Stanford experience by Konsta Holopainen

The summer at Stanford was great. The people were great, the food was great and not once did it rain. However, the single most valuable thing I learned there was to appreciate Aalto even more. Don’t worry, I’ll explain that statement more in the next section. Let’s dive straight in and start off with the academics.

I completed three courses at Stanford which in Aalto credits summed up to 13 credits.
The courses were:

  • Public speaking – Romancing the room (3 units, 5 ECST)
  • Data mining and analysis (3 units)
  • Effective negotiation and persuasion (1-2 units, 3 ECTS)

And what did I learn? The level of the tuition at Stanford varies a LOT!

The professor in public speaking course was without a doubt one of the best teachers I have ever had the pleasure to listen. Even though the sessions took place in Tuesday evenings from 7pm to 10pm, he was able to keep the class attentive until the end every night. It was actually quite solid entertainment.

The teacher of the data mining class was just OK. He knew he stuff but I felt that he was more of a doer than a teacher. The materials were good but pedagogically the lectures weren’t on the highest level. I honestly got more out of the book and exercises while studying by myself. ­

And the third . . . This course was not what I expected. It had the actual group classes for the first unit and the second optional unit was obtained through 1-on-1 meetings with a tutor. The group meetings with the teacher were subpar. At their best. The course name even did not really describe the content very well, as the “negotiation” part of the course contained one slideshow given by a local car salesman. What comes to the tutoring sessions, I was lucky and got the better out of the two tutors. Those sessions I actually enjoyed and learned a bunch.

My suggestions on these courses:

  • Public speaking; a big GO!
  • Data mining; not bad, but you can get the same by reading the book (http://faculty.marshall.usc.edu/gareth-james/ISL/) and doing the exercises. (Solutions can be found online)
  • Effective “negotiation” and persuasion; steer clear from this one

What would I do differently now? I would enroll onto a lot more courses initially and drop the ones that don’t float my boat. I would also try to do even more research on the courses beforehand, but still one might strike out. I was initially enrolled on five, but that clearly wasn’t enough. Go for more!

There was a couple more of interesting things that I learned during the first days of class.
First, the teachers at the Summer Session haven’t necessarily nothing to do with Stanford outside the Summer Session. Two out of my three teachers were there only for the summer, and for the first time.
Second, the level of the students in the classes ranges from high school to master’s students. This was not a problem in any way. Just a nice-to-know trivia.

Was it hard? I wouldn’t say so. I honestly feel like the courses at Aalto are a lot tougher. I didn’t have the heaviest courses there at Stanford, but if I compare the Data mining course for example to similar statistics courses in Aalto, the ones back home are substantially harder. There was a lot of work at Stanford, but it was not hard. The homework took its time, but it was mostly something easy and straightforward.

So worry not, there is time for some fun and games too! I mostly spent my free time doing sports and just hanging out with the other IHP students. If there is something that really was better at Stanford, it’s the facilities. There wasn’t really a sport that I couldn’t do there, and never was there a moment when we couldn’t find a place to hang out.

A quick Q&A to sum up my takes on the experience.

Knowing what it was, would I apply again? Yes!
Knowing what it was, would I apply for a second summer? No.
Would I want to study at Stanford full-time? I might.
Would I pay for it? No!
Should you apply? YES!

If you are still intimidated by Stanford or the other students there, you can just wipe that away with good conscious. Yes, it’s an old and prestigious school, but you have no reason to feel any lesser because of that. We Aalto students were the only ones there on scholarships, and (hopefully not sounding too arrogant) I can say that in some cases it showed. I sure wasn’t the smartest one there, but not once did I have to feel myself inferior to anybody.

And if you are intimidated by the application process, don’t let that stand as an obstacle either. Just put some work in it and see what happens. Even the application process itself was an experience. Just go for it!

Finally, I would like to thank Aalto for this summer, but more so, I would like to thank Aalto for the education I’m getting here for free. I truly feel that Aalto can withstand the comparison!

Cheers,
Konsta