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.


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.


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.


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.



School of Engineering