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The frosh balancing act

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One of the defining traits of being a pre-frosh is not knowing what to expect in college. As I recently learned, one of the defining traits of being a frosh is realizing that the very few expectations that you did have are wrong. 

For me, that incorrect expectation was the “Stanford Life.” The weeks leading up to NSO feel like ages ago, but I remember feeling like I had a good grasp of how my days would go. I’d go to class, work on homework, chill with friends in the evening and then finally get eight hours of sleep a night (because taking fewer units in frosh quarter = more sleep, right?!). Each day would be proportioned perfectly, classes leading directly to work and completed work leading directly to time with friends and sleep. It would be one, cohesive “Stanford Life.” 

Like many things, the “Stanford Life” was a lie. I quickly found myself living three distinct lives at Stanford: an academic, social and emotional life that are separate in purpose but simultaneously tangled in ways I could have never expected. 

My academic life was — and, to a certain extent, still is — chaos. I thought I had my class schedule down to a tee by late August and that class registration would be a breeze. I got to campus, talked to upperclassmen and then rewrote my class list with approximately 20 super cool courses that I wanted to take fall quarter. It was a struggle choosing between them and getting down to a unit count that wouldn’t confine me to the library with work.

If you told pre-frosh me in August that in a month, just one week into Stanford, I’d end up enrolling in an international policy class and Earth sciences classes, I’d have called you crazy. Week four, and here I am — the international policy and Earth sciences class are my favorite classes this quarter, against all my expectations. I’ve done other things which I would never have believed. One month ago, I was on team “skipping class is for losers!” As I write this article at 4 a.m, fully intending to skip a class tomorrow, I realize that I’ve converted to team loser (and weirdly don’t feel as guilty about it as I should). 

My messed up sleep schedule (to put it bluntly) is definitely another thing I never could have anticipated. My course load this quarter is so much less intense than my course load in my junior and senior years of high school, and yet I almost never go to sleep before 2 a.m. (usually even later). These late nights are inherently different than late nights I’ve had in the past — before, I’d only stay up late to finish homework, usually because I procrastinated.

The fact that I now live with my friends in a dorm created a completely different social life for me here at Stanford. There are absolutely no limits to when I can socialize, since I literally live with the people I socialize with. It’s a freedom that’s so amazing and honestly super fun, but also one that can be extremely dangerous with a lack of self-control: extremely late nights talking with people at the cost of sleep deprivation.

Even worse, my social life here has become entangled with my academic life — p-set parties more often than not devolve into socialization events, and studying in dorm rooms without interruptions is nearly impossible if you leave your door even slightly open. It’s not the worse thing ever — it’s fun, and it’s probably the only way I’m able to stay sane during some particularly long and annoying p-sets. But it also means that I have to manage my time much better by recognizing that it’ll take me longer to do problems since I’ll be distracted by my friends from time to time. 

From my perspective, the emotional life is something people don’t seem to talk enough about at Stanford. Perhaps its the fact that we’ve all just met each other a few weeks ago and that we don’t have deep enough friendships here (compared to our high school friendships) to feel comfortable bringing up the hard-hitting issues, but there seems to be a bigger lack of emotional and sensitive discussions than I had expected.

Everyone adjusts to college differently, and especially in the first week or two, in my experience, people aren’t as open about how they’re feeling as they could be (I’m definitely very guilty of this). Recently, my social life has begun to create the foundations for my emotional life here at Stanford. The people I talk to and see every day have become much more close to me week by week, and I finally feel like I’m reaching the point where I can talk to them about my feelings, fears or insecurities in the same way I can with my family and friends back at home. 

Adjusting to life here at Stanford is an ongoing process. I’ve suddenly been thrust into a new and amazing world with unlimited freedom surrounded by unlimited opportunities, all of which I can experience with some of the coolest people in the world. Honestly, it’s something that’s very difficult to experience before coming to Stanford, and so it’s nearly impossible to prepare for the “Stanford Life” or to predict how it will impact your current habits.

What I do know is that every single day I live the “Stanford Life” — through my academic, social and emotional lives — I’m learning more, experiencing more and maturing into a better person. The three ways I live my “Stanford Life” aren’t just different parts of my daily routine — it’s a unique and unexpected lifestyle, one which has its ups and downs but one that I wouldn’t trade for anything else in the world. 

Contact Pranav Vaid at pvaid ‘at’ stanford.edu.