By Emma Perkins
Last week’s surge of white tents and crowded streets caused obstacles in my bicycle commutes. But I welcomed the hindrance because Homecoming Weekend makes me feel like part of something bigger.
For the next four years, I am part of Stanford’s current student body. My peers and I will be the ones filling the dorms, the streets of campus, the dining halls and classrooms, the music halls and sports arenas. We will be the ones living out our Stanford experiences and embodying the University at this point in time.
But the people “coming home” for the weekend remind me that for years and years — 127 to be exact — there have been different student bodies giving life to campus and forging their own Stanford experiences. Hundreds of thousands of individuals, together in over 100 graduated classes, have their own Stanford stories.
There are a lot of stories tied to this place. That is also a lot of people with whom we share Stanford in common — more than we could ever hope to know from our four years here. There are people all over the world who went through their own version of what we are just beginning, and it is a cool concept to mull over.
Though each class has its unique historical context, we are taking part in traditions and making memories that are relatable to alumni from every class to graduate Stanford. There are grad school students, middle-aged parents and nursing home residents out there that spent a pivotal point of their lives in the same place and community that I am in now: it seems like a connection worth appreciating.
When I see alumni walking down the street, I wonder about their college memories and how Stanford impacted their lives — from the day they arrived freshman year to the day they returned for this year’s reunion. I witnessed an attempt to retrieve a transcript from over 50 years ago, met two long-graduated residents of my dorm and overheard an alumnae pointing out her favorite study spot to her husband and three young children.
That aged transcript represents years of hard work and intellectual growth; that dorm is where they lived for their first year of college; that study spot is only one of their many memorable spots around campus.
The things that make up these alumni’s memories are now, as current students, our reality. The spaces where they ate meals and laughed with their friends, where they put their blood, sweat and tears into their academics or athletics or activities, where they learned about the world and about themselves; these are now the spaces we engage with daily as we make our own memories.
And beneath each class tent, graduates are catching up or meeting for the first time, still preserving and expanding connections to members of Stanford. As much as it stirs up thoughts of the past, it also makes me curious about the future. At each of my reunions, if I find myself attending, what will I reminisce about and with whom? What will they and I have to share about life post-Stanford? What will the student body be like then? Will there be a freshman sitting in my old dorm room, pondering similar things?
While I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, generations of alumni encourage me that there is much to look forward to in answering them. So, Homecoming Weekend, thank you for the perspective.
Contact Emma Perkins at emmap22 ‘at’ stanford.edu.