Eliana Kuppermann, ‘16, attends Stanford University. She is undeclared but considering double majoring in human biology and theater and performance studies.
Q: Have you participated in any traditions?
A: For sure. There’s this thing called Full Moon On the Quad, and it happens annually. It used to be that everyone would go to the main quad at night on a full moon, and the guys would bring roses to the girl they wanted to kiss. Now, everyone just goes and makes out with as many people as possible. It is really fun and crazy, and a lot of people get mono. Everyone wore crazy spirit wear, and there were people streaking across the quad. It starts at midnight and lasts for about 20 minutes.
Q: Which clubs have you participated in?
A: I am part of a couple of dance groups on campus. One of them is called “Urban Style,” and it is primarily ballet. And the other is a hip hop dance group called “DV8.” I initially joined an a capella group, but then I quit because it was such a big time commitment.
I am also currently in the school musical. There is a big musical in the spring every year at Stanford. Auditions and casting occur during fall quarter and, depending on the musical, anywhere from as few as seven people to as many as 30 people can be cast. This year there is a cast of 19, with students from every grade. Rehearsals can be anywhere from 10-30 hours a week during winter quarter. And then the shows are Thursday through Saturday nights the second and third weekends of spring quarter.
This year’s musical is called “The Wild Party,” by Andrew Lippa. I joined because I have trained in voice and dance my whole life, and I love musical theater. Also, everyone else in the musical-theater community on campus is really talented and loves musical theater just as much as I do, so it’s awesome to be surrounded by that. The time commitment was tough this quarter especially because I was taking an especially hard workload. Some weeks I would be rehearsing 20 hours a week while still trying to study, do my homework, get sleep, eat and maintain a social life. So it was extremely stressful at times. In the end, however, all the work will be worth it!
Q: What classes are you taking?
A: Last semester, I took chemistry, ballet, a voice class and a philosophy class called “What is Love?”. This semester I am taking calculus, next-step chemistry, a public policy class, another voice class and another ballet class.
Q: How big are your classes?
A: Lectures tend to be around 300 students, but all of the discussion groups are around 10 students.
Q: Do you like the sizes of your classes?
A: I really like the size. In lecture, you don’t need one-on-one time with the teacher, so it doesn’t matter that the classes are so big. And then in section you get to talk to the teacher one on one, and it is very interactive.
Q: What’s your favorite class?
A: The public policy class because I want to go into the medical field eventually, and we study a whole new area of the medical field that I have never heard about and is pretty under-populated. It’s basically a lecture series where Stanford flies in specialists on the different aspects of biosecurity and bioterrorism, including specialists on national security, synthetic biology, the history of biological weapons, etc.
Two times throughout the course we had an hour simulation session, where the professor would give us all roles – for example, representative for the CDC, officer from the WHO, etc. depending on the simulation – and present a scenario in which we would all have to work together to come to a conclusion on how to solve the issue. In one session we would do five or six scenarios. Some involved animal control, synthetically produced bioweapons, naturally occurring biological agents, etc.
Q: Least favorite?
A: Chemistry just because it’s a big intro class. It’s weird, too, because there are so many people that want to go into medicine, so the professor makes the class really hard so that only the people that really excel in general chemistry go into more advanced classes. They basically try to make it as uncomfortable as possible. I love the concepts of chemistry; I just don’t like how the class is taught.
Q: Did you transition well?
A: Definitely. I was really ready to leave high school. By the end of senior year, I was ready to be on my own. I was ready to leave home. I absolutely love college. Country Day classes also prepared me really well since they were so challenging.
Q: What is the overall attitude of the student body?
A: It’s definitely a mix, but the majority are partiers. I say this just because a lot of people that go to Stanford are super smart and know how to study efficiently, so then they have time to go do whatever they want. And a ton of students are super-intense, passionate people about something aside from academics, unlike other really academic schools. People are naturally smart at Stanford and know how to study well and then go out and be crazy.
Q: What do you do for transportation?
A: I primarily bike, but I can also walk from my dorm to the farthest part of campus in only 15 minutes. The weather is always so beautiful, so sometimes I walk. I also have my sister on campus, and she has a car. So occasionally I drive if it’s raining.
Q: Do you like having your sister on campus?
A: I love having my sister (Maya, ’14) on campus. We live really close, but are both super-busy people. So we basically only see each other in rehearsal for the dance group we’re both in. Once or twice a week we will study together, get a meal together, go get groceries, etc. It’s so nice to have her around. She’s one of my best friends, and I can come to her with anything!
Q: What is Palo Alto like?
A: Palo Alto, Mountain View and Redwood City are all pretty (wealthy areas). It’s a fun college town, but it’s also pretty expensive. I see a lot of wealthy families and young guys that are very much in the upper class. There are tons of shops, and the shopping mall is super close. People get tired of eating at the cafeterias after a while, and we want to go get food, but it’s super pricey.
Q: What is your dorm like?
A: I live in an all-freshman coed dorm. I have one roommate.
Q: How is your roommate?
A: She is not a lot like me. In a lot of ways, we are like polar opposites, but because of that we live really well together. She is a fantastic artist, really good at architecture, really into fashion, and has a Youtube channel with tons of followers. She’s a super-sweet girl!
Q: What’s the weather like?
A: Generally, it’s really nice. Right now, I’m actually sitting outside, and it’s 70 degrees and sunny. All fall it’s not too hot. It gets up to the 80’s. It never snows in the winter. There’s lots of rain, and it can get pretty cold. But by February it’s already sunny again.
Q: Has Stanford lived up to your expectations so far?
A: Definitely. It has exceeded my expectations, just because you get everything you could possibly want in one place: the classes are challenging, everyone wants to succeed, everyone helps each other out. Our conversations are so cool and very intellectual. The social aspect is great. You can go out and have the time of your life, or you can stay on campus and have the time of your life. There’s something here for everyone.
Q: What is your favorite thing about Stanford?
A: Traditions. For alumni weekend, I talked to a bunch of them, and the traditions from their time have stayed almost the same. Even talking to (English teacher and Stanford alumna Patricia) Fels I realized how similar the traditions still are: the Stanford Tree, Full Moon on the Quad, etc.
I’m working at Sierra Camp this summer, (which) has been around for a while. Everyone who works there is a current Stanford student, and everyone that comes to the camp is family of an alum. I am going to be a counselor for the five- and six-year-olds.
Q: What don’t you like about Stanford?
A: The expense. The meals in the cafeteria are paid for with your plans, but if you ever want to go off campus to get food, since you’re surrounded by so much wealth, there aren’t a lot of cheap places. I’ve spent so much money on coffee!
Q: What makes Stanford unique?
A: The combination of a heavily academic school and people that are just wild and have done super-cool things and are crazy. But when it comes down to academics, they know how to buckle down and get their work done.
Q: Have you made any freshman mistakes?
A: Definitely. I would say joining too many things and taking on too many commitments. You need to take time for yourself to study. After the first quarter, I joined way too many clubs, and it was really hard to balance them with everything else.
Q: What is your advice for the class of 2017?
A: No matter where you end up, go into college with a positive attitude and open mind. If you feel like you are going to the wrong college, think about it like it’s the perfect fit for you. Any college can be the best with the right mindset. And I think everyone ends up where they are meant to end up.
—By Bri Davies