I considered writing a “how to” kind of a post for grad students arriving to Stanford for the first time, but got lucky – my GSB Sloan 2013 classmate Herbert already did just that here. So if that’s the web search topic that got you here – go read what Herbert says, I (for the most part) fully agree.
But nevertheless, let me add a few more random thoughts, impressions and inspirations from the first 2 weeks:
- Choosing to live on campus is the right choice, it is already clear now. Yes, the apartment is a notch or a few below in size and fanciness from what you might have been used to at home, but the benefits in no commute, overall campus facilities and ambiance and virtually no overhead for getting together with classmates are clear.
- It pays off to get in the early bird rhythm right off your jetlag fight. I have never been a morning person, but the weather is so perfect already at 7:30am here, that I am willing to go for a quick run. First classes will start at 8:30am anyway, so good to be in that cycle already before.
- Speaking of moving yourself, the campus is so well planned out and executed that you will just start doing it naturally. I live exactly 1km from classrooms, meaning that it is a nice 12 min walk, likely too-short to bother a bike ride most days. Running trails, biking rounds, tennis, basketball and beach volleyball courts here and there between campus housing, etc. Full size olympic pools outdoors and own golf course are walking distance. And I’ve even havent looked into things indoors.
- Moving even into a furnished apartment means more household shopping in week #1 than I personally like to do in a few years total – just the baseline needs for a coffee cup, a fork, towels or that tiny shelf that fits in the tiny bathroom. And no, you will not know to add them all in the list when you head for the store. The solution here has been threefold for me:
- take every handdown and yard sale offer from outgoing graduates you can: little used, symbolically priced things like bikes or toasters or washing machines that are already on campus and don’t need transportation are perfect for what you need in for a year.
- for everything else you don’t get that way, ask (and share!) tips with your classmates and friends – you basically need similar stuff in the very short time window.
- stop going to stores as soon as possible – it is a waste of time. Amazon Prime gives you free two-day shipping for $79/year (6 months free with .edu email address!) – meaning you just place orders the second you remember them and move on with your life. The result is a constant flow of single and bundled packages flowing to your door – with no scheduling to even be home to accept them necessary.
- A long-term car rental was a mistake (fixed now). For what you pay to the global rental brands a year you can buy a really nice 3-4 year old car (which you can resell in the year with minimum wear). And if you really don’t care or need, you can get something very drivable with four wheels for like 2 months of new car rental money.
- Most of what you have heard (at least in e-banking centric parts of the world) about US consumer banking being far behind some other parts of the world seems to be outdated. The functionality can be different, but human service is excellent, banks near campus know how to deal with people without social security numbers (such as us, international students are), response fast and checkbooks handed out just from souvenir-inertia, it seems. At least at Wells Fargo. The only situation where I’ve been caught in kafkaesque fraud filters (think faxing 6 copies of your passport a week + answering long questionnaires by phone) dealing with money has been with a US brokerage account which has had me on record as an Estonian for years – and thus gets really confused if I suddenly start wiring money around on an US IP address.
- Stanford is so wifified (no, I’m afraid it is not a word) that you just have to register devices and get high quality access anywhere, from dorms to campuses to all open spaces. No need for own wifi setups. And the data plan on my AT&T local prepaid card goes virtually unused.
- Start seeing your old and new friends you want to see outside of school immediately. I’ve caught up with a dozen old friends already, dropped by two startup events (At 500 Startups in Mountain View and Hollywood Meets Silicon Valley up in San Francisco), been invited to a very inspiring weekly Prometheus weekend dinner series (probably a good topic for a blogpost in itself one day) and lined up a few more things. But it is becoming obvious the number of possible off-campus hours will sharply go down from here – so I am already maintaining a todo list of folks I haven’t reached out to yet.
So there. Almost settled in now, with one last extremely big gap still – having my family join me. By now I am more confident than ever they will love their time at Stanford too. I am counting days.
And next time there should be already something to say about the academic life. Today I already had my first after lunch power nap, between a textbook and a case, proper head on the table style.
Older posts on my Stanford adventure: