Posts Tagged ‘Germany’

‘Til the Fat Lady Sings: Reflections on an Impending Senior Year

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

"The time has come," the walrus said.

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?

Let’s start at the very beginning….

BREAKING NEWS: Stanford Hospital develops new technique for additive appendage growth.

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.    (more…)

When Europe Hits a Windmill: The Euro Crisis from Spain (Part I)

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Spain's flag together with the flags of Andalucía and the European Union. The family of European nations is facing the biggest challenge to its existence since World War II.

Recently I went to get some churros con chocolate with a friend studying at Universidad Complutense. He is an educated guy, very sharp, a real “pícaro” who does not hesitate to poke fun at something he finds ridiculous. We began to talk politics, specifically Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, and at one point I noted with amazement and some sympathy that the Germans would be inevitably responsible for bailing out the rest of Europe. My friend looked at me squarely in the eye and said, “They tried to conquer Europe twice in less than a century, without mercy, and left us with Franco. Que se jodan.

You do not have to agree with my friend to see his point. Europe is in serious trouble, and though the Spaniards continue to party until the sun rises, they are increasingly angry and disillusioned. After having experienced one of the great economic miracles of the twentieth century, Spain’s future looks decidedly grim. The Spanish youth will likely suffer a lower quality of life than that of their parents, and so far there appears to be little they can do about it.

In this post, I will attempt to explain Europe’s economic situation, tying in Spain where relevant. A follow-up post will elaborate on Spain’s current circumstances, focusing on what I have been able to observe in person.

The Debt Contagion – Too Little, Too Late

Why is Europe’s economic crisis so scary? The European Union (EU) is the world’s largest economy, with approximately 308 million people. If it goes bust and the 17-nation euro zone dissolves, an economic tsunami would hit the U.S. and the rest of the world. Stocks markets would tank, people’s savings would disappear, banks would stop lending and likely suffer a run on their accounts, and political chaos would follow.

This sounds like a drastic, impossible scenario, until you look at the numbers. Europe’s biggest debtors are facing unprecedented yields on their sovereign debt, with both Italy and Spain above 6% on ten-year bonds. Such levels necessitated European-sponsored bailouts in Ireland and Portugal over the past year. But Italy is the world’s eighth largest economy and third largest bond market. It is too big to be “bailed out.” Without investors buying its bonds, Italy’s government will simply run out of money and default on its debts. The EU’s situation is so tenuous that any number of events, from the failure of a big bank (read: France, whose banks are heavily exposed to Greek debt) to the collapse of a government to more unsuccessful bond auctions could cause its demise. Then there are the political pressures, which are already reaching a boiling point. Both Greece’s and Italy’s governments succumbed to the crisis this fall, and Spanish voters just gave Spain’s conservative opposition party, Partido Popular, an enormous victory on November 20. (more…)