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Reflections on senior spring

Seniors share what it’s like during their last quarter at Stanford

Courtesy of Pixabay.com

Senior spring was supposed to be my chillest Stanford quarter. I was going to be in two real classes and wanted to focus my energy on social interactions and relationships. But life comes at you fast, and plans change. This definitely wasn’t my chillest quarter, and it seemed like it wasn’t for a lot of my peers either. I asked for their thoughts on senior spring, and here’s what we want you to know:   

1. It’s a balancing act.

Being at Stanford as a whole is such a balancing act. Freshman year, all I wanted was to find balance. Four years later, I still haven’t found that balance. Between classes, student groups, socializing, being an RA and trying to pin down post-graduation plans, senior spring has been a balancing act just like the rest of Stanford, but intensified. One thing I can say is that I’ve come to terms with the fact that I can’t do everything. I can only do what’s within my physical, emotional and mental limits.

2. It’s natural to feel burnt out.

One of my favorite things to say this quarter was: “Four years is a long time to be working so hard!” The quarter system moves at a breakneck speed, and we’ve been doing this for 11 quarters. Imagine that! I spent so much of senior spring feeling utterly burnt out, which makes sense.

Madison Pobis, a senior in Earth Systems summed it up nicely: “I’m caught between the exhaustion of total burnout and knowing that we only get to be in senior spring once.”

3. Cutting back is okay.

Going into senior year, I definitely thought I would be able to enjoy all the student groups and experiences I’d participated in while here. I wanted to fully participate in the traditions and communities that were important to me. Instead, I’ve had to sacrifice some of these to make way for new pursuits and responsibilities, like being an RA and taking journalism classes. Maybe senior spring would have been chill if I hadn’t taken on anything new, but the sacrifice was worth it.  

4. You don’t have to have it all figured out.

I asked my peers if there were any Stanford myths they wanted to debunk. Pobis responded:

“Myth: You’ll feel completely confident about the dreaded ‘next step.’ Fact: The ‘next step’ is just that. A step. Your plans immediately after school don’t have to be the perfect fit to help you get started along a purposeful path.”

It’s true! There’s never a point where it all feels figured out. I think it’s difficult putting pressure on yourself to secure a “perfect” future after senior year.  Instead, I’ve thought about what I cared about (writing) and took small steps to work to that goal (joining the Daily, taking journalism classes).

5. Doing class is hard.

Another thing I’ve said a million times this quarter: “Things would be perfect if I didn’t have class.” It’s not that I didn’t like my classes. It’s not that they were overwhelmingly hard. It’s just that my mind was telling me I was done with Stanford, but my schedule said otherwise. It was near impossible finding motivation and staying focused.

Ewea Tseumah, a senior in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, said, “[Senior spring is] socially awesome, but academically, I am suffering. I so don’t want to do class.”

Roxanne Dobson, a senior in Anthropology, said, “Don’t put anything off to senior spring if you can do it before! If you think it will be stressful now, it will probably be twice as stressful in senior spring.”

6. You can see how far you’ve come.

Sofia Poe, a senior in Product Design, said, “This year I’ve felt more myself, more accomplished, stronger, self-actualized, awake, raw, real, grown-up, powerful, proud…Perhaps the biggest thing I’ve learned is that there is so much still left to go.”

I certainly relate to what Poe shared. This quarter, I’ve truly started to reflect on my Stanford experience, and I’ve seen how I’ve grown since freshman year. I’ve learned so much both in and out of classes. My worldview has changed in subtle yet impactful ways, and I feel like university is just the beginning of a lifelong learning journey.

One one hand, I think graduation marks the end of one chapter of my life. On the other hand, my entire world has just opened up. I’ve just begun to discover what I care about and where I might want to go from here.

7. You might experience “Camp Stanford”, or you might not.

Carolyn Manion, a senior studying Classics, wrote, “You can’t camp Stanford with a thesis, my dudes.”

Camp Stanford, from my understanding, is the idea of being at Stanford and enjoying the weather, the amenities and friends, minus all the stress. I’ve only experienced this at the end of a quarter, in the couple days before I fly home for vacation or start my summer plans. In earlier years, I’d encountered a lot of seniors who seemed to be living their best life and were truly having a Camp Stanford-esque senior spring. However, it hasn’t been like that for me and those around me. I’ve only met a couple people so far who are truly chilling, but I can’t speak for my entire class.

A lot of us are completing theses, trying to find jobs or finishing up incomplete classes. Or all three.

8. It is just another quarter at Stanford.

Chris Koenig, a senior in Computer Science wrote, “Senior spring was decidedly normal. It’s felt much like any other quarter I’ve been here, which was a bit unexpected… That said, ‘normal’ isn’t bad — I really enjoyed the quarter! It just didn’t feel special in the mythical ‘senior spring’ sense.”

I like the word “mythical” to describe senior spring. Leading up to this quarter, senior spring felt like a fantasy. Instead, it was busy, socially and academically rigorous and sometimes overwhelming, much like the rest of my year. The fact that my expectations for this year didn’t match what the year ended up being made it harder to cope. Senior year was special, and I had a huge learning curve, but it wasn’t the perfect end to my Stanford career that I was expecting.

Instead, in its own way, senior year has taught me to adapt to what is instead of clinging to what I hoped could be.

Contact Astrid Casimire at acasimir ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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