First impressions from Stanford

yes, it’s true: I’m studying in Stanford for about 2 month this summer. I still have to pinch myself every now and then to truly believe that I’m here.

But let’s start from the beginning: I flew from Berlin to LA last friday (21st, yes, midsummer on a plane) and then from LA to San Francisco where I stayed at a friends’ place for one night. On Saturday I moved in to my dorm room at Stanford campus. One might not believe but you can actually take a bus + a train + another bus to get from somewhere in San Francisco to a dorm on Stanford campus ;) When I arrived it was super warm, in front of my dorm waited like 6 people with all different kinds of information material, the room keys, the renting contract, and finally a Stanford bottle. :) I’m living in a dorm called Branner Hall, on the east side of campus. As I’ve learned by now Stanford has the biggest campus in the US, and yes, it’s quite big and equipped with not just all kinds of grad school buildings and tons of different libraries (whose system I haven’t figured out yet) but also all kinds of sports facilities, reaching from a swimming stadium to baseball and football courts. Also tennis courts (many of them!) and a golf course (yes, a golf course) are situated on campus. The campus itself is architecture-wise pretty nice and old school: all houses are yellow (sandstone colored) and earthquake-proof. In the center (called main quat) you can also see how traditional and old they are. It’s pretty nice in there, but also around.
On my second day I went to Palo Alto by bus (which takes like 35min) to buy a longboard in a local skate shop. The board is quite nice, really! So I skated back from Palo Alto to my dorm in Stanford which only takes about 20min because you can actually take the direct way. That means you are going along Palm drive, that’s the photo you all have in mind when thinking of Stanford Campus (google it and you’ll know what I mean!). It’s awesome and feels just great skating there!!! Oh, one more thing to mention about the campus at this point: it’s almost completely car free. Instead there are free shuttle busses (which you don’t really use because you’ve got a longboard ;) ).
So on monday the serious life of taking courses started. I went to 2 on monday and 2 on tuesday. Monday started with “Engendering Compassion in Interactive Digital Media”, which was pretty nice but I will stil drop it for my Tuesday reading class (2 reading-classes are too much, really!) and in the evening I went to “Smart cities and communities”. I was a bit scared because it’s offered in one of the engineering departments, but the guy who is teaching is working for IBM and has a phd in philosophy. So the lecture is rather interactive and wants to raise questions instead of giving answers. The first lecture was about the concept and definition of smart cities: What is it that makes a city smart? I’m gonna write an essay on that, I already have many ideas and am looking forward to bringing them into some kind of order. Tuesday I went to “Social psychology of large-scale media interventions”, which is a pretty much about how to make people change their behavior for the better and in the afternoon I’m taking “Client-site internet technologies”, where I will finally learn the basics of all the web-development stuff I’m doing all the time without really knowing the basics.
Those are my “serious” courses. Almost all of them are taking place twice a week for about 1-2 hours. Smart cities and communities only once a week, but for 3 hours. Apart from that I’m taking a tennis class for beginners, taking place in the California sun during lunchtime. I was there today and it still is gonna be fun but I learned that I’ll need a head for that! Gonna go to some skate shop during the weekend ;)
This evening there was a free lecture by Albie Sachs, a human rights activist from South Africa that also worked very closely with Nelson Mandela. His talk was very personal and very very touching (especially in the end). The whole speech still needs to settle down inside me, I think. I hope there are more of these kinds of opportunities but I think there will be: A virtual reality tour on campus is already promised, participation in a case study on media entertainment promised and e.g., a car drive in the first fully self-driving car might also happen. For these kinds of things Stanford is awesome!

And news from off campus-life:
Today the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was declared to be against the US constitution and as a piece of luck there is the San Francisco Gay Pride this weekend. It’s gonna be a lot of fun, I’m REALLY looking forward! (but of course, I’m also looking forward to my courses tomorrow – on friday I’m generally free).