By Yuchen Yan
Standing in front of San Francisco International Airport, I could not believe that I was really leaving Stanford University.
Two months ago, I came to Stanford University, one of the best institutes in the world, as a participant of the Stanford Summer International Honors Program. Astonished by the spacious and gorgeous campus upon arrival, I moved into Branner Hall where I met students from around the globe. My roommate was a lovely and energetic girl from Hong Kong University, majoring in Economics, and from the first day we had shared our different and similar studying and living experiences at Stanford as well as at our home institutes. Branner Hall was not merely a dormitory, but a small family within the huge campus. It is where we played the piano together in the lounge after class, where we had pizza and cupcakes while drawing postcards, where we shared news of our own countries, and where we watched movies late at weekend night until we all fell asleep in the sofa. But it was just part of the Stanford story, as little by little, I realized that the Stanford in summer is as colorful as a garden where I would have one of the most international experiences in my life.
I took two courses during the summer: International Law and International Relations, and History of Global Women Leaders. Each class was comprised of around 20 students from various majors in high school, college, and graduate school. As a student majoring in Japan and East Asian Studies, I threw myself into completely new fields about which I had no background knowledge. I have to admit that both courses seemed intimidating at the beginning in terms of content and intensity, but staying in both classes eventually turned out to be the best decision I made during the summer. I enjoyed reading case studies for International Law and combining legal issues with international relations. It was an intellectual challenge to discuss and debate in class on political situations happening around us. For the other class, the study of feminist history and women leadership was an eye-opening experience for me to think deeply for the first time about how women leaders emerged and changed some parts of our world. Above all, studying at Stanford had not just improved on my critical thinking and research ability, but also taught me about how students from different age group, background, and experience could think differently from me. Their ideas were inspiring and exciting, leading me to a world that I could never imagine by staying in Japan.
Another thing I enjoyed was to compare Stanford with my home institute, the University of Tokyo. Universities are like lenses through which we can observe the whole society. At Stanford I learned the easy and free spirit of American life. Whereas life in Tokyo is marked by order and speed, the two months at Stanford impressed me with the casual way of dressing, talking, walking, etc., as if everything is simple and easy in the breeze and sunshine. Strangers smiled and greeted each other on the street; kids played in the fountain when their parents were reading on the bench. When I was walking barefoot on the lawn in front of the library and eating an ice cream, I felt a relaxed and carefree happiness that I did not had when I was running in the crowded subway stations in Tokyo. Yet such lifestyle is nothing superior to the Japanese precision and tidiness. They are totally different values worthy of experience and appreciation.
In the end, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to FUTI, without the help of which I might not have the opportunity of being part of the fascinating program. It is a mid-summer dream that truly has happened, and left unforgettable memories that push me forward to the bigger and better world ahead.