Stanford experience by Rasmus Viitala

An amazing adventure indeed! For someone originating from an island with 400 residents, studying this summer at one of the world’s most prestigious universities and meeting talented students from all over the world was definitely a dream come true.

As others of our Aalto-six crew shared the same courses as me, I will be focusing on more practical tips on how to maximize your Stanford summer experience, with some suggestions being extracted from previous blog posts for your convenience.

Team picture

Team picture

Preparations for the journey

  1. Ask for feedback on courses you’re interested in, the descriptions are very brief so it’s worth the effort to investigate.
  2. Buy flight tickets early, but do consider thoroughly if you’d like to fly a week early and stay after the program, as this is expensive to change later on (I arrived to San Francisco 5 days before the program started and left the US to Canada one week after it ended. It was definitely worth it in my opinion and you don’t necessarily have to know ahead of time what you will be doing in the US for instance after the program, I certainly didn’t). Also try to coordinate your flights so that everyone doesn’t come on a different day and many of you have to see things they’ve already seen (ended up visiting the Fisherman’s Warf three times during the first week).
  3. If you’re planning on staying in San Francisco, I would recommend checking out a hostel called Green Tortoise which was both very pleasant and offered a lot of activities.
  4. If you want to go to Alcatraz on your own, book it very early (can also go for free with the program, but there is very limited number of spots).

The first weeks at Stanford

Lagunita Court

Lagunita Court

  1. Buy a bike ASAP, don’t rent it! Buy the bike from Walmart or Target, they are cheaper (can be as low as 80$) and have bike return policies (you can also check out craigslist and supost.com, Stanford’s own marketplace, to get a good deal for a bike and selling it after the summer school’s over, but we all opted for Walmart due to speed and certainty). Emphasis on getting the bikes fast as Walmart was all out of bikes after Sunday of the welcoming weekend. Also check the Stanford shuttle times to Walmart ahead of time so you get there and back before dinner ends, and don’t have to cram five bikes into three Ubers. An adventure, though not one I’d recommend too much.. Lastly, returning the bikes in the end of the program is not guaranteed to work, though they have a 90 day return policy.
  2. You must get pillows, sheets, towels, a cover, hangers etc on your own, do that for instance in Walmart when getting bikes.
  3. Phone: discuss getting mobile data plans, not everyone needs them as the main gain is being able to order Ubers, however about $50/month + probable extra expenses from unrecovered trip shares are a good idea to split for instance with an app like Splitwise. All data plans don’t work with Finnish phones (actually very few do), but you can check this from https://willmyphonework.net/
  4. Printing: you can print with your ID card at computer clusters in each dorm building, but you have to upload credits to your card first and download drivers etc if you want to print from your computer, more information at: http://library.stanford.edu/using/print-copy-scan
  5. PO Box: If you want to order things for instance from Amazon (free 6-month student prime membership with Stanford email), you need to get a box. You should also try to split it with a friend so both get keys for added convenience and reduced payments (note: you should get back about half of your payment after the summer as you end your contract in less than 2 months).
  6. Be very active through participating in events and try to diversify your network also to graduate students (many of the events organized at campus are close to their residences and you might never hear about them without inside information).
Stanford Memorial Church

Stanford Memorial Church

Creating the best summer of your life

  1. Travel on weekends as much as your schedule allows, it is on these trips that many of the best memories are created. Rent a car through Enterprise (students get a discount, though note you need a credit card to pay, so my Visa Electron debit card was to no use in this) and do it ahead of time as the cars start to run out as people realize what opportunities they have. I think I had booked on every weekend of the entire program at least one trip/adventure, and it pays off to make a rough plan early so you can recruit people with you (I recommend considering both the amount of people and diversity. Also note trips don’t happen if no-one takes initiative, but come up with a plan/suggestion and there will most likely be many interested). My favorite places in/near California were Yosemite, Lake Tahoe and Vegas, and when it comes to activities: hiking, surfing and skydiving.
  2. If you know someone working in a company in Silicon Valley, do ask them if you and your squad could come to take a tour.
  3. Utilize the excellent sport facilities on campus. Everything is relatively close by and at least Arrillaga Outdoor Education and Recreation Center (gym with a pool) is free.

    The gym

    The gym

  4. Go fountain-hopping, it’s both refreshing and there are more fountains in Stanford than you imagine, so try to catch them all!
  5. Dining is free and though the food is good and you can eat healthy, the variation is less than optimal. Therefore, it’s good to adventure also to Arrillaga family dining, which further than the Lakeside Diner (inside Lagunita Court where we lived), but is the biggest diner in campus and has a little better diversity.
  6. Visit the classical Stanford sights such as the Hoover tower and the Cantor arts center at some point. It’s easy to forget what’s near and we barely made there on the last week of the program.

All the best, Rasmus Viitala

Engineering physics

School of Science

Stanford experience by Juhani Riikonen

In my blog, I tell about my experience at Stanford, especially from an academic point of view. You can also find some info about free time and other tips & tricks, but please scroll through other Aalto Six 2017s’ texts for more.

If you’re planning to apply to the program, make sure your application is perfect. For the interview, remember to prepare well so that you can give a short pitch about yourself and let the interviewers know why Aalto should choose you to Stanford. Tell about the things that make you special, and show that you’re passionate about your field of study. When starting the summer session, I was in the end of my 4th year of studies, pursuing for a degree in energy technology. So, if you’re interested in applying but doing your master’s already, don’t hesitate to apply.

Studying at Stanford

The courses I did during the summer Environmental Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Persuasive Communication for Environmental Scientists, Practitioners and Entrepreneurs and Energy Resources: Fuels and Tools. What I noticed was that the course staff was really motivated. They seemed like they wanted to give something. The staff shared their own experiences, took time for discussions during the class and invited students weekly to their offices. The extremely high motivation and dedication of the teachers is a thing that I might miss back home on some courses, unfortunately.

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For me, Persuasive Communication was an amazing course. Basically, it was about learning methods to use when trying to affect people’s opinions. The point of view during the course was not that environmental so I highly recommend this course even if environmental values are not among your top priorities.

Environmental Entrepreneurship was also brilliant. The professor was a venture capitalist so he could give useful facts also from the investor perspective.

For an energy tech major, Energy Resources wasn’t that useful. If you’re studying energy, think twice before picking this course. On the other hand, if you know nothing about energy, this course could be a bit demanding.

In addition to my own experiences, I heard a lot of good stuff about Public Speaking and Technology Entrepreneurship. Considering that, I would highly recommend to pick communication or entrepreneurship related courses in Stanford.

Still, be careful when selecting courses, especially if you are a grad student. Some classes are shared with visiting high school kids meaning that the classes cannot be that advanced. Thus, you might want to pick something totally different from your own field of study. Consider also, whether you want to pick a course with a set of lectures and an exam, or if you want to pick a course exclusive to Stanford, with group works, excursions and pitches.

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Free time

The work load of the academics was not enormous, I’d say it’s the same in Aalto. After working weekdays, I always had a free weekend to explore campus and California, including Santa Cruz, Alcatraz and Yosemite National Park. Renting a car from Enterprise was easy and quite cheap.

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Stanford has a lot of different sport opportunities, such as gym, swimming, tennis, bouldering… you name it. Take a look at the different alternatives before you arrive to campus. You’ll definitely find something you like! And as I said, the workload is not terrible (and even if it is) so you’ll have time for exercising.

The first half of the summer was rather relaxed and the courses became more intense on the second half. Keep that in mind when making your own plans for the summer.

Anything that bothers you and I forgot to say about the application and summer itself, please don’t hesitate to contact me! I’ll gladly give more info.

Regards,

Juhani

Juhani.riikonen@aalto.fi

fi.linkedin.com/in/juhaniriikonen

School of Engineering

Stanford experience by Olli Laukkanen

I’m writing this blog post on the way home, flying over the never-ending prairies of the West, after an inspiring, instructive and terribly fun experience at the International Honors Program (IHP) at Stanford University over the summer of 2017. In this all too brief description of the summer at Stanford, I will first focus on the classes I took and then provide some insight and tips for future students in the program. Altogether, my key takeaway is: A summer at Stanford and in the Silicon Valley is definitely one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and yes, you should apply!

When applying for the IHP last spring, I was a second-year chemical engineering student at Aalto. I had studied a variety of different engineering courses and a bit of economics as my minor. As for my studies at Stanford, I decided to take note of some previous Aalto students’ tips and select courses outside the area of my previous studies. Personally, I would definitely recommend choosing at least one course with an experimental nature – this is your chance to discover a passion for something that you might not be able to study at home! Anyway, as I look back and try to evaluate my classes at Stanford, it is worth keeping in mind that they were all new to me in a sense, which might positively skew my judgment about them.

My three classes over the summer comprised a splendid plunge into the fields of public speaking, political philosophy and political science. The classes were called 1) Romancing the Room,  2) Justice and Climate Change and 3) Comparative Corruption. The brief descriptions provided online might not fully accurately describe the classes and it is definitely worth spending some of the first days at Stanford checking out several optional courses and then settling on those that seem to be the most intriguing all things considered.

Comparative Corruption (3 units) was a fascinating political science class on the different aspects of corruption. This class greatly benefited from the diversity of the student body of the summer quarter, as the students from all the world could engage and share their views and stories in the discussion and debate that consituted a significant part of the classes. Even though the class had quite a lot of weekly preparatory reading, I would definitely consider its workload the most lightweight of my three classes. I must say that at times, certain student presentations seemed to take too much time as the teacher enforced some of the time limits rather poorly, but I certainly met and connected with some of the most interesting characters of the summer in this class!

Justice and Climate Change (3 units) was primarily a political philosophy class on the concept of justice, not so much purely environmental studies. I enjoyed the variety of different thinkers that we were exposed to during the course. Seemingly technical or economic climate change problems led to surprisingly complex ethical questions and provided great substance matter to the discussions about different natures of justice. This class was held by an enthousiastic PhD student and all the class meetings were very engaging and a great opportunity to get to know students in class. The class did demand quite a lot of time to complete all the preparatory reading and essays, but as I mentioned, I thoroughly enjoyed the variety of viewpoints, from Locke and Friedman to the leading contemporary climate science philosophers.

Public Speaking – Romancing the Room (3 units) was definitely one of the highlights of my experience at Stanford. Altogether, the wonderful teaching team, the shared passion for the art of speaking, the individuals’ growth on stage throughout the course and the unforgettable final exam dinner in Palo Alto restaurant made this class an absolute favorite of many and a constant topic in the discussions among IHP students outside the classroom, as well. Personally, I would love to make this course mandatory for all, and thus I feel I need not reveal more: I give the strongest of recommendations for the future students to check it out!

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Department of Chemistry

As much as people come to Stanford for the pure academic experience, it is mostly what happens outside the classroom that makes the IHP summer so memorable and fascinating. Silicon Valley itself surely provides unlimited curiosities even if you’re not a tech maniac coming to Stanford – perhaps even more so in that case! The many nuances of the American society are also visible in the Bay Area: the vast inequality problem is contrasted between the tech billionaires and the seemingly unlimited resources of institutions like Stanford, as simultaneously the countless homeless people roam the streets of San Francisco and spend their nights under the stars, on the stairs of the City Hall. The boom of the technology companies has led to high costs of living in the area and one can literally witness gentrification taking place in many neighborhoods. Following the news at least a little can prove worthwile while in the Valley, as the local and national news ranged from the role of gender as Google engineers to the worrisome rise of white nationalism in the American South to the immigration policies of Trump administration and the effect of the greater political turmoil on the technology sphere. Every now and then, I found it sobering to have discussions about matters like these, as it might be all too easy to forget about many of the nasty real world problems when surrounded by the unlimited sunny weather, the evergreen lawns of Stanford in the middle of the drought of California, and the fascinating encounters between the catalytic venture capital and optimistic start-ups, aiming at technological disruption on all fronts. All in all, the experience at Stanford was thought-provoking much beyond the academics and the vibrant, intoxicating tech scene.

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The diverse backgrounds of the bright students within the IHP and the Summer Quarter guarantee friendships across the globe, if you give it a chance. I definitely recommend getting outside of your comfort zone during the summer: if possible, 1) Be open-minded, don’t be too cool for some perhaps odd or seemingly silly activities. (A Jazz Festival in San Francisco was one of the more inspiring experiences for me, a person with the musical skills of a speed bump!) 2) Try out a new hobby or sport (maybe some intra-murals or extra-curricular activities – take advantage of the superb facilities provided at Stanford) 3) Consider sharing a room with someone (most of the students at our Lagunita Court residences had their own room, but I saw some the greatest friendships being formed between roommates.) 4) Arrange activities and trips on your own – these are bound to be some the most memorable experiences! (I would not trade a weekend at Yosemite National Park for anything.) 5) Do not always dine only with oh-so-wonderful Aalto-Six as an exclusive Finnish Speakers Club!

And on a more practical note: 6) Get a bike as soon as you can. (The supply can prove to be rather limited at the nearest Walmart!) 7) Try out the different dining halls of the campus for a little variety of cuisine!

Kuva 2

In the end, it proves hard to give specific attributes that make the Stanford IHP summer so worthwile. There are truly so many incredible aspects to this wonderful opportunity that Aalto and Stanford generously provide. If you are reading this and made it all the way down here, it would be an absolute disgrace not to apply for this adventure. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or second thoughts about the application process, practicalities at Stanford or anything related!

Always take time to smell the flowers.

Olli Laukkanen

olli.o.laukkanen@aalto.fi

School of Chemical Engineering

Stanford experience by Heli Julkunen

This summer I had a wonderful opportunity to take part in Stanford Summer International Honors Program as one of the Aalto University’s representatives. At the beginning of the summer, I had just graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Bioinformation Technology from the School of Electrical Engineering and was thus considered as a graduate student at Stanford. Currently I am starting the first year of my Master’s studies in Life Science Technologies with a major in Complex Systems. In this report I will tell you about my summer experiences in Stanford, covering academics, campus life and extra-curricular activities.


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Academics

At the time of applying for the scholarship, I was planning to focus my Stanford studies on data science and IT related courses since these suited my interests and studies well. These are also fields in which the Summer Session has a great selection of courses in. In addition, Stanford being well known for its relationship to Silicon Valley, I also wanted to utilize the opportunity of being at Stanford and experience the entrepreneurial atmosphere there. I ended up taking three courses: Data Mining and Analysis, Technology Entrepreneurship and Leading Trends in Information Technology. These are popular courses that also several previous Aalto students have taken – I will next share my insights on them.

Data Mining and Analysis (STATS 202)

This was an introductory level course to data analysis and machine learning, covering different regression and classification algorithms as well as methods for evaluating the performance of the models. The professor Rajan Patel had a lot of industrial experience of working for e.g. Google and hence, he also provided interesting insights to the data mining processes of companies. This course had the highest workload of all the three courses that I had: there were homework sets due every other week and in the end students could choose between a final project and an exam. I chose to do the project, which made the last couple of weeks extremely busy but also taught me a lot.

Technology Entrepreneurship (ENGR 145)

This course provided an introduction to entrepreneurship by teaching about different phases of building a startup. The course included guest lectures of several aspects of entrepreneurship, such as design thinking, hiring a team and understanding legal viewpoints. As a part of the course, we formed teams and performed an opportunity analysis project for a startup idea. Another assignment during the course was writing a personal business plan, covering critical decisions regarding our personal and career life and developing practical strategies for our personal journey. Overall, I found this course and the lectures given by experts of different fields very inspiring and motivating.

Leading Trends in Information Technology (MS&E 238)

This course focused on new technologies and trends in IT, such as cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence. There were guest lectures each week given by entrepreneurs, analysts and IT executives introducing broad range of aspects. This was one of my favorite courses and provided in-depth insights to the topics that are currently shaping the IT business without going too much into technical details.

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Campus life and extra-curricular activities

Living on campus was a major part of the whole Stanford experience and this year all the IHP students got assigned to Lagunita Court. All the Aalto students got their own rooms, but some of the other students shared their room with one or two people. Living in the same dorm made it easy to spend time with other students and really tied the IHP community together. Otherwise Stanford also offers great surroundings with picturesquely beautiful campus and a lot of opportunities for exercising with gyms and pools nearby.

Even though some of the courses were quite a lot of work, I also had time to travel and explore the surrounding areas. There were extra-curricular activities and trips organized by the Summer Session almost every weekend, but I participated only in a few of those: soccer game on the 4th of July weekend and trips to California Academy of Sciences and Computer History Museum. We also got to make some self-organized excursions, including a visit to the Nordic Innovation House in Palo Alto as well as three companies: Google, Facebook and Nest.

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To explore more of California, we organized a lot of weekend trips ourselves – during the summer I got to visit places such as Santa Cruz, Napa Valley, Yosemite and Lake Tahoe. These trips were one of my favorite part of the summer and I got many memorable experiences and friendships out of those. I would also recommend anyone to stay in the US after the program –  I stayed there for three weeks and had many unforgettable adventures from surfing in Malibu to eating tacos in Mexico and enjoying views over the Grand Canyon.

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The summer was definitely one of the highlights of my life and I enjoyed every minute of it. The inspiring atmosphere and community at Stanford is incredible and something you cannot experience in Finland. The mindset I had in Stanford is also something that I wish to further sustain. Spending the summer at Stanford is an experience that I would not trade for anything and I want to express my gratitude to Aalto for providing me with this amazing opportunity. For anyone considering applying, I would recommend just going for it!

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I will be happy to answer any questions you may have via email: heli.julkunen@aalto.fi.

Heli Julkunen

School of Electrical Engineering

Stanford experience by Rasmus Halme

Hi there! My name is Rasmus Halme and I am a 3rd year finance student at Aalto BIZ. This past summer I got the magnificent opportunity to be part of the Aalto-Six and join the Stanford Summer Sessions International Honors Program (SSIHP), proudly representing both Aalto and Finland.

Now that the dust has settled and we’re all safely back in Finland, it’s time to look back and let people know what we were up to. Just like Aalto representatives from previous years, I will try to provide some insight on my experiences during the summer to anyone interested, but especially for those lucky future SSIHP participants. Since I feel like the tips, recommendations and course descriptions from previous years covered all of the important stuff, I’ll just share a general view on the few key aspects of the summer.

Academia

campus_Halme

Campus

Considering that we were attending Stanford University, a world-renowned academic institution, the workload on my courses wasn’t particularly high. Sure, I might have skipped the advanced engineering courses, but generally speaking, I feel like the unique Stanford learning experience comes from the inspiring professors and atmosphere, rather than the courses’ difficulty. Overall, I took 3 courses, adding up to the recommended 8 credits for the summer:

Leading Trends in IT (MS&E 238), 1cr

Followed the same concept as previous years and definitely worth popping in and listening, even if you don’t feel like taking the course. Visiting lecturers, mostly executives and founders from Silicon Valley, came in and shared their perspectives on the latest major tech trends and how their companies stay on the leading edge of development. This year, the focus was on cloud computing, big data, machine learning and neural networks, and we had guys such as Tesla co-founder JB Straubel giving their take on these issues. Whoever was speaking, was likely to be among the best in the world at whatever the subject was. Pretty damn cool, I must say.

Technology Entrepreneurship (ENGR 145), 4cr

A notable course with a bunch of famous alumni; pragmatic professors and inspiring speakers guarantee that everyone gets something from the course. Just like most introductory courses in Aalto, a lot of the substance taught could be found in relevant books, but the general buzz (ie. pöhinä) around building the startup-project and constant entrepreneurial “TED-talks” made the course special. Also, as a finance student, getting exposure to the tech-VC world and the general early-stage funding scene in the Valley was especially cool. Get a diverse group and work hard; this was the course that everyone talked about in the campus streets.

Introduction to Decision Making (MS&E 52), 3cr

An interesting course partly lacking proper execution and depth of content. Lectures consisted of decision analysis fundamentals taught through various frameworks and some practical examples. In the end, the seemingly qualitative course turned into mechanical grinding of different decision analysis tools. Even though I feel like learning about strategic decision making was cool and the professor was entertaining, you should probably take some other course, unless you’re really into the subject.

Free time

As explained above, I had plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful Stanford campus, go on adventures, and meet new people.

adventures_Halme

Adventures

The campus provides spectacular sports facilities and I thoroughly enjoyed having the gym, golf course, tennis courts, and soccer fields within a few minutes’ walking distance, not to mention taking refreshing morning swims at the nearby pool. Regardless of basically living at an all-inclusive holiday resort, we did weekend trips almost every week; hiking in Yosemite, partying in LA and SF, tasting wines in Napa Valley, shopping in San Jose, surfing in Santa Cruz, and the list goes on (someone else will probably tell a bit more about these). After the program, a friend of mine flew from NYC and we did a road trip from Vancouver back to SF before we headed back to cold Finland.

Since Palo Alto and the surrounding areas are known as the epitome of technological innovation and a global startup hub, we definitely wanted to visit some of the tech giants’ offices. We had awesome tours at e.g. Google, Facebook, and Nest. And yes, all the fuzz about these tech campuses and their bean bags and massage parlors is true. There is also a vibrant Nordic community in the area, and I’d recommend at least visiting the Nordic Innovation House in Palo Alto to get a hang of what other Finns are doing in the Valley, and how the ecosystem is being developed for Nordic startups. You might also score some good contacts for the abovementioned visits!

As many before me have said, the people you meet and spend time with is what really makes the IHP program invaluable; the campus life seems to form quite a close-knit community with something for everyone, whether you want to focus on studying, partying, traveling, or ideally on all three.

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IHP group

Final thoughts

You should definitely apply, if you’re eligible and interested even in the slightest. I’m sure I can say on behalf of the whole Aalto-Six that we got to do cool things, with great people in an inspiring atmosphere and we’re grateful for the opportunity that Aalto made possible.

If you get the chance to take part in this amazing journey, hit me up via FB or email! Let’s grab a coffee or a cold one and I’ll share some stories and tips that are probably better left unpublished 🙂

Cheers,

Rasmus Halme

Finance

School of Business

Stanford experience by Sara Gottschalk

Why I chose to apply for the IHP at Stanford University

When I read about the possibility to attend Stanford Summer School I knew I had to apply, because I was keen on studying something outside of my regular program, such as psychology and adjacent fields. Also, Stanford is a name and I thought it would be great to visit one of the top schools in the world to find some inspiration and learn more about where I want to go in life. I had spent a High School Year in Texas and had visited the country and especially California a few times before. Arriving in June 2017 felt a bit like coming home.

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Centre of the Oval

Arriving to Stanford

Arriving to the campus was mind-blowing as the campus is such a beautiful place, resort-like. It was overwhelming to take in all the new information concerning living at the campus, eating, checking out the courses, attending events, meeting new people and making other arrangements. Getting sick was one of my first activities and forced me to slow down, but also gave me the chance to realize what was ahead.

The dorm and IHP

My dorm room at Lagunita Court was very beautiful and located conveniently. The IHP organized many events and trips for us with interesting topics and locations to visit and did indeed take great care of us. The same counts for the House Director and Resident Assistants who were students living with us in the dorm to create a community and home for us there, by organizing get-togethers etc. Really, there was always some kind of event to attend to have fun, learn something new or just be part of the program. To me it was even sometimes a bit too much activity, which taught me to prioritize though.

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Walking the Stanford Dish hike trail

Also, by the end of the 8 weeks I realized how loud it was around the dorm (lots of people and groups passing by, construction work going on, general loudness of dorm and dining halls – each day) which affected my sleep. So: It’s always good to have earplugs!

The courses

I chose Thinking Strategically, 4 units (Political Sciences), Introduction to Social Psychology, 3 units and Leading Trends in Information Technology, 1 unit (Management Sciences and Engineering). Initially I had chosen another 3 units course instead of the 1 unit one, but had to realized that 10 units overall was too much to handle.

I was very happy with my Social Psychology class as the course provided a lot of insights into the topic, including exhaustive readings and a variety of exercises to learn how Social Psychologists work. Also, as I have more of a Media and Design background, the courses taught me how to do scientific research and work which was of great value. The teachers were very sweet and the class generally interested in the topic.

For my Thinking Strategically class it started out well but then became too complex and theoretical. After a while, it became clear that the course title and description were misleading, as it was actually a course introducing Game Theory. In the end, I spent lots of time struggling with the course homework and not really learning what I had expected. The teacher was wonderful and entertaining, but it should be a recommendation to potential students to really find out what their courses are about before committing to them.

The campus and facilities

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Favorite spot in front of Green Library – lots of squirrels to watch

As mentioned already, I absolutely loved the campus. It was beautiful to take bike tours and explore the different facilities, departments and areas. The swimming pool was across the street from our dorm. The Tennis courts were a 3-min bike ride away. Benches and park areas for taking a break and relaxing were available in abundance. My favorite spots were to hang out in front of Green Library, lie under a tree next to the Bing Concert Hall or just relax at the Oval in between classes. As I am a design student it was a must for me to visit the d.school and I loved the space. If you visit, you should take a tour and explore how design thinking is used there as a glue between all types of disciplines.

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d.school!

Walking around the Main Quad and enjoying the beautiful architecture and tall palm trees made me appreciate where I was each and every day. Also, the libraries offered plenty of resources and inspiration, including magazines in all languages. These special facilities and resources are definitely something to appreciate and use during the time of being there.

Bottom line

Stanford and Silicon Valley is an extraordinary place. It is full of life and all kinds of people and backgrounds and knowledge. It is easy to lose yourself in it during those 8 weeks and I suggest it’s exactly what you should be doing. Depending on what your goals and background is, you can make anything happen there. You will go in there and come out with a book full of ideas, learnings and stories to tell. In general, the summer is of course different and too short to really learn how things work there and make yourself a home, but it is definitely enough to get a feeling for the place and be touched and inspired by the possibilities. This experience taught me lots on a deeper personal and intellectual level. I learned about myself and others and I dearly appreciate the opportunity to have been part of this unique place and community. It does leave a mark on you, no matter in what way you choose to experience it.

My top 5 summer highlights

  • The IHP organized a variety of events where one of them was a Handwriting analysis workshop. Awesome!
  • Playing Tennis twice a week and attending the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford.
  • Day of Service at Half Moon Bay, an excursion organized for Summer Session students to give back to the community.
  • Weekend trips to Napa Valley, Santa Cruz, Yosemite NP and Lake Tahoe.
  • Being able to immediately see and apply what I learned during my Social Psychology course.
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Self-organized weekend trip to Yosemite National Park

My top 5 recommendations for future IHP students

  • Use sunscreen!
  • Don’t come with any expectations. Come, go with the flow, be ready to socialize (a lot) and attend every event you can, work hard and travel! Sleep later.
  • Double-check in the first weeks, if the courses you chose are really what you want to be doing for the next 8 weeks (some descriptions are misleading).
  • Get a bike – it’s possible to get around without a bike, but it’s just such a breeze with it.
  • Be a classic tourist for a day: take the free campus tour, get on top of Hoover tower and take many silly selfies.
  • Join a sport – you will meet interesting people outside of the Summer Session, such as staff, staff wives and husbands and full-time students
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A big >>Thank You<< to Aalto University

Who’s talking: Sara Gottschalk

From: Aalto School of Arts, Design and Architecture, MA Collaborative and Industrial Design

Jussi Takaneva’s Stanford Experience

I am Jussi Takaneva, third-year Finance student and a member of the Aalto-Six group of 2016. After studying for the summer at the International Honors Program, it is our duty (and pleasure) to write about our experiences from the summer at Stanford University. As I skimmed through all of the reports from previous years, quite many of them discuss already thoroughly about what courses have one taken. As a matter of fact, me and Mikko (Kuusisto) took the exact same courses, and he will tell you guys more about the technology entrepreneurship, leading trends in information technology and data mining and analysis -courses.

To give my contribution to the Aalto-Six members (and other students studying at Stanford), I will give you six wonderful tips that I think will be helpful for all of you lucky ones who have the opportunity to experience Stanford.

 

Few tips on campus life

#1 Wake up and exercise

If you have ever felt like it would be fun to get into a good shape, Stanford provides the best possible environment for it. Stanford provides top of the world recreational facilities for exercising ranging from gyms that include bouldering and climbing walls to golf. I highly recommend exercising every morning (or evening) before it gets too hot. Getting into superb shape does not get much easier than this.

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# 2 Buy a bike, don’t rent it!

Stanford’s campus is huge. And by huge, I mean approximately four square kilometers. As you have only limited time during the days and you want to maximize your use of time, it makes little sense to walk every day to the other side of the campus to a lecture. I will also highly emphasize the importance of buying the bike from Walmart or Target. First of all the bikes cost around 100 dollars, which is only a fraction of the price that the renting will cost on campus. Also, these stores have a bike return policies, which would make the whole biking practically free!

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#3 Venture beyond Arrillaga Diner

Arrillaga family dining commons is the biggest diner in the campus. Even though it has the largest menu and the food tastes amazing, you will get fed up with it, I promise. But don’t worry, there are plenty of great opportunities that you should try out. First, there were a couple of other diners as well, which had a different menu, such as Ricker Dining, which I would highly recommend (read: amazing ice cream table).

Of course, diners are not the only thing on campus. Coffee House’s pasta & pitcher combined with world class jazz artists is a great way to have a relaxing evening with friends and Palo Alto has tons of great restaurants and pubs to spend an evening.

#4 Start your school work early

Sounds a bit silly advice for stellar students like you, but all of the opportunities Stanford has to offer might make you question your usual habits. As you do not want to miss any opportunities both on campus and in Silicon Valley, in general, I would use all of my slack time to do the school work, projects, etc., even though it might not be due in the same week. I promise, some of the courses are pretty time-demanding and it is a lot more fun to first do the work and then party, not the other way around. If in doubt about your Data Mining -course strategy, please do not hesitate to contact Mikko.

On traveling

#5 Use your extra days in your student visa

Don’t take my word for it, ask Kati. If possible, I would like highly recommend coming to California at least couple of days earlier and then I would travel at least one week after the program ends California. There are two reasons for this. First, do not have to stress so much about doing trips in the middle of the semester as you know you have still time after the program ends. Secondly, you will know much better what you still want to see after and tips & tricks on different cities so you are able to make most of your time. Also, it does not hurt to use your connections with other guys (see tip #6).

On connecting people (Nokia pun)

#6 Tap on your network

This is the most important thing and it will make your summer so much more memorable. If you know someone working in a company in Silicon Valley, do ask them if you (and your squad) could come to take a tour. For me, it was a huge surprise what a great Finnish community there is in Silicon Valley. Thus, even if you do not know anyone, just say that you are a student from Aalto, eager to learn from you guys and I promise, you will be having drinks in San Francisco with your new friends in no time.

Also a bonus tip: Also if you want to reach someone in the US, abuse your Stanford email. I think I do not need to elaborate this one further.

Final words

I had amazing summer and so will you. Start your applications process as soon as possible as well as book your flight tickets early and everything will go as planned. There are plenty of great advice on this website from few years back that are still completely relevant and thus I recommend reading the previous Aalto Six reports as well!

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Cheers,

Jussi

 

Tuomas Elo’s Stanford Experience

Kesä 2016 Stanfordissa SSIHP-ohjelmassa

Lähdin Stanfordiin Aallon insinööritieteiden korkeakoulun edustajana. Omana pääaineenani on kiinteistöjohtaminen ja siellä tarkemmin kiinteistöliiketoiminta. Itseäni kiinnostaa erityisesti erilaiset resurssitehokkuuteen ja kestävään kehitykseen liittyvät aiheet, jotka rakennetussa ympäristössä liittyvät vahvasti etenkin tietotekniikan hyödyntämiseen liiketoiminnassa. Tässä mielessä Stanfordin kurssitarjonta oli itselleni erittäin sopiva ja koin että sain näistä kahdesta kuukaudesta erittäin paljon irti. Seuraavassa olen jakanut raportin kahteen alaotsikkoon: yliopistoon ja opiskeluun sekä vapaa-aikaan.

 

Yliopisto ja opiskelu

Luonnollisesti pystyn vertaamaan opiskelua vain omiin opintoihini Aallossa, mutta voin ilokseni todeta että opiskelu oli pitkälti vastaavaa kuin kiinteistöliiketoiminnassa. Keskiössä oli ryhmätyöt, tuntiaktiivisuus sekä viikottaiset kotitehtävät. Lisäksi vierailuluennoitsijoiden määrä oli erittäin suuri. Opettajat keskittyivät  puhtaasti omiin erityisosaamisalueisiinsa ja muista aiheista oli usein tämän alan asiantuntija puhumassa.

Kuten mainitsin, käymäni kurssit olivat mielestäni itselleni sopivia, vaikka osa näistä ei suoraan omaan pääaineeseeni liittyneetkään. Halusin itse valita kursseja, joissa oli jossain määrin vahva IT-painotus, koska tästä Stanford on erityisen tunnettu. Kurssien valinta oli itselleni suhteellisen helppoa. Ensimmäiset kaksi viikkoa sai käydä eri kursseilla, keskustella muiden opiskelijoiden ja opettajien kanssa ja miettiä lopullisia kurssivalintoja. Omat valintani kohdistuivat seuraaviin:

  • New Indicators of Well-Being and Sustainability

Kurssilla käsiteltiin hyvinvoinnin mittaamista nykymaailmassa. Lähtökohtaisesti ajatuksena oli, että nykyiset hyvinvointimittarit ovat jollain tasolla puutteellisia. Kokonaisvaltainen hyvinvoinnin mittaaminen edellyttää kompleksisia kestävyysmittareita. Tärkeänä lähtökohtana tällä kurssilla toimi kaupungistumisen megatrendi ja kaupunkien merkitys hyvinvoinnille. Tämä linkkasi kurssin omaan pääaineeseeni. Kurssi oli melko työläs, mutta opetaja oli erinomainen ja käsitellyt aiheet mielenkiintoisia.

  • Leadings Trends in Information Technology

Melko työläs kurssi, jossa tuli viikottain kirjoittaa essee, käydä luennoilla ja tehdä 25-sivuinen lopputyö kolmen hengen ryhmässä, joka esitettiin koko luokalle. Jokaisella luennolla oli vierailuluennoitsija jostain Piilaakson yrityksestä, joka liittyi sen luennon aiheeseen. Vierailijat olivat erittäin monipuolisesti erilaisista firmoista, esimerkiksi Googlelta, Pinterestiltä ja AT&T:ltä.

  • Smart Cities I ja Smart Cities II

Nämä järjestetään ensi vuonna yhtenä kurssina, mutta tänä vuonna ne olivat kaksi erillistä kurssia. Ensimmäisellä älykaupunkeja käsiteltiin yleisellä tasolla ja toisella mentiin hieman syvemmälle yksityiskohtiin. Käytännössä kurssilla mietittiin kuinka etenkin digitalisaatio ja startupit voivat muokata kaupunkeja ja luoda uutta liiketoimintaa etenkin rakennetun ympäristön yrityksille. Nämä olivat erittäin mielenkiintoisia.

Kokonaisuutena voisi mainita, että luennoilla tosiaan vaaditaan aktiivisuutta ja se on suositeltavaa myös vapaa-ajalla, sillä Stanfordissa on uskomattoman paljon asiantuntemusta ja vaikutusvaltaisia ihmisiä. Verkostoitumisesta ei kuitenkaan kannata ottaa paineita, mutta olemalla aktiivinen, käymällä erilaisissa tilaisuuksissa ja keskustelemalla ihmisten kanssa omasta ajasta saa vielä enemmän irti.

 

Vapaa-aika

Vapaa-aikaa on lopulta aika niukasti. Tämä riippuu toki valituista kursseista, mutta useat ovat hyvin työläitä. Arkisin ehti hyvin käydä lähialueella, mutta pidemmille reissuille tuli aina varata viikonloppu. Todella suosittua oli vuokrata auto ja vierailla lähialueen kohteissa. Tässä kannattaa ottaa huomioon, että ensimmäisten viikonloppujen jälkeen kaikki ymmärtävät tämän ja monet lähialueen autovuokraamot ovat tyhjiä.

Liikkumiseen kannattaa käydä välittömästi ostamassa pyörä esim. lähimmästä Walmartista. Itse kävimme ensimmäisenä iltana, jolloin ostimme Walmartista myös muuta tarpeellista (tyynyt, lakanat, pesuaineet yms.). Tänne menee myös bussi suoraan kampukselta.

Yleisesti liikkuminen kampuksella ja lähialueilla tapahtui lähinnä pyörällä, mutta usein käytimme Uberiä tai Lyftiä. Nämä palvelut tuntuvat olevan paikallinen joukkoliikenne.

Asumisesta voi mainita, että kaikki IHP-ohjelmassa olevat asuivat samassa rakennuksessa. Näiden ihmisten kanssa tuli vietettyä eniten aikaa, sillä rakennuksessa oli suuret yleiset tilat, joissa näki muita usein. Kursseilla tehtiin myös paljon ryhmätöitä ja keskusteltiin muiden kanssa, joten näitäkin opiskelijoita oppi tuntemaan helposti. Koskaan ei ollut vaikeuksia löytää samanmielisiä ihmisiä reissuseuraksi tai muihin aktiviteetteihin.

 

Terveisin, Tuomas

Mikko Kuusisto’s Stanford Experience

Studying at Stanford

I am currently in my first year of studies towards my master’s degree in Industrial Engineering and Management. In this report, I will discuss the process of applying as well as the whole experience of studying at Stanford. It is rather hard to compress all the learnings and highlights of the eventful summer into one report so please feel free to reach me if you wish to learn more about some topics related to my summer at Stanford.

I heard about the Aalto University scholarship for Stanford Summer International Honors Program (SSIHP) in the beginning of my third year of studies from another IEM student who had been at Stanford one year earlier. The overall feedback of the Stanford experience was so overwhelming that I decided to apply the scholarship as well. My own application process started while I was on an exchange in Calgary, Canada and Aalto University proved to be extremely flexible with their arrangements as I was able to go through the entire application process remotely. Furthermore, it was surprisingly easy to sort out the visa application even though I did not reside in my home country. Being on an exchange should not, therefore, present any barriers for applying.

In addition to academic challenges, I was enthusiastic to experience the life in the heart of Silicon Valley and explore the renowned entrepreneurial atmosphere it offers. During the course of the summer, I visited dozens of technology companies and heard plenty of different views on how the working life in the US differs from the European approach. Living on Stanford campus provided me with a great chance of familiarizing myself with the surprisingly tight community of other Finns living in the Bay Area. To top up the diverse possibilities, the Stanford Summer Session gathers together a fascinating mixture of likeminded students from all around the world. These numerous new friendships and connections will likely outrun all the other learnings from the summer and yield even more memorable experiences in the years to come.

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The course selection offered during the summer term is rather extensive and it is relatively easy to find good course combinations of at least business, entrepreneurship and computer science related studies. However, there could have been more courses that are more advanced level as the majority of the courses were introductory level studies and I had already finished my bachelor’s studies. I ended up enrolling on three courses Technology Entrepreneurship (ENGR 145), Leading Trends in Information Technology (MS&E 238) and Data Mining & Analysis (MS&E 238). The firsthand experiences, the earlier Aalto SSHIP students shared from their courses, proved to be extremely valuable for me when planning for my own summer at Stanford. Therefore, I am going to next introduce my own findings of the courses that I took.

Technology Entrepreneurship (ENGR 145)

The core of the course was to create an opportunity analysis project of a self-chosen problem. In other words, we created teams of five people and started to iterate on a business plan around that topic. Consequently, the course was all about the first phases of founding a startup. However, compared to any other entrepreneurship course that I have heard of, the setting and supporting community was exquisite. For example, we had Guy Kawasaki, the leading academic character of entrepreneurial thinking, guest lecturing for us, which was undeniably the single most influential and inspirational lecture I have ever attended. During the course we had guest speakers from basically every crucial field along the path of a newly founded startup, such as venture capitalists, law experts and serial entrepreneurs. Thus, this course taught me especially a lot about the working culture in Silicon Valley and provided me with great insights on how to build new disruptive ventures.

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Leading Trends in Information Technology (MS&E 238)

As the name suggests, the course provided an in-depth look on the leading trends in business and social technology. Each week the course had guest speakers from well-known technology companies and organizations. The amount of participants on the course was relatively small, which presented great possibilities to connect with the guest speakers who were appraised experts and influencers on their respective fields. In general, I was extremely satisfied with the course because it provided excellent possibilities to improve my own understanding of the key players, networks and technology trends in Silicon Valley.

Data Mining & Analysis (MS&E 238)

This course was a rather conventional introductory level course on how to analyze data with the help of both regression as well as classifier models. It was evident that the professor Rajan Patel had a lot of both academic and industry experience of the topic. The course provided me with extremely relevant learnings and gave great insights on the process of data analysis. I was, however, quite surprised of the high amount of simple routine exercises the course had, instead of favoring more applied assignments. This trait seemed to be more prevalent characteristics of the US education system in general than a drawback of this one specific course.

As mentioned above, the summer at Stanford presents also great opportunities to explore life in the US more generally. Because of studying the previous term in Western Canada, I ended up travelling to all the major cities on the West Coast before arriving at Stanford. Visiting places like Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Yosemite, Las Vegas and Los Angeles during the course of a mere three months, truly provided me with a great summary of the western part of the US. Yet again, the memories, friendships and experiences gained from these trips will surely survive and thrive long after leaving Stanford.

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All in all, the summer was an intensive introduction period to the American society in general. Living in the epicenter of the information technology boom, resulted in extremely valuable learnings both of my own abilities in comparison to the global level and taught me some of the most essential aspects of the Silicon Valley working culture. It would be extremely challenging to gain these experiences anywhere else and, hence, I am humbled to have been offered this opportunity. I warmly recommend everyone to apply for the next batch of outstanding Aalto students to be sent to experience the summer at Stanford. In the end, the vibrant Bay Area and a picturesque summer without a single rain shower made such an impression on me that I will likely return in the near future.

If you need any additional information regarding my summer at Stanford, you can reach me through my Aalto email firstname.lastname(at)aalto.fi.

 

Mikko Kuusisto

Industrial Engineering and Management

School of Science

Aalto University

Ia Kähkönen’s Stanford Experience

I’m Ia Kähkönen, a third year (second year at the time of applying) Design student focusing on textile design. I was one of the lucky six students chosen to participate in Stanford Summer International Honors Program at Stanford University in the summer of 2016.

After a lot of pondering and doubting my capabilities and possibilities for SSIHP, I finally reached out to my professors for a recommendation letter and wrote my motivation letter on the last day, and I’m glad I did. As a design student, I was worried I would step way beyond my comfort zone with studying subjects totally foreign to me in a way I wouldn’t be able to adapt to. In many ways, my initial fears came true, but also proved to myself that I am capable of much more than initially thought. In addition I gained deeper thoughts on design and myself along the way and actually reaffirmed myself that I’m on the right career path. I highly recommend everybody with a good enough GPA and a strong vision on how Stanford’s courses will relate to your own studies to apply – you have nothing to lose!

When drafting your study plan for the application, keep in mind that the courses vary each year, which means that you probably have to adapt your plans accordingly when the upcoming summers courses are released later during spring.

I enrolled on two courses in psychology, each worth 3 credits: Personality Psychology and Social Psychology. I’ve always been interested in the relationship between people and the products we use, what we find valuable or attractive both consciously and unconsciously, how we interact with products, what motives drives us to purchase a certain kind of product, how products (especially clothing) shape the way we present ourselves and how we build an identity with these decisions. Even though these courses were introductory courses showcasing fundamental theories and most important studies done in these subfields of psychology, and didn’t of course have anything to do with design thinking, I always adapted my thoughts on them in a way most beneficial for my studies.

Don’t be fooled by the seemingly easy first few lectures, they will get quickly more and more demanding (I learned this the hard way, unfortunately..)! As long as you keep up with the weekly readings and smaller assignments, it shouldn’t be hard. The professors at Stanford are excellent and happy to help in any way possible if a student is struggling, so don’t hesitate to reach out for the help provided. All in all, I was very pleased with both courses and very impressed by the professor’s enthusiasm and knowledge.

The third course I enrolled on was an art course, on which they had enrolled over double the amount of students for. This was very badly arranged in my opinion, because they dropped off the excess students very late in the first week when most courses had already had one or two lectures. I was obviously dropped off the course and had to find a replacement as quickly as possible, which in reality meant running from class to class only to realize that my workload would’ve been humongous and that catching up would’ve required probably a few all-nighters.

I would recommend future students to enroll in a few extra courses and actually attending them on the first week, to avoid surprises like this. In the end, the only course I was able to hop on was a course ironically called Working Smarter, mainly aimed for high school students wanting to adapt skills needed for college. It wasn’t bad in any way, but felt very unnecessary in comparison to the courses I had initially planned.

Stanford campus is absolutely gorgeous and filled with interesting things to see and do; art museums, architecture, a farm, a shopping mall, gyms, pools, cafes and much more. Despite all of this, I started to feel very anxious and claustrophobic already on the second week there. After spending almost two weeks in San Francisco before arriving on campus, the country club-ish architecture and landscape, a little society consisting of mostly very young students, big groups of tourists, extravagant events and all in all a ostentatious atmosphere started to feel very pretentious. This resulted in me running away to Palo Alto or other nearby locations almost daily and making trips to San Francisco or elsewhere around the bay area every single weekend.

I strongly recommend future SSIHP students to explore the surrounding areas as much as possible! In many ways, I feel like I learned a whole lot more about people and psychology by observing the huge differences in socioeconomic statuses clearly present in San Francisco. This summer I’ve laughed, cried and had deep, insightful conversations with multiple homeless individuals who have surprised me with their intelligence and beauty; I’ve been riding a pimped up Chevy Impala with California’s biggest lowrider car club’s vice president who became my absolute best friend there; I’ve gotten acquainted with different minority groups such as hispanics and african americans, and observed their struggles in the society and with gang related issues; I’ve seen first hand how many people have to rely on (or be unwillingly dragged into, or being sold to) illicit drug trade and sex industry just to get by; I unfortunately had to rely on help from the police at one point; I’ve heard dozens of stories how substance abuse, mental health issues, the corruption of the US law enforcement and the big tech boom affect people’s lives, and seen the consequences basically everywhere around me, and much, much more (I could literally write a book about everything that happened in this short period of time!).

Even though all of this might sound like a horror story, I wouldn’t trade it for anything! Because of these experiences I made a bunch of absolutely gorgeous friends and had the best time of my life. I definitely recommend everyone going there to be open-minded and listening and interacting with people who live the reality behind the facades – I guarantee you’ll learn a lot and will understand better everything you’ll learn at Stanford as well.

Lastly, a few brief pointers:

The visa application process might seem a bit overwhelming, but it’s actually a piece of cake if you simply just follow the instructions and deadlines. If something’s unclear, ask! Simple as that.

  • Buy a bike! The campus is huge, but also, you’ll get quickly away from it when it starts to feel tiny… Don’t ever leave it overnight at the train station (or probably even at downtown Palo Alto); mine got stolen there and after this incident I heard it’s very common, despite having the best bike lock on the market.
  • If you plan to attend an art course, be ready to have an extra $150-300 for the supplies. Find out also what textbooks you need for your courses and check amazon etc for the best deal (in this case also rent a mailbox either for yourself or together with other students for lower costs). You can also rent books at Stanford bookstore.
  • Go to Walmart as soon as you’ve dropped off your stuff at your dorm to get bedding, towels, a bike etc. I recommend also checking out craigslist and supost.com (Stanford’s own marketplace) to get a good deal for a bike and selling it after the summer school’s over.
  • The dining halls offer a very wide selection of food, so don’t worry if you’re on a special diet.
  • Don’t ever, in any case, let strangers without a studentID card get into Branner Hall, or any other building, for that matter, that requires some sort of personal identification or key!
  • Be sure to visit the Cactus Garden! It was my favourite place on campus.
  • Spend a few extra weeks before and/or after the summer school at California or elsewhere in the US, you’ll regret it if you won’t! The F-1 visa allows you to stay 30 days before and 60 days after your planned stay (i.e the 8 weeks at Stanford)
  • If you want to know where huge groups of raccoons and skunks gather up after sunset or other useless (but fun) info, just ask me and I’ll mark them out on the map!

If you want to hear more or ask about anything, just send me an email or pm me on facebook!