It’s difficult for me to not start this off with some cheesy, overly sentimental comment about how grateful I am for my time at Stanford. All I can really say is thank you — thank you for an amazing education, thank you for giving me such a wonderful, dynamic community, thank you for giving me space to grow and change to become a better version for myself and thank you for all the experiences and opportunities which I could never have accessed otherwise. My past four years here have been life-changing. And, as with any time period of such a nature, it’s been challenging. There may have been many breakdowns and rants, but there have also been nearly as many laughs, victories and legitimately good times. So here I am to share my appreciation for you, Stanford.
I look back to my admissions essays and my high school journals and am amazed that Stanford took a chance on me. I’m not kidding when I say this, but I used Disney lyrics at various points in my personal essay, including such classics as “I want to be part of that world” and “I want to see what’s around the river bend.” Now I write papers about Calvinist predestination and its relationship with capitalism and racism in America. Okay, yes, that sounds boring, and it kind of is, but the main point is that my professors and teaching assistants and tutors here at Stanford have given me a skill set, a knowledge, that can never be taken away from me. From the general education requirements to the higher-level intensive classes, my academic experiences have evolved the way I learn and think. I’ve dissected sheep brains, built a website, taken trips to art museums, read the most famous works of literature (in English), had conversations in Italian with Italians, seen professional performances of the Shakespeare plays we were reading (in London) and written a mini autobiography. Stanford truly is a place of academic excellence, an institution that shapes minds that will shape the world, and to have experienced that, I am truly thankful.
Those who knew me in high school would have described me as relatively shy, awkward and nerdy, and that was accurate. I thought I had deep relationships with my friends back then, but those friendships pale in comparison to the ones I have made here. My friendships are hardly ever born out of necessity and proximity anymore, rather they are rooted in shared passions and experiences. The community I’ve built for myself is dynamic; not everyone always agrees with each other, and they don’t usually look like each other, but we genuinely care about each other and keep our minds and hearts open. In my struggles with depression, my friends here were actually there for me when I needed them. Meanwhile, they pushed me out of my comfort zone as we adventured together. Though it sounds a little like “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” my new friendships fostered the social growth and self-confidence that I desperately needed. There are few others I would want to spend my time sending memes to, and for these friends, I am thankful.
I learned how to do laundry. I’ve done my taxes — several years in a row. I change my sheets every two weeks. I’ve managed the bureaucratic red tape that comes with insurance agencies. I don’t rehearse what I’m going to say on the phone before making a call. I know when and how to ask for help when I need it and can recognize that doing so does not make me weak. I can have fun on my own, including traveling around Europe alone after my study abroad — though this looks more like going to the movies or a museum by myself every once in a while. I call home a couple of times a week, not because I need something, but because I’ve become friends with my family. I’ve made mistakes at Stanford, and I’ve grown at Stanford. I am now an improved version of myself that I genuinely like, and for that, I am thankful.
I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it again: thank you, Stanford, for these past four years. Thank you for taking a chance on me, a little weirdo, and encouraging me to grow — all with full financial aid, a gratitude that is impossible for me to explain. You’ve given me things that I will have and cherish for the rest of my life. You’ve molded me into a person prepared for the future yet capable of handling the present. You’ve given me the life that my family sacrificed for, and that I dreamed of. Though I have often joked that I should have gone somewhere else for college, I truly cannot picture having gone anywhere else. This one’s for you, Stanford — it’s been good.
Contact Arianna Lombard at ariannal ‘at’ stanford.edu.