Widgets Magazine


Recalling Stanford

This past Tuesday afternoon found me at 355 Galvez St. eating glazed donuts and making a slew of phone calls to early admits of the class of 2021.

Since the students were organized around their prospective interests, I ended up with a largely female group of writers and creatives, individuals who identified themselves as potential English and art history majors. I felt as if I was speaking to a past iteration of myself, 17-year-old Hannah with her floor-dusting black dresses, penchant for garage sale floral teacups and passion for the oversized chairs at the library.

This self was fiercely passionate about learning, and saw Stanford as the ideal place to achieve personal and intellectual growth. Since coming to Stanford, I have lost some of that enthusiasm and love of place, and so to be reminded of it by the voices of the next generation was a refreshing and uplifting experience.

The first girl I spoke with was from New York, and begged me to send her some sun through the telephone line.

She had an impressive and extensive knowledge of the Stanford course catalog and was disappointed to hear that there was a maximum number of classes one could take. Besides being a “member of the Virginia Woolf fan club,” she was the co-illustrator of a manga series and hoped to live and work in Japan.

The zest with which she spoke was infectious, and by the end of our conversation, I was unsure how to answer her question, “What’s one thing about Stanford you would change if you could?” Something I had previously invested a fair amount of time into seemed suddenly ridiculous in light of the magic that are freshman dorm ski trips, Robert Pinksy readings, and on-campus farmer’s markets.

The first boy I spoke with hailed from Tennessee, and his biggest fear about coming to Stanford was joining a minority community as a humanities major.

This prompted me to reflect that, in my two years as a student of letters, I have enjoyed some of the most extraordinary classes. These experiences have been instructive, immersive and instrumental in my development as a person. While ranging in size, these courses always felt intimate, what with their emphasis on discussion and the vocalization of ideas.

I talked at length about the range of materials I was exposed to over the course of my two years of study, admitting that prior to beginning at Stanford, I had pompously believed myself to have read everything worth reading. We had a good laugh about that.

At one point in our conversation, this kind, sensitive and eager prospective freshman broke down and revealed he didn’t believe himself smart or accomplished enough to have a place at Stanford. It was such a foolish fear, and yet one I recognized from my own life and the lives of many who surround me at Stanford.

Although I can’t be certain that I convinced him of his worth, I believe I prompted both of us to realize that despite its associations, Stanford is a place just like any other. While at Stanford, one will experience triumphs and failures, moments of sadness intertwined with moments of joy. But such is life. And so no matter how much Stanford feels separate from life, it is in fact firmly within it. There is so much to love here, least of all oneself.


Contact Hannah Broderick inbloom ‘at’ stanford.edu.