Leaving the familiar for the unknown

March 5, 2010, 12:58 a.m.

I would do anything to turn the time back to freshman year,” said Eugene Nho.

What some seniors would give to rewind.

For Nho and other Stanford seniors, the final year on the Farm is one defined by reflection on the past, an intensified effort to live in the present and a projection toward the future.

No two of Stanford’s seniors experience their final year in the same way. Some seniors eagerly anticipate graduation, bolstered by the comfort of having secured a future job. A few haven’t made any firm post-graduation plans. A handful are absolutely terrified. Others are just enjoying the ride.

“They’re a different breed in that they’re planning for June and beyond,” explained Felicity Meu, assistant director of student and young alumni development at the Office of Development, of the current seniors. “They’re thinking about life beyond the bubble.”

Nho, an economics major planning on working at a San Francisco consulting firm after graduation, said that the most unsettling part of leaving Stanford is precisely that— Stanford.

“I’m completely afraid of graduation because no matter how cool of a job you have, it’s not going to be school,” he said. “This is pretty much the best life I could ask for.”

For Elizabeth Bagot, the specter of life beyond Stanford is taking its toll on her.

“Instead of looking forward to the future, I’m terrified,” Bagot admitted. “I’m not yet at the point where I’m excited to graduate.”

“Right now I’m thinking, ‘Why am I not doing engineering?’” she added.

Christie Cho, a history major, noted that although one usually gains confidence over the course of their college career, Stanford seniors have their own set of insecurities.

“There are moments when you see this brilliant freshman,” Cho said, “and you think, ‘They have it way more figured out than I do.’”

But other seniors are ready to move on to the next phase of their life.

“I kind of feel a need to breathe,” said Joy Henry, a science, technology and society major. “A lot of Stanford students have basically been going non-stop since they were 16, so it will be nice to just be a normal human being. As weird as it is, real life will probably be a lot less stressful than Stanford.”

As a way of seeking closure, many seniors have attempted to retrace their time on the Farm and get back in touch with the eclectic communities that have shaped their identities.

“Senior year has been different in terms of reconnecting with the school,” said Walter Foxworth, a mechanical engineering major and a senior class president.

The combination of the intensity of the undergraduate experience, the incredible friends and the attachment one develops for life at Stanford make senior year bittersweet. When seniors point to the single aspect of the Stanford experience that they will miss most, it is almost unanimous: the people.

“You really begin to appreciate the friends you have made and really cherish it,” said Amir Ravandoust, a management science and engineering major.

For Ben Phillips, a big difference in the future will be the lack of everyday conversation among friends.

“I’ll definitely miss the camaraderie,” Phillips said. “I feel like there are a bunch of really great people here. You can just have the most excellent conversations, even about the most trivial stuff. I mean we’re so nerdy—I love it.”

For Ravandoust, senior year revolved around four main tasks: fulfilling GER requirements, writing a thesis, Pub Night and recruitment.

Cho said that her senior year has revolved around writing her senior thesis.

“This quarter I’m taking one class,” Cho said. “I’m also writing an honors thesis. It takes up 99 percent of my time.”

However, when seniors aren’t madly writing a thesis or prepping for job interviews, they are conscientiously trying to make the most of their remaining time.

Sonia Mendoza, a human biology major, decided to focus on her social life this year more than she has at any other time during her Stanford career.

“Senior year comes really fast,” Mendoza explained. “You just want to put the brakes on.”

Sam Julian, who intends to teach English abroad, is trying to use his senior year to complete some unfinished business.

“My band wants to get together and get all of its songs recorded before we graduate and break up,” he said. “Everything is coming to an end.”

Senior year also makes students reflect upon how much they have changed during their time at Stanford.

“You grow so much from when you’re a freshman to when you’re a senior,” Mendoza said. “You have no idea how much your life is going to change by the time you graduate.”

For Ravandoust, this growth meant learning that it was okay if the Stanford experience didn’t unfold in exactly the way he had planned.

“When I first came, I was in high school mode,” Ravandoust said. “My tolerance for things not going as I wanted was very low. Then over time, you explore and you see that things not going how you want them to won’t kill you.”

JR Heard, a computer science major living in Columbae, recognized that he had changed from the person he was as a freshman when he opted to live in a co-op.

“If I came here as a freshman, I wouldn’t have been interested in living in Columbae,” he said. “I mean co-ops are pretty weird. They tend to have pretty weird people.”

“And really, if anyone got into Stanford,” he added, “they’re already pretty weird.”

Finally, with more than three years of experience under their belt, seniors are some of the best sources of advice for life on the Farm. They’ve got a few tips for undergrads.

Ronnie Tisdale, a Resident Assistant (RA) in Murray, recommended that students remember to breathe while attempting to navigate their four years at Stanford.

“Calm down and take your time,” Tisdale said. “There’s no need to rush academically.”

To Foxworth, perseverance is critical to a successful Stanford run.

“It’s going to take you in and spit you out,” he said. “But you have to trust that you are going to come out as a very strong individual.”

Garner Kropp, a Daily photographer, offered his own advice on how to get the most out of the Stanford experienced, expertly distilled:

“Go abroad, go to football games and go to office hours. That pretty much sums it up.”

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