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.
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!
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!
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.
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 (@aalto.fi).
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,