The Grind

POV: You’re 250 feet above Stanford’s campus

May 29, 2022, 8:34 p.m.

Near the end of my freshman fall quarter, I created my Stanford bucket list, or a list of everything I hoped to explore, accomplish and experience before I graduate. While I was creating this list, I did not expect to successfully complete my frosh year plan, let alone items for later years. On May 20, two of my friends and I spontaneously decided to visit Hoover Tower, securing a reservation for the observation deck. Although this was not originally on my list, it was a memorable experience to close frosh year.

Standing boldly at approximately 285 feet, Hoover Tower is the iconic tower featured in virtually every Stanford advertisement I saw throughout my childhood. It was surreal being escorted by a friendly staff member up to Floor 14: the observation deck. While we were in the elevator, we spoke with the staff member about how we have been looking forward to going up the tower and seeing the view since New Student Orientation (NSO).

When we arrived, the elevator doors swept to the side and our eyes were met with the refreshing sight of Stanford’s campus, only with a twist of perspective. For me, my typical 5-foot-high point of view was now replaced with a far bigger picture. I could see all the way from Governor’s Corner to Escondido Village Graduate Residences. It was our first time seeing the rooftops of various buildings, among other exciting areas like the entire Stanford Dish trail (plus the Dish itself), our dorm (Larkin love!), the entirety of Main Quad and even the bay in the far distance.

While we admired the beautiful view, I asked my friends to reflect on their reactions to visiting the observation deck for the first time. I took the time to reflect a bit, too. Here’s what we had to say:

Giannka Picache ‘25 got metaphorical and nostalgic in her reflection —

“Besides being a one-of-a-kind experience, standing atop the tallest building on campus while nearing the end of our freshman year kinda reminded me of the phrase I always say: ‘benefit of hindsight.’ At the start of the year, us tiny [frosh] were sprawling and walking with no hugely definitive path ahead, sort of like the bustling crowd of people below the building, unknowing of the people watching from above and afar. In some ways, I‘d like to think I started the year as someone on the ground, without much “height” (i.e. experience) to know what the path ahead looked like. But now as a rising sophomore and an observer standing atop Hoover Tower, I can observe my past self who was once unclear of the path ahead. Now I realize how excited I am to pursue even greater heights!”

Lindsey Holiday ‘25 shared her reflection in the style of a bite-sized TripAdvisor review —

“Hoover Tower is open! Any Stanford student can take up to three people up to the observation deck. I went with some friends last week and it was awesome! Shoutout to Vivian for planning it out. Staff members are super friendly. Definitely recommend it!”

I found myself reflecting on what I observed about campus, standing 250 feet above ground level — 

“In January 2022, I spontaneously decided to become a campus tour guide at Stanford. I thought that it was something I’d save for senior year, but I did not want to miss out on this exciting opportunity, especially since it’s been something I’ve wanted to do. After a few months of the application process, I was pleasantly surprised to be rolled out by the veteran tour guides. Since starting the job, I now view campus from a different lens. I’m supposed to know our campus like the back of my hand, yet, when standing here in the tallest building on campus, campus once again surprises me because of its size. I see a group of girls biking together, most likely heading to class. I see a young child playing on the grass with their mom and dad, most likely locals who want to enjoy the sunny Palo Alto weather on this Friday afternoon. I see a girl squinting at her laptop in frustration, most likely working on the CS 107 assignment that is due at 11:59 p.m. (A little too relatable.)

As I continue to observe the liveliness of campus this afternoon, I cannot help but think about how campus is gradually regaining its hustle and bustle that it lost due to the pandemic. I also reflect on how much personal growth I’ve experienced over the past year — my friends that I’m currently standing next to were not in my life one year ago, yet they are now some of the closest in my life.”

As we near the end of the school year, I’m optimistic that Stanford will continue to maintain its liveliness as more buildings open and more social events occur. Visiting Hoover Tower was a full circle moment for me, especially as I wrap up my freshman year at Stanford. I still remember how my friend, Aya Aziz ‘25, referred to Hoover Tower as her North Star during NSO. I remember feeling lost and alone during NSO, thinking that Wilbur Dining was next to Main Quad because I was too afraid to pull out Google Maps and be revealed as a frosh. I remember thinking that I wasn’t fit for computer science because it felt as if my peers learned to code before they learned to walk. I remember thinking that I would never find a community here because it seemed as if everyone already knew people before arriving.

Turns out, I had it all wrong. Now, I cannot help but think that I’ve found my purpose, place and people here at Stanford. It just took a bit of zooming out (& up!) to realize this.

Vivian Wang ’25 is a staff writer at The Daily. She is from Orange County, California and is currently studying Symbolic Systems. Contact her at imvivian ‘at’ stanford.edu to talk about tech, journalism, Disneyland or anything else.

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