We live in a dynamic time. Neil Armstrong is gone, but the Mars Curiosity roves on. Yahoo’s Marissa Meyer (Stanford ’97, ’99) is the youngest CEO in the Fortune 500 and its record 20th female. In November, most of us will vote in our first presidential election.
So, too, it is a dynamic time for those seniors returning to Stanford this year.
I just returned from six months abroad in Germany, and I’m currently in an awkward phase of readjustment. Why are dollar bills all the same size? Why are strangers being friendly to me? Where is the recycling? A transition so major after such a long time away can be difficult to digest… not least because the German diet consists primarily of meat and potatoes. But I digress.
With a couple of weeks before my senior year at Stanford, I’m also readjusting to the bizarre reality that Stanford Round 4 is right around the corner. As the inevitable bucket lists will undoubtedly show, I’m far from done here, with several more turns of the Circle of Death before I’ll kick off my flip flops and leave the Bubble. What will it mean to say goodbye?
Perhaps a good place to start is with my expectations coming in to Stanford. I love talking to new frosh about their majors, because all of them are going to double major in CS and IR with a minor in modern languages while keeping the door open for med school. You go, kids. I giggle now, but frankly I wasn’t so different. If the Kristi of 2009 had gotten her way, I’d be majoring in MatSci, sailing varsity, playing for Calypso, singing for Testimony, and dancing with Swingtime. I would also, apparently, never sleep.
As it turns out, I am doing none of those things. Yet I am blissfully happy with exactly where my Stanford experience has taken me. The beauty of Stanford is how it opens you up to new goals and dreams you never imagined possible. Even as an upperclassman you can suddenly find interests where you least expect them. As a Stanford friend of mine wrote, “Two of my absolute favorite things to do now? …I only really picked them up sophomore / junior year!” It’s never too late to find and follow your passions.
I’m keeping my mind open, my schedule free, and my rally gear on hand. And until I walk wackily into the “real world,” I intend to approach Stanford like every day is the day I got in.
Leaving Your Mark
Perhaps the scariest thing about nearing the end is how transient it makes us seem. Stanford will always be our home, but it won’t always be ours. Classes come and go, but by fall 2013 the undergrad population will be entirely different from the one I encountered as a freshman. These buildings, these classes, that shady spot in a quiet Quad courtyard – all of these things are permanent, while we are merely passing through. Freshmen, I bequeath unto you the Echo Spot. Let it serve you well.
My recent time in Europe provides a good example of this unsettling transience. In Berlin, a fond concept is that of the “Kiez” (KEY-tss). It’s your “hood,” where you always hang out, meet friends, and the local servers already know your order. Analogy: How I Met Your Mother is to McClaren’s as Berlin is to your Kiez. In my Kiez, I had a favorite boba place that I frequented for 3 months. They knew my order, I had a frequent customer card, the whole shebang. (Though I didn’t complete the card without assistance… you could say I get chai with a little help from my friends.)
I spent the summer working in Stuttgart, and upon returning briefly to Berlin in August, my boba place was completely gone. No sign, no happy neon anime napkins, NOTHING. It had been replaced by a second hand bookstore, and a place I had once called my own no longer existed.
Class of 2013, let us not be that boba store.
Now, I realize that unless your last name is Arrillaga, you may not be donating a building for a few years. That’s not what I’m getting at. If I’ve learned anything from the number of Stanford admissions talks I’ve attended (read: it’s over 9000, I’m a tour guide), it’s that we were carefully selected to craft an experimental community. It’s like a psych study, but we’re paying them. We’re here to learn, interact, and grow as much as we can, and it’s up to us to use these stimuli and make something out of it. Do we want to be a “meh” class, or are we truly the “LAST GREAT CLASS OF 2013“?
Appreciate every last drop of the gift that is a senior year at Stanford. Our time here is fleeting, but as every touchdown reminds us, it’s “all right now, baby, it’s all right now.”