Frolicking in fountains

May 22, 2012, 3:02 a.m.
Frolicking in fountains
Fountain hopping, a Stanford tradition that normally takes place during Admit Weekend and New Student Orientation, entails that students run and jump into the various fountains around Stanford's campus.(M. J MA/The Stanford Daily)

The fountain, previously masked by construction work, where the Terman Engineering Center stood, combined with 77-degree weather in recent weeks, has given rise to an increase in fountain-hopping talk around campus.

Have you seen that fountain? It’s like it was made for fountain hopping!” students exclaim, referring to the pool-length fountain located across the street from Roble, with tall, sloping grass hills clearly made with student sunbathing needs in mind.

My first experience was everything that fountain hopping is supposed to be, or at least what I thought it was supposed to be based on the endless hours of “Stanford stalking” I partook in during the last, lonely three weeks of summer when all my friends had already begun their college adventures. Like many of my other freshman peers itching to get to campus, I read every bit of literature ever published about Stanford before arriving in late September, which both whetted my appetite for school and increased my fluency in Stanford abbreviations.

I was in a group of seven in a minivan on the way back from Hoover Wilderness after a Stanford Pre-Orientation Trip (SPOT), and after six days of bonding over summer sausage, hiking and sleep deprivation, we had regressed to acting like 7-year-olds, stuffing muddy handkerchiefs in our mouths and sticking sweaty socks in each others’ faces.

Our SPOT leader tried to get us all to “simmer down” and act our age, but, in the end, the only thing that could satiate us was a much-needed nap. Luckily, the painful, five-hour car ride made our arrival to Stanford even sweeter than it would have been otherwise. We woke up to the staggering site of the million or so palm trees leading straight into the heart of campus, hushing us as our designations as Stanford students hit us for the first time.

Immediately following our arrival, we were able to fully initiate ourselves with an inaugural fountain hop as a substitute for showering after our camping trip. Our SPOT leader, veteran fountain hopper Charlie Johnson ’12, had the brilliant idea of going fountain hopping instead of just sitting in the hot dust of the Eucalyptus Grove while waiting in line for the showers.

Fully prepared in river sandals, we started sprinting for the red fountain in front of Green Library. After stubbing our toes on the lights at the bottom of the fountain, we ran to our next destination, the small fountain in front of Old Union, where we made a whirlpool and tried to scramble up onto its top, the rough surface cutting up our elbows, and in my case, leaving a scar. Instead of moving onto the Claw, which was closed for renovations, we finished our fountain-hopping course in the small fountain outside the Bing Wing of Green Library, piling into it until it overflowed.

By then we were exhausted from sprinting, so we sat out on the grass in the Quad to enjoy each other’s company for what would be one of our last times as a SPOT group before New Student Orientation (NSO) began.

I remember distinctly the golden light filtering through the palm fronds above us and illuminating the campus as we dried off and relaxed under the afternoon sun. As we gazed through the glowing archway into the barren expanse of the Quad that last evening, it was as if we could see the next four years of our lives stretched before us, with our first fountain-hopping experience serving as a mark of its beginning.

Taking part in a Stanford tradition with the small group of friends that I had grown so close to in just a few days gave me a glimpse of what the next few weeks, months and years had in store for me.

At one point or another, fountain hopping plays a part in most students’ collections of “I’m the luckiest person in the world to be at Stanford” moments. This year’s freshmen from all over campus list their first fountain-hopping experience as one that helped shape their first year on campus.

“It was one of the first things that we did as a dorm, and it was a very formative bonding experience,” said Noam Rosenthal ’15. “We had a boom box blasting, and when we got back to the dorm, we were all wet and we just had a dance party in the hallway.”

“I felt initiated into the Stanford experience,” said Atticus Christensen ’15, of his freshman dorm’s NSO fountain- hopping excursion.

While fountain hopping plays a key role in so many Stanford students’ experiences, there’s always the student who still has not gone fountain hopping, perhaps because he or she is not interested in dealing with chlorine-infused hair or running around with wet clothes, supposedly looking foolish in front of tourists.

Caitlin Byrnes ’15 said the reason she has yet to fountain hop is because she “didn’t have the right sassy bathing suit” for most of the year. Fortunately for her — and the fountain-hopping tradition — she recently acquired one.

As my freshman year finishes up, I can look back at my first fountain-hopping experience — or down at the scar on my elbow — and remember the quintessential Stanford tradition with fondness as the first time I felt I belonged on campus.


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