Monthly Archives: September 2016

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!

Tarmo Nurmi’s Stanford Experience

My name is Tarmo Nurmi and I’m a bioinformation technology student at Aalto University School of Electrical Engineering. In the summer of 2016, I had the honor of being one of the six students Aalto sent to Stanford University’s Summer Session International Honors Program. At the time, I was in the middle of my third year of Bachelor’s studies. Probably my greatest motivation for applying was to see how a research university in the United States is organized, since I wished (and still wish) to become a biosciences researcher in the future. The summer proved to be a very cool experience and certainly helped me to increase my understanding of the inner workings of an elite research facility, to gain perspectives on a set of different academic topics, and to make lots of new friends from all across the world, from Pakistan to Iceland.

Academics

For my courses I chose Data Mining and Analysis, Introduction to Statistical Learning, and Introduction to Cancer Biology, for a total of 9 credits. I had pretty much decided on these courses prior to departure to the US, since they appeared to suit my needs well. Consequently, I did not do course shopping while at Stanford, although students are provided with a two-week period at the start of the program during which they can change their course enrollments at will. Originally, I had planned on taking somewhat different courses, and deciding on these three wasn’t easy. When applying for the scholarship, you can only see the courses that were offered the previous year, and the course listing will probably change for the current year. Therefore, I had to adjust my choices during the spring as the current course information became available. The final convergence on the three courses came only days before I left for the US, after considering some pretty wild-card courses such as “The Jet Engine”. In the end, I chose courses that would best support my studies at Aalto, cancer research being an interesting biological topic and the data courses teaching data processing skills increasingly important in biosciences. Out of the three, I think that Cancer Biology was the most interesting and best organized.

Introduction to Cancer Biology

Intro to Cancer Bio was a small-group course. There were less than 20 of us on the course, and practically all of the “lectures” were teacher-led small group sessions. This might sound bad to someone averse to excessive group work (such as myself), but I found that it actually worked much better than lectures would have, probably because of the limited number of participants on the course. As a warning, if you are planning on taking this course, enroll early since only 15 or so people get in! (You can always drop courses later.) Originally, when I enrolled, I was placed on the wait list but a few weeks before the start of the summer program I got in, so be patient. For those students who do manage to get in, I think the small size of the group and the emphasis on group work provides a great learning experience. In general, the course was a thorough excursion into cancer biology, and Dr. Jamie Imam was an excellent teacher. I would recommend this course to anyone interested in the development and biology of cancer.

Data Mining and Analysis

This was probably the most taxing course of the three. There were homework sets due every two weeks, which doesn’t sound like a tight schedule, but can become stressful when combined with all the other courses’ coursework. Although the homework sets are done in R, no prior knowledge is necessary (I didn’t have any). Mostly the course was about statistical models, going through for example linear models, decision trees and different ensemble methods. All in all, the course provided a good overview of statistical learning – including methods that are actually used by experts today – in a somewhat hands-on way.

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Introduction to Statistical Learning

Intro to Stats Learn differed from the other two courses in that it was an online course with no on-campus component. The teaching was provided through lecture videos, which I found very good and in-depth. There were problem sets due every two weeks, like in Data Mining, but I found these more enjoyable. There was decent overlap with the Data Mining course on subjects, but I found that the two courses complemented each other well. First, I was a bit skeptical about there not being any contact teaching, but in the end the course was very instructional and didn’t suffer from the lack of on-campus lectures.

Other stuff

I participated only in a few Summer Session -organized extracurricular activities, including a bus tour of San Francisco, a fireworks show on the Fourth of July, and a trip to the nearby Pace art gallery. I found spontaneous mingling with the other international students at Branner Hall (our dorm) more interesting, and made lots of new friends from all over the world. I had a lot to do in my courses, so I didn’t explore the extra-curricular activities to the extent I wish I had – the schoolwork can be intensive, so don’t feel bad if you can’t find the time or energy to participate in everything. The best extra-curricular moments I think were just spontaneously going out somewhere with a few new friends, and exploring the surroundings, like the Museum of American Heritage in Palo Alto.

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The residence hall life was somewhat different from Finland, more like to living in a boarding school. Unlike the movies, however, even though you probably have a roommate, you’ll both have your own rooms. Only one of the rooms is connected to the hall, so the person living in the farther room has to go through the other room to get out (so be sure to check-in early and secure the better room for yourself!). When dining or having lunch, be prepared to eat a lot of chicken drumsticks, because those will be offered most of the time – there will be many different options, but they’ll be mostly the same every day, and by the end of summer you’ll probably gladly go back to Alvari dining if you don’t refresh your taste buds every now and then in Palo Alto. For homework, I’d recommend doing it somewhere else than in your room, it’s going to be much nicer that way and you can collaborate with others and make friends at the same time. On most of my homework, I brainstormed with a friend who had the same course. There will be slightly more homework than what’s the norm in Finland, and collaboration is key in getting it all done.

Talk to the people

I really recommend asking your professors to have a chat with you if you’re at all interested in anything related to studying in the US or maybe working there in the future. I was able to discuss my future plans on studying and working as a researcher with my Cancer Bio professor, and I think she provided invaluable insight into the system in the US and could recommend good courses of action. The value of being at Stanford is in large part in the people: take advantage of that value. The professors and teaching staff are usually more than happy to help in any way they can. On top of that, discussing future prospects and plans with the other international students at Branner offered really great perspectives on life and education, and really broadened my worldview.

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The Summer Session was a great experience I’d definitely recommend to anyone. I’ll also gladly answer any questions you might have, you can reach me at tarmo.nurmi [at] aalto.fi.

– Tarmo

P.S. Go fountain-hopping!

Kati Vesala’s Stanford Experience

I am Kati Vesala, an Industrial Engineering and Management major about to begin my third year of studies in fall 2016. This summer I got a once in a lifetime opportunity to represent Aalto University in Stanford Summer International Honors Program (SSIHP) 2016. In this report, I discuss my path to Stanford, the courses I studied and finally my free time activities.

Journey to Stanford

Having an international background and lived in several countries, I had already gained plenty of experience from Asia and Europe – the people, culture and customs. I wanted to broaden my view from Asia and Europe to the USA, so I applied for an exchange semester to the USA last fall. In spring, I received the information that I was not accepted for the exchange. I began to seek other options of studying in the USA, and came across a SSIHP advertisement on Aalto University’s website. I applied and was fortunate to be selected to attend the program.

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Academics

Before arriving to Stanford, I had planned to select three courses: ”Technology Entrepreneurship” (4 units), ”Public Speaking: Romancing the Room” (3 units), and ”Leading Trends in Information Technology” (1 unit). During the first two weeks in Stanford, students were able to attend lectures of all courses. I explored several courses and, in the end, registered to ”Technology Entrepreneurship” (4 units), ”Leading Trends in Information Technology” (1 unit) and ”Psychology of Technology & Human-Technology Interaction” (3 units). My goal was to pick social courses where I could interact with professors, guest speakers and peers, and get to know new people. I did not want to spend the summer studying on my own in my dorm room. In total, my courses were worth 8 units.

 Technology Entrepreneurship

This course has been one of Stanford’s most popular courses for many years and was by far the best course I attended to in Stanford. The course consisted of building a startup in teams of 5, group presentations and writing a personal business plan. In addition to entrepreneurship, this course taught me a lot about myself as well as working with people from different backgrounds.

Leading Trends in Information Technology

This course was also an extremely popular course: 180 registries were cut down to only 100 participants. The course could be taken in either 1 unit or 3 units. I personally selected the 1-unit option, so I only participated in lectures. The best part of the course was getting to listen to the well-known speakers from different IT companies in Silicon Valley. These speakers discussed several IT trends such as cloud computing and big data. The course provided me with a general overview of the current situation of the IT industry. The only downside to the course was that lectures were extremely long, 3 hours.

Psychology of Technology & Human-Technology Interaction

This course discussed topics such as how humans perceive different technologies, why do people prefer some technologies over others and what is the ideal design for different technologies from a psychological point of view. The course was extremely meaningful, but personally I would have preferred something that would have challenged me more. After having heard excellent feedback of the course “Public Speaking: Romancing the Room”, I slightly regret swapping courses in the beginning of summer.

Free time

In addition to studying, I also had plenty of free time while in Stanford. During spare time, I explored Silicon Valley, went on road trips, spent time on campus with friends and did sports. I got the opportunities to visit Google, Facebook and Apple’s headquarters. We also did weekend trips to Lake Tahoe, Napa Valley, Point Reyes, Santa Cruz and San Francisco. Some weekends I just stayed and had fun on campus where students organized parties. During my eight-week stay, I also did plenty of sports. I loved jogging around the beautiful Stanford campus. In addition, there were two gyms and a swimming pool which I used every once in a while.

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All in all, I had an awesome and unforgettable summer. Living and studying in the Silicon Valley environment taught me a lot about leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship as well as myself. During my stay in Stanford, I got to meet many top internationals and established several lifelong friendships. I highly recommend applying next summer!

Best, Kati