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!
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?
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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 d.school (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.