Remember that thing called summer vacation?

Sept. 28, 2017, 6:57 a.m.

One of the blessings (or curses – take your pick) of social media is that we can truly get a taste of what our friends and classmates did over the summer, even if we didn’t stay in touch. And based on swiping through Snapchat stories (as well as some good old-fashioned talking), everyone had incredible summers. The majority of my friends were only finishing their freshman year at Stanford, and yet they were going abroad all around the world, working prestigious internships at high-powered tech companies or startups and going on crazy adventures with their friends.

To give you all a flavor of the many different summer experiences of Stanford students, I interviewed a few of my fellow sophomores (I still can’t believe we’re not freshmen anymore) about their summer experiences.

Many students choose to stay in the Bay Area after their freshman year, living on campus or in an apartment close to their job. Staying on campus for the summer always seemed like it was incredibly fun (I had some major FOMO back on the East Coast), although being so far away from home can be a bit of a drag too, especially if students weren’t right on campus.

But my experience working in New York City had its perks too. I was lucky enough to work at Mount Sinai Hospital in its Neurosurgery Research Lab, probably my favorite internship I’ve ever done. Going in and out of New York City every day (because, tragically, I didn’t actually live in New York City, but with my parents in our house in the suburbs) was always exciting, even if I hated all the evil commuters on my train.

But trying new dinner places in New York City (BTW, if you’re ever in the city, go to Beauty & Essex; they give out free rosé in the ladies’ bathroom) really pales when compared to some of my fellow sophomores’ experiences.

Catherine Jiang ’20 worked in the health tech sector this summer, interning as a product management intern at Spire in San Francisco. She really experienced “real life” this summer, living in an apartment in the Mission District with three housemates.  Living in SF was an adjustment, especially since Jiang didn’t know many people in the city. However, she took full advantage of the vibrant city surroundings, exploring neighborhoods and biking across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Inbar Kodesh ’20 stayed in the Bay Area this summer, working at GE Digital as a software engineering intern (which is honestly the most “Stanford-y” internship I’ve ever heard of). She worked in the security sector on an operating system called Predix for the industrial Internet. Working at these big tech companies sounds like an amazing deal – not only do interns gain valuable (and impressive!) experience, the companies organize social outings to build camaraderie.  All 100 interns were housed nearby in apartments, which led to friendships between college-aged students from across the country. On her days off, Kodesh explored San Francisco, Sausolito, Napa and Sonoma, finding tasty brunch places and going on beautiful hikes.

Diverging from all the techie internships, Valerie Rincon ’20 worked as a research assistant for the Stanford Immigration Policy Lab this summer, living on campus in Mirrielees. According to Rincon, what made her internship so fascinating was that the Stanford Lab didn’t only examine existing data but generated its own, making it a full-on research lab. She also explored beautiful California, road-tripping with friends to LA and Lake Tahoe.

Aviva Fallas ’20 returned to her hometown of Los Angeles for the summer, teaching computer science to high school kids at USC. During her first few weeks, she only taught low-income kids who couldn’t afford to pay tuition for a regular camp, giving back to the community on top of getting some impressive teaching experience herself.

Then there were all those people that went abroad over the summer. Anna von Preyss ’20 didn’t so much “go abroad” as go home (since she’s a Brit), but her summer working as an arts director at a London hospital sounded amazing nonetheless. Though, if I’m being honest, her trip to Tuscany sounded even dreamier. Think of the Italian food! The sun! Italian guys! (And her trip to Amsterdam sounds equally compelling – there’s waffles! And canals! And Dutch guys!)

Basically, it seems that many Stanford students had incredibly enviable (in a good way) summers.

However, there’s a darker side to this plethora of idyllic summer stories. It’s a well-worn tale, but social media distorts our perception of reality. Many “perfect” summers hid work stress, personal embarrassment, loneliness and all those other negatives that don’t appear in our perfectly edited Insta-world. Even when talking to friends about our summers, we have a tendency to gloss over the bad parts, if only to not sound ungrateful or whiny.

And no matter the true reality of our summers, we also have to remember all those who personally live or have family living in areas affected by the disturbing abundance of natural disasters these past few months. It’s challenging to fathom what it must be like to live in an area traumatized by natural disasters when we’re surrounded by such beauty at Stanford, but it’s essential that we don’t forget.

One thing’s for sure, though. Summer is officially over, and the p-sets have already started piling up even though it’s only Week 1 (hey Stanford, ever heard of syllabus week?!). And though I may complain about all our work, I’m so excited to be back. Really, if I’m being honest, I’ve been counting down the days since the start of summer.



Contact Caroline Dunn at cwdunn98 ‘at’

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