Upon graduation, one of my favorite members of the class of 2011 stated, “we may leave this place, but this place will never leave us.”
As a senior, I’m in the sunset year of my undergraduate experience, and profound observations like this imbue me with a sense of premature nostalgia. While I’m blessed to have two more years here on the Farm (thank you, coterm), I can’t help but gaze a little more solemnly at sunset-splashed Hoover Tower as I bike home from class, and yell a little too enthusiastically at football games. Our time here is fleeting and, as our breathtakingly fast quarter system constantly reminds us, it is too easy to get caught in the ride and miss the scenery.
As a tour guide, I’m fortunate to serve as one of the main ambassadors to alumni when they return, a little grayer and a little more well-loved, to their alma mater. The exclamations vary (“I can’t find anything – what are all these buildings?” “Is that a bear on top of the Claw?”), but one sentence and sentiment permeates each conversation I have with them.
“You are so lucky to be here.”
“Yes, definitely!” I reply. But the answer is never sufficient; saying it once is never enough. The 80-year-old gentleman looks me dead in the eyes: “you are so lucky to be here.” And as our eyes meet I realize it has nothing to do with me, but everything to do with the love he holds for this school, this history, the friends made and experiences had, the freedom, the spirit, the limitless passion that is this place. “This,” he is really saying, “is my home. May it define you as it has defined me.”
This Homecoming weekend, Stanford comes back alive with the memories of decades past. Quad arcades ring with the cacophony of reverberated laughter as the conversations and company echo an earlier time.
Though I don’t know them, and they were never my classmates, it feels like a great big family.
I like to believe that there’s a reason football tailgates are fraught with happy Stanford offspring munchkins. There’s a reason the Alumni Center never uses the phrase “Welcome Back,” but rather “Welcome Home.” Stanford students never truly leave; they simply take progressively longer vacations.
I’m grateful for the constant presence of Stanford alums in the Stanford community today. From services like Stanford Alumni Mentoring to the vast influx of alum recruiters during events like yesterday’s Career Fair to the massive student send-off parties throughout the nation, it’s amazing how people who have never met you are rooting for you. Fellow students, that is an awesome phenomenon. Make sure to foster that relationship, keep it strong, and someday, let’s make sure to return the favor.
To the Stanford alumni completing the pilgrimage this weekend: thank you, and welcome home.