Sonja Hansen, ’18, attends Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., and plans to major in environmental sustainability.
Q: What classes are you taking?
A: I’m on the quarter system, so things move really fast; I signed up for my next classes on Sunday (Nov. 11).
But right now I’m taking Chemistry 31A, beginner chemistry; Math 19, the easiest math; Stories Everywhere, a class focused on writing and mastering the fundamentals of plot and character development; and Engineering to Build an Environment, a class focused on real-life engineering problems and solutions.
Q: Which class is your favorite?
A: Well, at different moments different classes are my favorites. I enjoy my Stories Everywhere class; it’s taught by a Pulitzer Prize winner and answers the questions, “What is a story?” and “What is a good storytelling method?” I really enjoy the books we read and the movies that we watch in the class. It is a change-up from my more STEM- based classes.
Surprisingly, I really like my Engineering to Build an Environment class. The first day I walked in and the professor told us about the class, I was amazed. All the equations that I had to know seemed really daunting, but it’s turning out to be really fun.
Q: Which is your least favorite class?
A: I would have to say chemistry. However, it’s not because of what we are learning but more the workload and time required for that class. Just last night, the homework took me three hours to complete. The class setup is also kind of weird; you mostly learn stuff on your own through your homework, and for the lectures all we do is split up to table groups and focus on these really challenging problems that we are seeing for the first time.
Q: Are you participating in any clubs/sports?
A: Well, that’s kind of hard because I signed up for so many different mailing lists. The one that I am probably the most active in is the Daily, the Stanford newspaper.
After finishing up with the Octagon, I thought to myself that I was done with all of this newspaper stuff. Sorry, (former English teacher Patricia) Fels. I know you’re probably going to read this, but since I did newspaper for so long, I thought that I should try something new and do something different. And then I got an email for applications for the Daily, and I just decided to do it. Now I’m in the Daily.
I didn’t think I would do it, but I guess Fels brainwashed me pretty good because that is what I was immediately drawn to.
The Daily isn’t easy either. You are required to write one article a week, and on top of the workload from my other classes, it is pretty hard. It also brings me back to high school – it’s like I’m in freshman year again, not knowing what to do and being completely overwhelmed.
However, I also have a job. I work at the sports arenas. (I’m part of) what’s called Cardinal crew or game-day staff. All I do is hand out free stuff, play around with the t-shirt cannon and hype up the crowd. It’s kind of like a spirit squad, but, hey, I’m not complaining. I get $17.40 per hour.
Q: How are you adjusting to college life?
A: It is nothing like I would have expected. It’s kind of weird how normal it is. I mean, when I used to think about Stanford when I was younger, I always thought stuff along the lines of cutthroat and high achieving, but it is actually very normal, like any other college. Even though it’s a really good school, I don’t get that shock or realization that I’m actually here.
Q: How was the transition to college life?
A: It was great. I know my family misses me and stuff like that, but it’s been so much fun. After four to five months of summer, I was so ready for a challenge. And it was such an easy transition because everyone on campus was so nice and helpful and was always willing to help out. I think that a hard thing was being independent, but the adjustment wasn’t too crazy. I think my organization really helped with my transition.
The hardest transition was not having a car. I miss it so much – being able to hop in and show up to places without having to bike or walk and show up all sweaty.
Q: What is your favorite part about Stanford?
A: Just being able to go anywhere I want and interacting with others in my dorm. The people in my dorm are so nice and fun to talk to and exchange life stories.
Q: What is your least favorite part about college?
A: Well, the worst part so far is just being stalked by this one guy. I decided that I needed a break, so I took the bus to the mall and went to Lush to buy myself something. As I am walking out of the mall, I started wondering if this guy is following me. At first I thought to myself, “No way!”
Then I kept walking. He kept following me, so I realized that he was definitely following me. So I saw him walk into a parking lot, and I’m like, “No, I’m just paranoid.” Then I walked up to a stoplight, and he walks up to me, and he said something along the lines of “Hello, do you mind if I take you out for some coffee?”
I just told him that I had to go, and I ran to the bus station and went back to my dorm. That was pretty creepy.
Other than that, it has been an awesome experience.
Q: Did Country Day prepare you well for college?
A: Yeah, I would say so. The math that we are taking is basically everything that (math teacher Chris) Millsback has been teaching us the past two years, and also the Octagon has helped a lot for writing in the Daily. Country Day also helped me with small talk and getting to know people because we did it all the time at school. Also, because we went to a small school, and I was able to develop relationships with the teachers – that really helped me when approaching professors during office hours.
Q: Are you happy that you are close to home?
A: Well, in junior year, I always wanted to go to New York City, but as I reflect on that, I realize that I am really happy that I am so close to home and can always go back to say hi or pick up things if I need to. And I can always go study abroad, so I will have chances to go other places.
Q: Is there anything that you wish you knew before college started?
A: A big thing here seems to be breaking and entering. A lot of people have told me about how kids break into buildings at Stanford or break things; that kind of came as a shock. But don’t get really worried about coming here – everyone is very chill and laid back.
Q: Do you have any advice for the class of 2019?
A: Always go to office hours, and use the resources available to you. Also, do homework together with people in your dorm. The homework is designed for people to do in groups, not alone, and if you think you understand something, you don’t and you are 100 percent wrong.