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Stanford, one year on

Dear Stanford Students,

Among students and alumni alike, Stanford has a very special place in our hearts. Other people are also noticing Stanford’s magic, as evidenced by recent coverage of the University’s success on the front page of the New York Times! But leaving Stanford (a.k.a. paradise on Earth) has prompted me to consider whether or not Stanford prepared me for the real world.

I graduated in the Class of 2013 and studied Computer Science while at Stanford. I work in tech (shocking, I know) as a software engineer. I live in San Francisco with two close friends and fellow members of Stanford’s Class of 2013. In terms of my career, in the last 11 months since my graduation weekend, I’ve had to learn new skills to be successful at work. I’ve had to learn to contribute actively to a team, solve problems creatively, and articulate exactly why I think my team is doing something well and, on the flipside, doing something wrong. I sometimes pull late nights at work to finish projects on time and spend a lot of time thinking about the future of my professional career.

Stanford did not prepare me to cook for myself (thanks to the house chefs and dining halls), to know how to reset the electricity in our apartment when outlets stop working (thanks to Stanford Fixit) or to be patient when Comcast internet is spotty (thanks to getting used to one of the fastest wireless networks in the world). However, there were many things that Stanford did prepare me for – but I am still thankful for the things previously mentioned that I was sheltered from!

My Stanford education undoubtedly laid the intellectual groundwork necessary for me to be successful at my job – but this is not a surprise, since I pursued an education with a clear connection to a career. I was able to build off skills I built at Stanford in order to gain new ones. But I learned a lot outside of my computer science education at Stanford that has been invaluable to me over the past year.

Through various extracurricular opportunities, I learned how to be a valuable team member. The liberal, holistic, and interdisciplinary education I received from Stanford taught me how to harness my creativity. All of the late night debates, humanities-major friends who helped me with my papers (and this essay) and, I daresay, PWR classes allowed me to practice articulating my thoughts to other people. The collaborative environment fostered at Stanford helped me persevere through the hardest of problem sets because at least I was suffering with a friend, and that process enabled me to cope with the long nights at work. Did Stanford prepare me for the real world? My answer is a resounding “yes.”

What I’m truly most grateful to Stanford for, though, is to have had the opportunity to form relationships with all of the amazing people that went and go there. I am awestruck by how smart, kind, passionate and supportive you all are. You all will do something incredible someday (if you haven’t already). Personally, I know that being exposed to such inspiring individuals of diverse backgrounds and unique perspectives helped me understand the kind of person I want to be: my own individuality, passions and priorities.

To the Stanford students about to join me as fellow alumni: The transition period happens way too quickly, so try to slow down as much as you possibly can and enjoy your last few weeks on The Farm. There really is no place like Stanford. Thankfully, your relationship with Stanford is not over – the Stanford community will certainly keep giving back to you, and you will continue to meet Stanford alumni and have experiences tied to Stanford.

To the Stanford students that have more time left on campus: Take advantage of as many opportunities as you have the sanity and time to handle and make as many meaningful relationships as you can. These experiences and relationships will prove to be invaluable resources for handling uncertainty in the real world.

To Stanford University: Thank you for providing me with four years of opportunities to enjoy, grow and learn.

To the future: I’m unbelievably excited to continue journeying through young adulthood and beyond, while creating new memories, experiences and friendships along the way.

Cheers,

Shilpa Apte ‘13

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