top universities that takes in most non-paying students, still those are to a large extend children of people working at Stanford. That is how the elite reproduces itself.

Are the teaching methods better than in Finland (or Germany)?

I think I can skip the German part here as it’s not of large interest to many readers. For Finnish teaching methods I cannot say Stanford teaching culture or level was generally higher than my experience of the Finnish one. When I told that to the other Finnish Stanford students they always commented: You are from the art school, you are different. I don’t know, it may be true. I can say that the courses in Stanford were much harder and demanded more work than most of the courses I’ve taken in Finland. Also the insights formed were generally deeper. This is also due to the course schedules we have in the ARTS school (mostly 1 week intensives or 3 weeks courses). The teachers in Mlab are at least as available for consultation and talking at any time as the teachers in Stanford were. The courses are usually as much fun as the Stanford courses. Well yeah, I know I’m studying in the right place again.

What would you advice to a student going to Stanford next year?

  1. Take Social Psychology of Large Scale Media Interventions if you are just a little bit interested in any related topic. The course is hard work but awesome!
  2. Don’t live in an undergraduate dorm, if possible. If you are looking to meet tons of other nationalities and be treated like a 17 year old who just moved out from his/her parents, the dorm is perfect for you. If you are an average Finnish student and want to get to know America (and not all other nationalities) living anywhere else is better. The undergraduate dorm comes with the Stanford International Honors Program though. It’s not you to decide where you live.
  3. Take a sports course and do a lot of exercise! I liked Ford Center more than the real gym and I loved swimming in the California sun!
  4. Take many courses you think you are just remotely interested in and that might not count towards your study points for graduation. Those are most fun and you learn a lot, I promise.
  5. Do lots of things outside the organized programs: There are a couple of day trips organized for the whole Stanford Summer Session but generally it’s a lot more fun if you do the same things on your own (with them you always have to be home early, they don’t do things like hiking in the California nature – one thing you have to do!, and generally you will feel like a bus tourist – I hate bus tourists!).

My to do list in and around Stanford (outside classes):

  • skate (if you are into skating!)
  • get on top of Hoover Tower
  • participate in the studies in the car simulator and the Virtual Reality Lab
  • see (pretty much the design factory of Stanford)
  • swim in the Aquatic Center

Stanford was great. The summer was awesome. Still I am looking forward to study back in Finland again!

PS. Again, there are more outcomes of my courses in this blog post on my own website.

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The end is near


Before coming here, I thought I would be writing here at least once a week. Well, when we arrived at Stanford, I was lagging behind with blogging the road-trip we made with Tiina and Mikko, that I wanted to finish it before starting this. As it happens, the road-trip blog is still unfinished, and I’m leaving Stanford the day after tomorrow, so time is running quite low. Maybe it’s time to do this now.

I’m from the School of Science, studying Systems Analysis at the department of Engineering Physics and Mathematics. Aalto tries to give one of the six Stanford Summer Session scholarships to each school, but for some reason they decided to give two to SCI and none to CHEM, apparently because Stanford is good at almost everything, except in chemistry…

For the last eight weeks, we have been studying, visiting places and getting to know people from around the world. It really has been a wonderful experience, and totally worth it. Let me share some of it:

First a bit about the studies. I had three courses, all worth 3cr: data mining, stochastic processes and introduction to cognitive neuroscience. The data mining course was nice, but not exceptional. First half of the stochastic processes was almost exactly the same as the stochastics course in Aalto’s Systems Analysis major – I actually used that course’s lecture slides to prepare for the midterm on that course. Oh yeah, one thing worth noting is that all my courses had midterms and finals, so two of the eight weeks went pretty much on preparing for those.

The last course, cognitive neuroscience, was clearly the best. I didn’t know much about NS before the course, just some of the basics of neurobiology. During the first couple lectures I didn’t really understand half of the stuff, as the words used in NS didn’t belong to my vocabulary – I had no idea what are occipital, temporal or parietal lobes were, nor what is neocortex. And it’s hard to follow a lecture when you don’t know half of the words nor anything about the subject. But this was also the course where I learned the most, by far. In addition to lectures we had scientific papers to read before each class. Some of them were from the beginning of this century, but the latests ones were published this year – how’s that for teaching from research?

Based on my experiences, my advice for someone who’s wondering what courses s/he should take here: try something you’re interested in, but that you wouldn’t be taking in Finland. This is a unique opportunity to try stuff that is not directly part of one’s major. If possible, try to take some courses which are not taught in Aalto at all – the quality of teaching here may be better, but it’s still not worth it to spend the summer doing something one could as well do back in Finland.

In addition to studying, an integral part of the experience is seeing the state of California. We started in LA and spent the first week driving along the Pacific coast – totally worth it. Since arriving to Stanford, I have been to San Francisco three times, one of which was to see the Pride Parade. Then we have also been to Muir Woods and Santa Cruz, and the best of all was a 2-night hike in Yosemite National Park. And finally today I got to visit the Google HQ. As a picture is supposed to be worth a thousand words, instead of telling about any of the trips, here’s a link to my gallery:

The notable thing about the trips is that some of them were offered by the Summer Session, but the best experiences we had to arrange by ourself: the road trip, Yosemite and the visit to Google. So if you end up coming here, don’t just wait for someone to take you somewhere – be active, and make sure you get to go where you want.

The third thing would be the people. Branner, the dorm where (almost?) everyone who’s in the International Honors Program lives, contains about a hundred students and twenty-something nationalities. I’m really bad at remembering people and I’m not social enough to try and get to know everybody here, but the ones I’ve learnt to know really are wonderful people, from all over the world. It does alter the way one looks at the world, having conversations with people from different cultures – when you speak about the situation in Turkey with someone who lives there, for example.

Worth noting, however, is, that not everyone here is as well-behaving and reliable as one might expect from people who come to Stanford. Personally I didn’t have any bad experiences, but from what I heard from other people, especially group assignments can be quite a gamble. If one gets a good group, it can be the best experience ever, as you really learn to know the people you study with (my courses didn’t really have any groupworks, nor too much social contact during the lectures, so I didn’t really get to know anyone from the classes, which was kind of sad). But if you end up with a bad partner (or two), it might ruin some part of your summer.

There are lots of things that I think Aalto could learn from Stanford, but then some concepts are just so different between the two universities and the two countries, that what works here might not work so well in Finland. I was also kinda surprised about how many (small) things there are that better in Finland – like some really simple stuff. I’d like to write an essay or something about the differences, but let’s see if I can ever get around to doing that.


Well, that’s the most important things I have to say, I guess. If you have any questions, I can be contacted by my Aalto-email (the simplest guess is the correct). Look at the photos!
– Arttu Voutilainen

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Stanford culture

Time flies really fast here! It feels like we all just got here and now we have only two precious weeks left. Midterms are over for those who had them, and for me my group projects are drawing to a conclusion – which means a lot of group work and presentations for the next few weeks! At the same time I still want to take the most out of the atmosphere here at Stanford and in this post I wanted to describe a bit about the environment and general culture present here. What does it actually mean to be a Stanford student?

As Mikko mentioned in earlier post, one of last week’s biggest news amongst us international students was Forbes 2013 listing for America’s top colleges, and first prize came to Stanford (see the full list at! Open for argument, but Stanford is definitely one of the best universities worldwide and the name is recognized basically everywhere. There are certainly many factors influencing this reputation, including teaching quality, number of faculties and publications and quality of incoming students, which I will not question in this post, but something about Stanford is really unique. Being a Stanford student seems to go way beyond the black-in-white ranking lists.

A quick walk around the campus will give a good starting point to what I’m talking about. What differentiates Stanford (and probably other top universities as well) from Aalto is for starters that they have a huge, polished campus area full of students but even more the way everyone reflects the Stanford culture here. In one word, they are proud to be here. When you walk around the campus, you’ll see endless amounts of Stanford t-shirts, hoodies and jogging pants – when you go to the gym you’ll see people working out in their Stanford gear – when you go to lectures and public spaces they have Stanford logos, stamps and texts all over. Stanford is everywhere, and students want to support and embrace the culture openly. Here they have a large “Bookstore” selling not only books, computers, stationery, food, etc but also one huge floor dedicated only to Stanford products! And I’ll tell you, no one will leave here without Stanford products!

Current Stanford students are clearly (and justified!) proud of their university – and Stanford is proud of its graduates as well! In lectures and random conversations you can’t help hearing “Stanford graduates” being mentioned, even on a side note. Professors take great pride in having taught successful entrepreneurs or having some contact to them in their study times. And it certainly isn’t worth of denying that not only the university is famous: some pretty successful people have graduated from here and the school seems to have enormous amount of connections to business world at least! Not a coincidence I say…

Besides the students and faculty, Stanford is also a landmark for tourists. Whenever you walk around the Oval or Main Quad you will be surrounded by tourists taking pictures with school buildings and gardens. Mornings and weekends are especially “bad” – that is when the busses arrive to the Oval and dozens of tourists will be buzzing all around! This definitely tells something about Stanford: it is not only an university but an experience and a world of its own, not forgetting the beautiful environment of course. Even though tourists won’t see inside the classrooms or are able to participate in the actual learning experience, they will get a glimpse of the Stanfordian magic. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t be dodging them in my morning jogs!

Being surrounded by the tourists I always get the feeling that I am so lucky to be here even for the summer. Though I’m not a full-time Stanford student (though I welcome financing options!) at least I get the chance to be part of the community even this way. For me it goes way beyond participating lectures and studying here, it’s even more about the environment, culture and community I get to be in. I can definitely say I’m proud to study here and be part of Stanford experience and recommend this to everyone!

Now back to school work…!



Posted by tiina

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Studying at Stanford vs. Aalto

Hi again!

After five weeks of studying here at Stanford, I think I finally have enough experience to say something about the teachers and teaching methods used here, and how they partly differ those of Aalto. These observations are based on my subjective and rather narrow view, as I have experience only from five courses here.

1) Teachers here tend to put their souls into lectures, present things in a lively and motivating way, and encourage discussion during the lectures rather than present a monologue. Teachers don’t fear to show how enthusiastic they are about the topics they are teaching. Compared to Finnish teaching culture this may seem occasionally exaggerated, but at least in my opinion it makes the lectures more interesting!

2) The course staff can be easily reached if student faces any questions or problems. For example, on one of my courses teaching staff arranges office hours five times a week! These office hours are times outside lectures or exercise sessions for students to ask questions related to the course. On other course we have multiple personal meetings with the teacher during the quarter. Teachers also reply to emails round the clock!

3) The courses basically consist of lectures, exercise sessions, homework, assignments and exams. Actual workload can significantly differ also here between two courses, even though they would be for the same amount of units. Course contents might be quite the same as in Aalto (thanks Arttu for this point), but the difference lies how things are actually taught.

4) Stanford has quite strict guideline, called the Honor Code (, concerning how students are allowed to cooperate and work together during courses. Violations of the Honor Code are taken very seriously, and in the beginning of many courses the allowed amount of cooperation is discussed. Open book exams may be arranged so that no one is watching students, as they are trusted no to break the code.  This approach seems quite different from that we have in Aalto. Copying is of course forbidden also in Aalto, but the attitudes towards violations are softer and the matter isn’t emphasized as much as here.

Overall the main focus is on learning and on every course the staff works hard to really support this goal!

P.S. Forbes ranked Stanford as the best college in the US! Read more from 


Oh, and finally a view from Hoover Tower over the campus to visualize what Tiina talked last time:

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Stanford Campus

The campus area in Stanford is nothing like we’re used to back in Finland. First of all, some claim that it’s the largest in the world when measured by land area utilized. For the first days it was definitely hard to move around here… you could really get lost easily (lucky they have iStanford app for iPhone which helps in navigating)! Now places like Main Quad, Tresidder Union and Arrillaga Sports Center are easy to find but if you asked me to find some random lecture hall somewhere in the campus… well that’s another story. Besides the size the campus culture is a bit different from the Finnish model: here everything is certainly “centralized” and all departments and different schools can be found within this one campus. It’s a great place for interaction – and for tourists to visit! And as said in last year’s blog as well, you can really see that the money lies here. The environment and buildings look polished and new (though some are surprisingly old-fashioned inside… or do not have air conditioning!) and the environment is rather nicely decorated with palm trees and fountains. For me it’s inspiring to even walk here!

Basically they have everything here on campus area. You can eat your lunch either in the dining halls (that’s what we SSIHP students mainly do since we have meal plans provided), at Tresidder Union dining booths or go further to Stanford Shopping Center or Palo Alto (only 10min by bike). For sports we have Arrillaga Sports Center which has a large gym, bouldering wall, basketball courts, fencing area and yoga room (and probably something else I haven’t discovered yet), swimming pools across the campus, beach volley fields, golf court, tennis fields, outside basketball courts and great terrain for outdoor jogging, to mention a few. Lecture halls are spread across the campus, many of them being nearby Main Quad which is a set of beautiful arced halls around inner yard called Memorial Court. When it comes to libraries, there are two dozens to choose from. Parks, auditoriums, health centers, concert halls, and the list goes on. Basically you name it, they have it here!

The apartment system in the campus works so that there are undergraduates living in dorms, graduates living in their own places and some students commuting from outside the campus. All of us SSIHP students live in a dorm called Branner Hall which is quite near to the “center of the campus”. For this summer Branner is filled with international students only (+RAs who are here to help and arrange trips for us this summer!) and there must be about 100 of us living here atm. Most of us have shared rooms for two people but there are also a couple of single rooms in the dorm. You couldn’t choose your room when you checked in to Branner, they had selected the rooms and roommates for you. I was so lucky to get a great roommate, so now I actually prefer sharing a room for the summer instead of living alone. The only minus points are shared bathrooms and showers – something I’m certainly not used to have in Finland! Also, we have a shared “Kitchenettes” here but for this week they decided to close them since some have not cleaned after them… So I have been eating dry Oats for breakfast now for almost a week, can’t recommend!

Some of the time during the summer will be spent in lecture halls around campus, I for example have actual lectures three times a week (and they all are 2x 1.5h), and in addition I have two swimming classes and two hip hop classes in a “school week”. The easiest way to get around is definitely bike, and basically everyone has bought/rented a cheap bike from Walmart/Target/campus. The distances are not too long but bike definitely saves you some time (and is really preferable when you go to Palo Alto, Mountain View or CalTrain station if you don’t want to wait for busses or walk 30+ min). Lecture halls vary a lot: I for example have my Tue&Thu classes currently in a hall where there are 200 people and no air conditioning (though they’re trying to get another room for us now) but my Fri class is in a modern lecture hall with mikes in front of everyone and the whole thing is recorded online. In my understanding most of the lecture halls are really nice and clean and look massive outside but may not have that much technology inside.

Since I use a lot of time to sports here, I have to mention something about the sports facilities as well. For me jogging has been a great way to discover the campus and especially in the morning the temperature is in favor. Around campus you can see beautiful beach volley fields, basketball courts and large grass areas welcoming you to play and try. The biggest sports center is located between Campus drive and El Camino real and there are multiple grass fields, Avery Aquatic Center, tennis courts and of course Stanford Stadium. I actually had the chance to go to SF Earthquakes vs LA Galaxy game in the stadium a few weeks back and it was amazing! When talking about outside sports, you have to mention the Dish which is an uphill hiking trail just outside of the campus – great view, great exercise! For gym-goers there is a versatile Arrilaga Sports & Recreation center near our dorm and another gym on the other side of the campus under construction.  So at least for me the fear of having to give up sports here was proven wrong!

I could write so much more about campus area and everything they have here but nothing will beat actually visiting here. The buildings, atmosphere, weather and people around make this so unique experience which cannot be described in words. I think I speak for all of us when I say that we are really enjoying here and having the time of our lives!

Until next time,


Posted by tiina

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hello (from Suse)

Hello from the next lucky Aalto student studying in Stanford this summer!

Yes, it’s me: I’m Suse Miessner. I study my Masters in New Media at Media Lab, School of Art, Design and Architecture. I’m originally German with a background in architecture/urban studies. I applied to go to Stanford to take courses not offered in Aalto. So consequently, that’s what I’m doing:

  • Social Psychology of Large Scale Media Interventions – is offered in Stanford’s communication department. The class is about how to use media interventions to change people’s behavior for the better. If you want to put it in bad words: It’s a class about effective manipulation.
  • Client-Side Internet Technologies – is my class with the real nerds, the Computer Scientists (no worries, I like CS people!). It is where I finally learn proper HTML, CSS, JavaScript and many other things. It’s awesome because just as many other people I do web design and development all the time but I never learned how to do it…
  • Smart Cities and Communities – is offered in one of the Engineering Departments. To be honest at the moment I’m a bit disappointed with the class: The lecturer Peter Williams, who works for IBM, stated in the first lecture that he wanted to raise questions rather than give answers and encouraged us to think critically. He did a great job in his first session, where he gave different even quite philosophical definitions of what a Smart City might be. Unfortunately in the next two lectures he bombed us with technical details of technologies and sensors without going into enough detail to really understanding what they might enable in a Smart City context. However, I still have high expectations and hopes that he comes back to his first statement during the upcoming sessions and I’m anyways looking forward to write my own essay about “What is a Smart City?” Let me be American for a moment: It’s gonna be awesome!
  • Last but not least I’m taking the Tennis Beginner class with Mikko, which is a lot of fun.

What else to tell about Stanford? Mikko is right: There is always a lot going on on campus. I guess if you would know about everything it would be a huge information overload. My classes leave me enough time to also do other things: I’ve been to the main library last week and was REALLY impressed by the book collection. For sure I could spend years just reading in the basement! So that’s where I will spend my free time if I’m not longboarding (which I do every day – California is the country of skating!) or going to the gym (has almost become a daily routine).

Today was also one pretty cool event: Jeremy Bailenson was giving a talk during a faculty dinner, just for people from the SSIHP. Who is that? Well, among the HCI people he is pretty well known for his Stanford Virtual Reality Lab, which is one of the best VR Labs in the world (I also visited it today). He is an awesome speaker and can easily attract an audience’s attention for an hour. He talked about a lot of the research design and projects done in his VR lab. It was funny for me, that he always called it “my VR lab”, doesn’t it sound like he paid for it personally? Man I’m sure he didn’t. When I visited the VR Lab itself this afternoon I was also pretty impressed by the setup: it has a lot of nice pieces of technology put together (even a shaking floor). The applications/worlds as such were not that impressive. It’s a research lab, not a consumer company!

I think that’s it for now. I’m also posting more details and photos on my own website/blog. Feel free to have a look around.

And lastly 2 quick notes:

  • Last week I saw a guy in a suit skateboarding. This must be California, the land of skating! I’m very happy to be here!
  • If you thought it’s only Aalto using way too many different IT systems (Oodi, Noppa, Onni, Inside, Moodle, just to name a few) you are wrong Stanford is just as bad.

PS: Doug Engelbart died last week (R.I.P. Doug). I heard that from some Finnish friend. I felt that’s weird: He worked for pretty long in Stanford, he dies, I’m here, but a Finnish friend has to tell me. And when I looked for it: Not even a notice on the Stanford Website (they’ve got one now, but it was pretty late). I felt that was weird.

Posted by Suse

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Hello Stanford!

Hi everyone,

My name is Mikko Haavisto and I’m participating in the Stanford Summer International Honors Program (SSIHP) this summer with other Aalto scholars. We have been at Stanford already for two weeks, but the time has passed so fast that it has been hard to find time to write this blog. I’m sure we will do better now, as we have settled in here and maybe started to find our daily routines.

I’m a fresh graduate student from the School of Engineering as I obtained my Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, majoring Aeronautical Engineering, in the early spring. After the summer I’ll start working part-time in the Laboratory of Lightweight Structures and continue my master studies.

Being able to study at Stanford, one of the top universities in the whole world, is really an once-in-a-lifetime chance that I wanted to experience. In advance, I looked most forward to see the differences between Aalto and Stanford in regard to how teaching is carried out, so I might write about this in later posts.

The courses I’m taking for the summer (total of 9 credits) are:

  • Science and Engineering Problem Solving with Matlab: a basic level Matlab course teaching how to use this nice piece of program with different types of engineering problems.
  • Writing Academic English: Graduate level writing course concentrating on producing academic text, greatly supporting of writing papers and so on.
  • Leading Trends in IT: Topics for this summer include cloud computing and big data, and the course has lot of great guest speakers – for example, on the first lecture the CEO of Evernote was speaking.
  • Colloquium on Computer Systems: Number of interesting lectures about topics ranging from space telescopes to the future of research universities.
  • Tennis: beginner class, offering a good balance to other courses.

Besides studying, there is lot of happening around the campus all the time, making it hard to decide what all to do! Finding a good balance between studying and participating events is going to be an important factor to have a successful summer.

The experience has been great until this point, and I’m sure that also the rest of the summer will be amazing. I’ll be writing through the summer about my experiences about studying and living here, so until next time!


Posted by mikko

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