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The end of the beginning

Time and tide wait for no man. Definitely for no freshman. It is only now, penning down my last column of the year, that I realize how intrinsic this phrase is to a college student’s life. An email from my high school counselor asking whether I’d be able to conduct a “high-school-to-college transition” workshop that I sat in on this time last year only further helped me recognize the accelerated pace of life that has defined my first year away from home at Stanford.

In fact, talking to some of the incoming freshmen from New Delhi (my home city) the other day, I suddenly felt the urge to end my freshman-year Daily stint with nothing but a reflection. And here I am, ending with a reflection of what was actually the beginning. As an Indian turbaned Sikh arriving in California, miles away from home, there was always going to be much to come to terms with. At least that’s what I thought until Stanford bestowed me with a default sense of belonging – one that has made my “study abroad” ever more worthwhile (it’s interesting to think that a Stanford BOSP, should I ever do one, will actually be a study abroad from a study abroad!). Cultural adjustment that is perpetually discussed in the context of a foreign student has felt more like cultural assimilation, at least in a microscopic sense. Conspicuous as the Indian community is here on the Farm, my freshman year has been made so much more effortless by remnants of home that constantly surround me in all walks of Stanford life and activities. And so, for the most part, the numerous South Asian events over the year have been more than just campus events – a significant number of us view these as sneaky but much-needed getaways from a newly embraced world.

With my cultural sanctity remaining largely intact as well as being enriched, the intellectual and extracurricular facets of my freshman experience have only been more marked. When finding a golf course literally on campus ensured I could keep up with my high school game every now and then, the Stanford Daily has been a smooth transition from Editorial Board to avid column-writing. And this brings me to what I now believe is my new and improved take on becoming acclimated to novel environs. Stanford may not be the ideal microcosm of the outside world for the tremendous amount of diversity it harbors (at least from what my peers elsewhere tell me). Realizing this, I cherish that I’ve been fortunate to find myself in a place where I add to the diversity in more ways than one. This has most definitely led me to the revelation that we are all smaller, insignificant dots on the larger canvas of life – a revelation that only a freshman year at Stanford could have hit me with.

In a digression from all my philosophically charged musings, I find it imperative to bring up just how the political deliberations here have veered my grasp of American politics in an informed direction. And this, especially in the backdrop of a presidential election that has aroused immense curiosity in every conceivable corner of the world. As much as I had always made an effort to be aware, media back home does present certain biases that one does not want to generally imbibe. But at Stanford, observing people of my very own age dissent brilliantly and now being able to add to those very conversations is, for me, a salient symbol of an ever-growing comfort that was promised at the very outset of my time here.

In the end, where once imagining myself at this hub of innovation, technology and academic intellect was a far cry, today just nine months later, I feel like a part of the larger goals that it fosters. All of it happened in a moment – it came and went in an instant and I just stood there stunned. Yet, somehow I took all of it in.

 

Contact Arjun Soin at asoin ‘at’ stanford.edu

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