Monthly Archives: October 2009

The Stanford Bubble

I spent the first 18 years of my life trying to get into college and the last 2 trying to get out.

That’s not to say that I spent my freshman and sophomore years at Stanford biding my time, waiting for the perfect moment to drop out or run away or take some other equally dramatic action––that would be a terrible waste of all those palm trees on Palm Drive that I’ve invested in with my tuition dollars––but rather that I’ve long wondered how best to break free of the Stanford Bubble, in mind and in body.

For the uninitiated, the “Stanford Bubble” is a term often tossed around in reference to the once-in-a-blue-moon frequency with which students get off-campus. The phenomenon stems from the immense size––Stanford, CA is its own city, with its own ZIP code, 94305––and the self-sufficiency of the Farm, and usually refers to the day-to-day physical insularity that students here experience and bemoan jokingly, but it applies just as well to the psychological disconnect that grows with every passing day on the campus of any university, so-called “elite” or otherwise.

I'll try to avoid this...

I'll try to avoid this...

It comes down to a loss of perspective. The exigencies of the quarter system force upon us a terrible triumviral ultimatum: academics, sleep, a social life––choose two. Keeping in touch and up to date with the world beyond 94305 isn’t even an option. And sometimes we get so caught up in the relentless rush of midterms and problem sets and meetings that we simply forget why we came to college in the first place: to continue our education and to make our visions of the future into reality.

But I really can’t complain.

See?

See?

I’m where I want to be, doing what I want to do––i.e., going to Stanford, making new friends, learning a lot, working my ass off, running all over the country. But the weight of the world lies squarely on my shoulders when I think about everything I want to and believe I can accomplish. I do my best to live 100% in the moment, but when “the moment” is 7 hours into a problem set that strains the limits of both my understanding of PDEs/circuits/signal processing and my ability to conjure up reasonable-looking answers, I still can’t help but wonder why I’m spending $200,000 and 4 years of my life “learning how to learn.”

It’s only when I reconnect with a friend I haven’t seen in a while or fly home to my family in Ohio that I can take a step back, recover perspective, and find my center, so to speak. It’s those moments that drive me, that revive me, that propel me forward into every new day with an extra spring in my step. No day is ever better than today, but I still can’t wait for tomorrow.

-Joel

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Stanford 24, UCLA 16

Amazing.

Stanford Football just beat UCLA, 24-16, we’re tied for 1st place in the PAC-10 with a 3-0 conference record (4-1 overall)––our best start since last century (aka 1995)––and our bowling ball of a running back Toby Gerhart is being tabbed as a leading Heisman candidate.

Check out this great clip from Stanford Athletics (skip to around 2:00):

Go Stanford!

-Joel

P.S. Half of Stanford’s football team lives in my dorm (Lantana), 1 floor up from me. No sleep tonight.

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The Stress-Free EE

After reading a very wise blog post about avoiding unnecessary stress as a college student, I decided to take a minimalist (read: reasonable) course load this quarter. In every other quarter I’ve been at Stanford, I’ve always added class after class onto my schedule in some kind of misguided attempt to recoup some small part of my $50,000-a-year––or equivalently, 10 new palm trees a year––donation to Stanford’s dwindling coffers.

1_PalmDrive

Yes, I have a palm tree.

My average quarterly unit count, current as of 2 weeks ago, was stable right around 19 units––anywhere from 5 to 7 classes each quarter.

My unit count this quarter: 13 16 units.

It’s pretty sweet.

Of course, that does include a legendary 1-unit lab that’s a 20-hours-per-weekend rite of passage for Stanford undergrad EEs. Still.

Here’s my schedule this quarter:

EE102B: Signal Processing and Linear Systems II

EE108A: Digital Systems I

EE102E: Technical/Professional Writing for Electrical Engineers (WIM)

MSE156: Solar Cells, Fuel Cells, and Batteries: Materials for the Energy Solution

With a healthier course load, I can actually go to office hours and keep up with reading and occasionally even sleep. That’s not to say that I have any free time. That would be ridiculous. 🙂 But I’ve discovered that actually spending more than one uninterrupted hour focusing on a single subject without having to run off to yet another lecture affords me the opportunity to actually learn something.

Imagine that.

-Joel

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