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.

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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