Joe Troderman ’16, a chemical engineering major, and Nitish Kulkarni ’16, who’s the co-managing editor of the The Daily’s technology blog and a mechanical engineering major, are hoping to offer more transparency in student government and to encourage more members of the student body to participate in elections. According to Troderman, the main reason they ran was to get students involved in thinking about issues on campus and how to make campus a better place. They are also looking at mental health, sexual assault and international student problems in their slate.
The Daily sat down with them to discuss their lives at Stanford and their most memorable moments.
The Stanford Daily (TSD): Where did you spend your freshman year at Stanford?
Nitish Kulkarni (NK): I was in SLE. I was in Cardenal.
Joe Troderman (JT): I was in Twain North.
TSD: What’s the coolest thing you’ve participated in or seen happen at Stanford? Or just something memorable?
NK: There’s been a lot of cool things. I got to cover the Obama visit for The Daily — that was pretty cool. I’m also in a class with Karl Eikenberry, and I’m really passionate about modern-day, Cold War and post-World War Afghanistan, so taking a class with Ambassador Eikenberry is pretty cool. We had Ambassador Doug Lute in class the other day — he’s the current ambassador for NATO, which is pretty neat. Freshman year I also got coffee with Bill Nye the Science Guy at some event, which was pretty cool.
JT: Probably one of my memorable things was that I studied abroad in Japan last spring. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do that if I wouldn’t have been at Stanford. And thankfully, the program in Kyoto is such that you can get an internship for the summer, so I stayed in the summer as well. I have a million memories from that place, and it was just such a different place — a different experience from living in Boston or here.
NK: In terms of probably coolest experience at Stanford, you drive up Palm Drive the first day you get here — it’s pretty cool. With the welcome sign… in terms of really, really adrenaline-filled, exciting things, that’s really high up there. I wish I could do that again — being a freshman is great.
JT: Honestly, I think my friends make this place. Probably the best memories are just staying up until 3 or 4 in the morning and talking about random stuff, or playing Super Smash Bros and then staying up until like 4:30. I did that a lot freshman year. That’s really great — just talking to people.
TSD: Can you tell me about your experiences abroad?
NK: Stanford in Washington was a fantastic experience. I was there with great people. The faculty there are really neat. The cool thing about SIW is that the faculty are currently academics, but they’re formerly professionals in their fields, so we had a former ambassador, a former assistant secretary of state, Walter Pincus, who’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist from The [Washington] Post — he taught one of our classes. You got to meet cool people. All the students there are really passionate about government and how Washington works. Going there, I got a new understanding of why it’s the center of power, why everyone wants to go there, why it matters so much. Especially when you spend time in San Francisco, you don’t really understand why Washington is so important. It’s a beautiful city, a lot of history. The program is fantastic.
JT: The things that stand out for me might be a little different than the ones for Nitish, because when I was in Japan, that was my first time ever studying abroad or being abroad, period. For me, it was an awesome opportunity to break down so much of the American way that the world works. There are just little things, like trains are on time. There’s a culture that everyone keep places clean. There aren’t garbage bins out on the street in Kyoto — you have to store your garbage in your backpack until you get home and put it in the garbage there. It’s a fairly homogeneous place, so… I think it was a nice experience for me, of really being an outsider in that world. Everyone is Japanese there, and when you’re white, you’re clearly not Japanese.
I still am always cognizant of the fact that I don’t face the same discrimination that other people do in the United States, but at the least there was that sense of being different and being judged in some way because of that. That was a really valuable aspect for me, as well.
TSD: What are some things you guys have struggled with?
NK: Stanford is a lot. It’s certainly not easy. You come from high school, and it’s a much bigger world here, and everyone here is so smart and has done so many cool things. I think coming here, it’s a little bit overwhelming, especially at the beginning. But you get used to it. I think that I wouldn’t want to be in a place other than this. I really like the fact that I can look around and find someone who’s going to change the world in some way or another. That’s a lot to take in the beginning, but it’s also incredible.
JT: I always think back, whenever I’m asked [that question] to my junior year in high school, where for about a month I just spent most nights awake thinking about what I wanted from life, or what I valued, or things like that.
That was a big thing for me, figuring out what I wanted from my life in those regards. At Stanford… I think there’s times where this place can be kind of isolating to people. I think a lot of people talk about how they get their closest friends from their freshman dorm or freshman year, and I saw a lot of people doing that, but it took me a while longer. I got my real friends — my real tightest and closest friends — over sophomore year.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Contact Emma Johanningsmeier at ejmeier ‘at’ stanford.edu.