Thursday, May 1, 2008

Stanford, Stanford, Stanford, Oxford, Stanford, Stanford… (a bit like duck, duck, goose ;)

Getting to the San Francisco airport I checked my email one last time to any last minute instructions and then caught the shuttle to Stanford. The driver was really nice, but more importantly during the ride was able to call and talk to Cassy. She is doing so well! I miss her a ton and it was so nice to hear her voice. She and I lived together for three years! crazy! Anyway, I got to Stanford and found my friend Sarah’s apartment. She had left a key for under the mat. I was able to shower and get ready in time for Professor Davis to come get me for dinner. She picked me up and had with her two students she is currently advising. We went to a great Thai place. It was a very nice start to my visit :) After dinner Amy, one of the students, went with me to a lecture in a series called troubled waters which was put on by the department I would be in and I got a chance to hear three different professors talk. It was great! However, I didn’t stay the whole time but ducked out after the first few questions in the Q&A time mainly because I was about to fall asleep right there in the chair. I walked back to Sarah’s and called my Mom. She had been asleep so we didn’t talk long, but I did want to let her know I was there safe and had a nice time the first night.

In the morning on Wednesday I met with Amy in a more formal manner. She showed me around the building and we talked about professors, requirements, ect. Then I was able to sit in on an indoor air quality class which was interesting. After the class and before lunch I had just enough time to check my email. To my surprise, I discovered that I had been shortlisted for the Weidenfeld Scholarship at Oxford. This was huge news, but came at a very odd time indeed. Here I am falling in love with Stanford and all of the sudden Oxford is back on the map! Now what? Well, I accepted the invitation to attend the interview weekend and then figured out how to talk to the Stanford people about it. I also called my Mom about in hysterics with glee… I pulled it together and went to the next activity on my schedule which happened to be lunch :) Another grad student took me to lunch which was really fun. He was quite nice and has very similar research interests so we had a lot to talk about. Not to mention the food we got was great.

I had most of the afternoon free and so I went to the library and worked a bit on my paper for my thesis advisor who happened to be on sabbatical at Stanford. Talk about great timing. Anyway, for dinner I met up with my friend Mike from Princeton. We actually ate at one of the undergrad dining halls. I can’t complain though. They had amazing salmon and I welcomed the buffet style service ;) Sarah joined us as well for dinner which was great. Afterwards, she helped me do some laundry and we saw some other graduate housing options. Stanford has really nice facilities. And the laundry is free. (well, I am sure it is paid for many times over in the tuition, but you don’t have to think about every time you want to wash your clothes…) That night I turned in early. The time change makes talking to people on the East Coast at night rather challenging.

Thursday, my second day at Stanford was just as enjoyable as the first. In the morning I went running with Sarah. She showed me a great run up into the foothills. Sarah was leaving that morning to fly to NJ and visit some friends, but I was able to stay in her place while she was gone which was so nice of her. After quickly showering and eating a very nice breakfast with Sarah I was off to attend a course taught by Professor Davis, I really like her style, by the way. I had lunch with another Sara, one of the students from the first evening’s dinner. We ate with a bunch of other grad students in what they called “Lunch Club”. You sign up and then everyone takes turns making lunch for everybody else. I would also like to note at this point, if I end up at Stanford I will likely become a vegetarian or something resembling one. It is kind of inevitable. It seems like many of the students here are vegetarian. We’ll see how long I can hold out against the California influence. After lunch I met the civil and environmental engineering department chair, who it turns out advised one of my favorite Princeton professors when she was in grad school! Small world! My final appointment for the day was with Professor Davis. It was great to talk to her and I am happy about getting to work with her. I think it will be a good fit my interests and personality. She was also really excited about the Oxford possibility and has contact with a professor there as well. If I get the scholarship I will be able to defer Stanford for a year, get a Master’s from Oxford and then head to Stanford. If I don’t get the scholarship I can come straight to Stanford. Not bad options. Before going back to Sarah’s place I met with my thesis advisor and we went over the paper we had submitted and the changes I had made. It was great to get to talk to her and I glad I had such a positive experience with all of that stuff last year. She also introduced me to another professor there who teaches an advanced statistics course. It was nice to make that connection through someone else, as I will probably be taking one of her courses and now I know her.

I made it back to Sarah’s apartment and only stayed long enough to grab my camera. I walked around the campus taking pictures! Stanford is so beautiful. It is really quite astonishing! While photographing I saw an advertisement for the Stanford Art Museum. It wasn’t far so I decided to wander over in that direction as I was taking pictures. Fortunately for me it was a Thursday which meant the museum was open late and I could still go in. They have an extensive collection of Rodin Sculptures which were interesting to see, and I saw a special exhibit of Winslow Homer, Fredrich Church and some other guy about American landscapes. Funny thing is though, as I am going through I realize that everything is surprisingly familiar. That would be because I saw the same traveling exhibit when it was one display at the Tampa Art Museum. What a small world it is indeed! Anyway, to finish up my account of Thursday I decided to try and take one of the Stanford buses back instead of walking. I figured I should try out the public transportation system if I was going to go there. Well, turns out I took the bus in the wrong direction and ended up at the Palo Alto transit center. There I had to wait 40 minutes for the next bus going back. Needless to say it took about an hour and fifteen minutes for me to get back when if I had walked it would have been 20/25 at the most. You live, you learn. Besides I got to call and talk to my friend Lillie while I was waiting so all was not lost.

That night I turned in early, knowing I would be getting up early to run before Sara, the super nice grad student, was going to drive me to the airport. Originally, I was planning on taking the train which would have been fine, but it is only a 45 minute drive and Sara insisted that someone drive me. It was such a nice thing for her to do and I really appreciated it. Not having to haul my bags around and getting there in plenty of time to just relax was great. The run I went on Friday morning was also great. I ran a loop around the campus which was about 4 miles. I was toast afterwards. Traveling was really taking a toll on me.

My flight to Chicago, was in a word, unpleasant. There was a family with two little kids behind me and they were super hyped up. The kids were feeding off of each other’s antics and why the parents didn’t split up and divide and conquer is beyond me. And the two other people in my row were super sourpusses. I was very happy when that plane touched down. I was even happier though when I found my parents at the airport! I got to hug my Mom, Dad, Jordan and Ryan. Mom, Dad, and Ryan were coming to North Carolina with me, but Jordan had some other obligations. However, it was great he was able to come and spend some time at dinner with us. That meant a lot to me. At dinner, I unloaded all my Africa souvenirs and had fun sharing stories as fast I could get them out! Jordan headed home and the rest of us boarded our plane.