Dear soon-to-be-Stanford students –
It’s 2:00 AM here in Palo Alto as I write this letter, an hour I am no stranger to (and like it or not, unless you’re one of those zany “morning people”, you’ll become very familiar with this hour as well once you get to campus). The more I reflect on my past two years at Stanford, the more I realize that I was not worried about whether or not I was made to cut it at this campus. I worked my rear end off in high school, as did my parents (often, it can be a team effort). Truthfully, I was worried that Stanford may not have been made for me. What if Stanford was made for all the STEM students, or students that were ready and eager to do research with some of the brightest minds here too? What if it was made for all the athletes who put in hours of hard work before I have even gotten out of bed?
Was I wrong!
I have known that I want to pursue some form of entertainment media career since I was a little kid riding in the back of my parents’ car watching movies on the way to hockey tournaments. I thought I wanted to be a producer, a writer, a director, maybe even an actor… and so on. Entering college, I was worried that Stanford may not have the opportunities for arts, entertainment and creative media industries that other campuses did.
That thought was mistake number 1 –
Since coming to Stanford, I have found a burgeoning filmmaking community with which I have produced seven short films, made close friends through night shoots in freezing Stanford weather (OK, it might not be that cold, but I’m from Texas – give me a break y’all). I’ve even partnered with my tech-whiz-best-friend to help light up an outdated elevator panel and make it operational for one of my most ambitious films.
Each of the past two spring breaks I have been able to both participate in and lead a trip to Los Angeles where I met Stanford alumni that are now working in Hollywood as writers, agents, casting directors, producers, studio executives, directors, attorneys, you name it – Stanford has someone who is “it”. Meeting with these people opened my eyes to what working in the “industry” is like and has impassioned me to read scripts, be informed about Hollywood current events, and learn more about technical filming experiences.
Mistake number 2 –
While my classes have been illuminating and my club opportunities unparalleled, it is the friends and Catholic community outside of classes that have made the first two years so fulfilling. Your first year will be all about meeting new people, both in your frosh dorm and outside of it. Open-door policies are the norm your first year, and some of your best friendships or most enjoyable late-night conversations or study sessions will come from it. Enjoy starting conversations. Get used to introducing yourself. Most importantly, I encourage you to talk to people who have had different experiences than you, and that is nearly everyone on campus. Classes at Stanford “educate” you, but these intimate and engaging conversations will make you more learned, worldly, and mature. It certainly did for me.
Ironically, my closest friends are all engineering or HumBio majors, and some of my closest ones could care less about movies when I first met them. Now they share a passion for many of my favorite TV shows and movies, even if I had to force them to watch that show or movie the first time around. My closest friends have tried (and failed) to teach me their signal processing homework and other STEM stuff – I act like I understand (but often don’t). One of my dearest friends often shares her passion for babies and neonatal care; consequently, I have picked up more HumBio terminology than I know what to do with, in turn, she has helped me with my video and design projects for classes or clubs.
My point is that I have seen STEM and arts students find passion and inspiration in one another’s interests. My parting message is this – arrive on campus with an open mind, eager to meet new people, and have new experiences. Stanford absolutely has something for everyone – go in with open mind and eyes and find it. Stanford’s diversity and the intellectual curiosity of its students are what make your new home such a special place. Let Stanford help you discover who you really are and what you are supposed to be – someone that your younger self, whether they were watching movies in the back of their parents car or something else altogether, would be proud of.