They say it takes a village to raise a child. It’s the mantra my parents used to cleverly defer credit when anyone congratulated them on my acceptance to Stanford, and I have to think that for those fortunate enough to have a village around them, it couldn’t be more true. Growing up, my village was chock full of teachers who encouraged my love of learning by giving me a platform to develop and express my academic passions. The influence of childhood friends and classmates shaped me into the person I am now, though obviously not with the intent of “raising” me. Family friends and neighbors all did their part to watch over me, keep me safe, and encourage me at every step.
But what happens when the child is fully raised and the proverbial village is suddenly 3,000 miles away? Being in college offers an opportunity to redefine our villages for ourselves, regardless of what they looked like during our actual childhoods. Some aspects of the village may stay quite similar: where I had teachers, for example, I now have professors and TAs. My parents are still my parents, just a phone call away rather than in the next room. But Stanford also provides a wide variety of avenues for building a village that diverge from my childhood experience.
My relationship with my PMA, for example, is a connection with someone who is invested in my success as I do my best to navigate college without the people who took me from kindergarten to my senior year of high school. Members of my house staff represent some sort of parent-teacher-mentor-confidant-friend mashup with the ability to conform to many aspects of my village that I left on the East Coast. Club-sponsored opportunities like coffee chats with upperclassmen give me a glimpse into the endless paths that students who share my interests can take over the course of their undergraduate career at Stanford.
It certainly took a village to raise me. But now that I’ve been sent off to conquer my own life across the country, I’m glad to find that the Stanford community involves several opportunities to build a village for myself here. Though the proverb doesn’t ring true for everyone, it is nice to know that there are people here waiting to become part of our new villages, however we choose to build them.
Contact Jackie O’Neil at jroneil ‘at’ stanford.edu.