This past weekend I went to Greece to meet up with my best friend for my 21st birthday. Every part of that previous sentence makes it sound like I’m writing about someone else, an insanely rich Upper East Sider, for example, or a sophisticated, edgy world traveler. But nope, one-way flights were 43 dollars, and I figured since I was in Europe, I might as well see another country besides Italy.
It was one of the happiest times of my life. I walked into my room, and a small pile of gifts from my friends back home was waiting. They’d had my best friend take them to Oxford with her way back in March, and for a moment it was like they were there with me, too.
We stayed at a place that was a two-minute walk from the sea, and the water was the clearest green and darkest blue I’ve ever seen. We hiked to the Acropolis, which had a surprisingly great view of Athens, ate falafels at a flea market and walked through a museum that served us the best baklava and cinnamon ice cream you can imagine.
We took a couple hundred photos in a garden that had a pond full of turtles and a playground full of kids, stole a sunset from a random restaurant rooftop, drank cocktails at a bar decorated with fairy lights that made it look like the ceiling was raining stars and managed to get home despite the same bus line kicking us out at the same stop, twice.
We went to a salt lake where, if you stood in the shallows, small fish would come and nibble on your feet, and if you swam to the middle you could float, eyes closed, for as long as you liked without moving a muscle. We splurged at a restaurant and ordered shrimp and mussels lying on melted cheese and served inside a boat of bread, fried cod with lemon garlic sauce and chocolate mousse drizzled with caramel. And of course, we finished the night by watching “Gossip Girl” on Netflix and wondering whether any city could really possess so many attractive guys in such proximity.
But the best part was spending time with my best friend, somebody who I didn’t know three years ago and who I never would’ve met if I hadn’t come to Stanford.
It’s not that this school doesn’t have problems. But in many ways, my perception of Stanford isn’t of this nebulous organization that sends out press releases when things go wrong or of the seemingly endless network of faceless alumni monetarily involved with the university or of the many prestigious professors, high-powered speakers, cutting-edge labs and rigorous classes that are everyday fixtures on campus.
Stanford is simply the place that made it possible for me to meet the people who are most precious to me. The people who I’ll hold close to my heart even when graduation scatters us across states and countries, even when years pass between us seeing each other, even when I realize that the people I ate endless meals with at late night and complained about papers and p-sets with are not quite the same people who have bought their own houses, gotten married and had kids.
Studying abroad has proven to me that the Stanford experience is something that stretches past the campus and will probably stretch past senior year, too. And oddly enough, I hope it will, not because I want a primary part of my identity to be “Stanford Grad” (although I hope that does gain me some cred in the job market) but because I want the friends I’ve made here to always be part of who I am, not just who I was.
I hope we all are blessed enough to take deep, lasting friendships away from this school, regardless of what networking connections we’ve made or what grades we’ve gotten in core classes. Because in the end, I have to admit … as much as I enjoy debating ethics during discussion sections and finishing new stories for writing workshops and telling my parents things like “Hillary Clinton was on campus yesterday” or “turns out my professor used to be the Secretary of Defense,” I enjoy hanging out in my friends’ rooms more, even if we’re just flat-out napping or watching YouTube videos.
They don’t put things like that on the brochures they send to ProFros because it’s not very impressive, but for me, it’s true.
Contact Katiana Uyemura at kuyemura ‘at’ stanford.edu.