Mehdi Lacombe, ‘19, (far left) and some of his dormmates see the musical "Hamilton" in San Francisco. (Photo courtesy of Lacombe)

FRESHMAN FOCUS: Mehdi Lacombe, ’19, loves 500-person computer science class at Stanford

Mehdi Lacombe, ’19, is majoring in earth systems and plans to minor in computer science at Stanford University. 

Q: What is earth systems?

A: It’s kind of like earth sciences but with less focus on the science and more focus on humans and the economy. 

Q: How was the transition to college?

A: As a freshman, I got there about a week early for orientation, and it helped me get accustomed to college life. Because of this, when classes started, I was a bit more prepared, and everything wasn’t so intense. Even now, I am still adjusting, but I think I got adjusted pretty quickly. 

Q: Have you made any freshman mistakes?

A: I got locked out of my room once, after leaving my keys on my bed. 

I also signed up for a pretty hard class, Bio 83: Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, thinking it was much easier. I haven’t dropped it yet, so that’s an example of me not doing enough research beforehand. 

Q: Why did you choose Stanford?  

A: In the end, I was choosing between Yale, UCLA and Stanford. I realized that I actually really liked California and didn’t want to live on the East Coast, or anywhere else for that matter. And since I wanted to stay in California, Stanford was the best bet for me because it’s a really good school and it’s close to home. 

Q: What is your favorite part about Stanford?

A: I really, really like my dorm here. I live in Otero, which is part of Wilbur Hall, and the entire dorm community that I have is great. There’s about 90 of us in the building, and I have almost all of my friends in my dorm, which is not how it is on the rest of campus. It’s really cool that I can just walk downstairs and hang out with my friends anytime because we all live in the same building.

Q: What is your least favorite part about Stanford?

A: My least favorite thing is how unorganized some of the classes are. You’ll have weeks where you have no work in the class, and then out of the blue, they assign you 10 different things to do. It’s not the worst thing ever, but it is definitely annoying. 

Q: What makes Stanford special?

A: The people here. I am constantly amazed by all the cool stuff that even people in my dorm have done. And on top of the students, there are some really amazing professors and TAs. It’s a great experience to be around all of these people. 

Q: How’s the food?

A: All the dining halls have the same menu, but each one has its own special. My dining hall always had really bad specials until recently, (when it had) this really good fried rice. The food started out OK, but in winter quarter they really stepped it up, and it has gotten a lot better. 

Q: Are you in any clubs or extracurriculars? 

A: Currently, I’m not in any clubs, although I did try out for Mock Trial and promptly got rejected. I considered band, but I didn’t do it first quarter because I wanted to get into the groove of things. I also applied for a job at Stanford Magazine — an alumni magazine — in fact-checking and editing, so we’ll see if I end up getting that. 

Q: What classes are you taking?

A: I’m taking four classes: Economics 1, which is both micro and macro, psychology, Biology 83 and Intro to Computer Science, which is actually one of the biggest classes that Stanford has. It has over 500 students in the class, but I really enjoy it.

Q: How big are your other classes?

A: There are some that are really small, with only 20 or 30 kids in them, and the lecture classes normally have 100 to 300 students in them. 

Q: What’s your favorite class? 

A: Computer science. I had only taken AP Computer Science Principles at Country Day, and now at Stanford, I really enjoy it. The homework does take a while to do, but it is really satisfying to finish and go from nothing to a code that actually works. 

Q: What is your least favorite class?

A: Bio 83, just because it is my hardest class. I never took AP Bio, so it’s a bit harder for me to grasp all the concepts and material because they expect you to have more understanding than I have. 

Q: What do you wish you had known before college started?

A: How important time management is, especially in a quarter system because everything moves so fast all the time. If you slack off on some work, it is just going to keep piling up until you have a ton of work to do. 

Q: Did Country Day prepare you well for college?

A: Country Day definitely helped my time management as well as (my) writing quickly and concisely. I have had so much good practice writing like that at Country Day that I can finish an assignment a lot quicker than my peers and still do just as good. 

Q: What are your relationships with your teachers like compared to Country Day?

A: I don’t have anywhere near as many relationships with my professors at Stanford as I did at Country Day, but I do have good relationships with my teaching assistants, and some of them are really interesting people. 

Q: Do you have any advice for the class of 2020?

A: Don’t be super worried during high school or going into college. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t take that one AP class or (didn’t) study super hard for that test to get ahead because there are so many different people at Stanford from so many different backgrounds.

Q: How has the coronavirus affected you?

A: Every class has been switched to online, and all the students have been sent home. Our finals have all been made optional, and some teachers have started to record classes.

Five-star or subpar? 

Quality of classes: ★★★★★

Student/teacher interaction: ★★★★

Location: ★★

Food: ★★★

Housing: ★★★★

Social scene: ★★★★

Clubs: ★★★★★

School spirit: ★★★★

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