On the first day of NSO, I fell in love with my freshman dorm and dived head-first into the
community, forming friendships that were stronger then any I had ever experienced. As is the
case with many freshman, I became infatuated with the new power I held over my own routine
and life decisions.
One thing I learned quickly is that the circles of friends that you form aren't concentric, they are
overlapping and dynamic. I’ve heard Stanford described as a fishbowl—full of swirling and
chaotic movement, and short interactions with a multitude of different people. With such an
overwhelming quantity of connections, it's easy to get lost in the mix. I’ve found that the best
way to dive past surface level is to share something meaningful about yourself—a recent
challenge, a vulnerability—early in the course of meeting someone and seeing if they respond in
kind. My deepest friendships have formed after that first leap of faith and continue on a basis of
You’ll never have the chance to meet as many people as you do in college. I spent the majority of
my Autumn Quarter getting to know the students in my freshman dorm. In Winter and Spring, I
looked for more communities where I could connect with upperclassman and individuals who
shared my interests. I got involved in a health education non-profit in Palo Alto, an Alternative
Spring Break program and Greek life. This year, I’ve found new communities by counseling at
SHPRC and HIV*PACT. If I could give any piece of advice to a incoming or current frosh, I’d
tell them to be vulnerable and open.
Three weeks before I arrived at Stanford, I stared at the computer screen in horror at the premed
requirements. Organic Polyfunctional Compounds? Electricity and Magnetism? There’s no way
I’ll make it through those classes, especially among super-smart peers! That’s how I made the
decision not to take the pre-med requirements and to disregard my budding interest in medicine
before even speaking to an advisor, faculty member or Stanford student.
This decision had some pretty big repercussions—on one hand, it freed up my freshman year so
that I could take a hodgepodge of classes in anthropology, ethics, religious studies, public health,
creative writing, and economics. On the other, I threw away an entire potential future as a
physician on the self-defeating belief that I wasn’t capable of college-level physics or chemistry.
It wasn’t until I removed myself from the intense academic environment of Stanford that I could
be honest with myself and my abilities. Over the summer, I revisited the idea of entering into the
medical field, and I realized how short-sighted my previous decision had been. I reflected on
what I wanted to do with my life (become a genetic counselor) and realized I was 110% capable
and motivated to accomplish all the premed coursework, crisis counselor training, and research
experience that it required.
If you are an incoming freshman, or if you are still early in your academic career, remember this
—no matter what your educational background, you are at Stanford for a reason. Fear shouldn’t
prevent you from exploring an entire future—there is always a way to experience a field,
whether it is through a IntroSem, a SAM mentor, or a conversation with a upperclassman or
professor. Don’t make the mistake that I almost did, and not pursue something that I love
because the prerequisites were daunting. Never regret trying.
At the end of my freshman Spring Quarter, I left Stanford in happy and sentimental tears, saying
goodbye to the people I loved and could now consider part of my family. I couldn’t wait to
After a week at home, I boarded a 17 hour flight for Cape Town, South Africa. For eleven weeks
(the same structure as an academic quarter), I took classes and volunteered with a local public
health organization, while hiking and exploring the city in my spare time. Immediately after that
program ended, I returned to campus for a fantastic Sophomore College class called A New
Millennial Mix: The Art & Politics of the "Mixed Race Experience”. But my quarter abroad in
Cape Town was much heavier and emotionally intense then I had anticipated. This was a product
of my limited prior travel experience, the heavy subjects we addressed in class and the
interpersonal dynamics of the cohort. When I returned to campus after only two full days at
home, I wasn't able to give my full energy and enthusiasm to my Sophomore College experience.
That summer, I learned a valuable lesson to about quantity versus the quality of my education. I
could not give my whole effort to any class or experience if I overburdened myself. I had
avoided a feeling of burnout all of freshman year, only to experience the full brunt of it on my
Sophomore year, I learned to balance. I learned to self-care and to take classes that helped me to
reflect and relax—like peer counseling skills (EDUC193A) or a wellness class. My advice to you
is to fill your mornings and weekends and break with things that you love and look forward to—
whether that's running around Arastradero Preserve, day tripping to Half Moon Bay, or reading a
book in one of the cafes lining University Ave. I’ve always found in valuable to remove myself
from campus, where every building is a reminder of academia and the responsibilities of being a
student. You are a student, but that is not your entire identity, so be sure to take care of the other
parts of your life.
I’ve made so many mistakes at Stanford. I’ve tripped, stumbled, and fallen flat on my face, but
I’ve always found the strength to pick myself up again. It has always been through the unfailing
support of my friends and family. There are so many things I want to fit in to my next two and a
half years here, and I refuse to let fear stop me. Neither should you. Good luck!