I am an Industrial Engineering and Management student, and I was honored to attend Stanford Summer Session International Honors Program after my second year of studies. This adventure is both personally and professionally one of the most impactful things in my life thus far.
As Tommi and I had the same courses, I will concentrate more on the courses and Tommi on the life outside the classrooms. I selected my courses in a way that I found logical: I chose courses in topics which interest me, and in which I believe Stanford is one of the best in the world, and at least better than Aalto. First on my list was Public Speaking: Romancing the Room, second was Technology Entrepreneurship and last I chose Leading Trends in Information Technology. These together combined to 8 units.
Public Speaking: Romancing the Room (3 units)
This is a tremendous course. You will learn basics of public speaking from a great teacher, Prof. Wagstaffe, and will have a lot of fun while doing it! Many people think that public speaking is intimidating and something to avoid as much as possible, and I say that this course is great for those people! And for anyone who wants to gain experience or develop in public speaking.
The atmosphere in the classroom is very open minded and welcoming: everybody is there to develop and everybody starts from their own level. Because of the nature of public speaking you will get to know a lot of new people, also outside of IHP students. On the other hand, us IHP students on the course had a lot of fun preparing and practicing our speeches together at Branner Hall (our dormitory). The classes were great even though they lasted for 3 hours late in the evening, mostly thanks to the lively and energetic teaching style of the professor, and the fact that the classes are a lot about speaking and listening and less about learning theory.
If you have a lot of experience in public speaking and think you are very comfortable with it, I would not suggest this course, since it begins from grassroot level and you might not get as much out of it as people who start from scratch.
Technology Entrepreneurship (4 units)
This is a very popular course in Stanford, due to its inspiring and energetic atmosphere. There are a lot of guest speakers throughout the course who present various aspects of entrepreneurship and early stage startups. The main assignments on the course are two presentations on your group work and a personal business plan.
Group project is done in groups of 5-6, and the idea is to develop an idea into a business plan for a startup. Groups are formed during the first week of the course, so be active on the first lectures and talk to other students, or even before first class if you meet people who are taking this course too. Groups are formed either around someone’s idea (students can present their ideas in class) or around a common interest (students with shared interests form a group and figure out their idea later). If you are going to take this course, I would suggest that you think of a few ideas beforehand, and you might find a group of students who are interested to join your team!
Personal business plan was a great experience even though at first the task was quite difficult. Simply put, you have to figure out what you are interested in and how you would like your life to look like in the future. After defining a potential future, you will make a business plan for yourself: how will you reach that kind of a future? As I said, at first the task was difficult to approach, how could I know what I want to do? But it is a great experience and exercise for one to look deep into their own aspirations, motivations and values. After all, I myself found it useful and interesting, and I know Tommi did, too. If you are interested in entrepreneurship, startups, business models or venture capital, you would enjoy this course. If you have taken a course that is similar to this kind of a project or know startup field well, you might want to consider other options, since 4 units is a large chunk of your available units at Stanford.
Leading Trends in Information Technology (1 unit)
As I had already chosen two courses totaling to 7 units, I had only maximum 2 units left to choose a course for. I ended up choosing Leading Trends in Information Technology (3-unit option also available). This course introduces students to new technologies and concepts such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, cloud computing and blockchain. These topics are covered by visiting speakers from companies such as Microsoft, LinkedIn and many others that are located in the area, and many of the speakers are Stanford alumni. I myself enjoyed the approach to these technologies: it was not too technical for me, neither too business oriented or superficial. There was a good combination of covering the technical aspects and the business applications. The 1-unit option covered only attending the lectures and commenting on the blog posts and final presentations of students who take the 3-unit option. A downside was that the class was arranged on Friday afternoons…
Last, I want to share some tips to you, even though I know the others will provide them in a larger scale. The tips that must be emphasized:
- Talk to people: say hi to everyone, have a little small talk, or even better, be actually interested in other people! Remembering names is hard at first but don’t be slowed down by that. It is OK to ask for someone’s name more than once, there’s over a hundred new people in your dormitory alone!
- Enjoy the freedom: I had more time to think than I have had in a long time. And it was one of the best things of the summer! Enjoy the possibility to explore California, think about the world and life and have midnight conversations on the balcony with brilliant people. Do your assignments and homework efficiently and well, and you’ll have plenty of time for other stuff too!
- Be open minded and let yourself think big: Have an open mind towards both people and ideas.
- Exploit your Stanford status in every way possible: Contact people with your Stanford e-mail address, talk to visiting lecturers and professors at campus, be proactive to meet people in the area. In Silicon Valley you will have a chance to tell your idea/message first, and then a person you contacted will determine if they are interested. They seldom turn you down before you introduce your idea/message.
- Ask about courses from Stanford alumni, descriptions are short and may not tell you much.
Below some pictures from the trip. Feel free to reach out to me with questions about the experience, I’d be happy to help.
All the best,