Stanford Today Edition: November/December, 1996 Section: Features: Class of 2000 WWW: Class of 2000
SECOND IN A SERIES
By Marisa Cigarroa
It is a festive scene at Paloma Hall: red and white balloons form an arch at the entrance; a stereo blares REM's "Shiny Happy People" and the Indigo Girls' "Closer To Fine"; energetic resident assistants, who have committed the names and faces of their incoming charges to memory, take turns behind a large microphone welcoming the incoming frosh.*As she approaches her dorm, in fact, from the very moment she arrived on campus, Milena Flores has known that she is where she belongs. *Flores has been preparing herself for this day since the sixth grade, when she first dreamed of attending Stanford and playing on the women's basketball team.* Before she even gets to the arch, someone shouts out her name: "Paloma Hall welcomes Milena Flores," the announcer says, in a game-show voice.
"Wow, they said my name exactly right," she exclaims. "Back home, people have trouble pronouncing it."
As other freshmen stand around the outer courtyard, introducing themselves to everyone in sight, Flores calmly weaves through the swarm, checks in to the dorm and finds her way to her room. "My goal today isn't to meet 50,000 people and learn their life stories," she says. "I figure that can come a little later. Right now, I have a lot to do, like get my phone hooked up, start an e-mail account and get my post office box."
But before she can settle into her room and get started on errands, she has to go to the track and the gym for a few hours of conditioning with the other freshmen on the basketball team.
Her life as a student-athlete at Stanford has begun.
For Flores, David Lee, Christina McCarroll, Ameen Khalil Saafir, Josia Lamberto-Egan and about 1,600 other freshmen, the first day of college is a blur of mundane details and life-changing events. They have packed their bags and are moving on - away from home, away from their parents and friends - away from childhood.
FLORES takes a brief look at the orientation schedule for the coming days and tosses it into her backpack. She is forced to skip the president's welcoming talk because she has to go to the conditioning session with some of her teammates. But she will attend an afternoon gathering at El Centro Chicano, a campus community center for Latinos.
After scheduling a time to meet with her mother later in the day, Flores heads toward the gym on a metallic blue mountain bike that she received as a graduation gift.
Her parents, who didn't attend college, are more excited than sad about their eldest child's departure.
"Milena has wanted this for so long that we can't help but be really happy for her," Carmen Flores says. "The other day, my husband and I were joking that just when she got to be fun, she is leaving. She has always been so serious and so focused. Her junior year was the worst because she knew what she had to do to get here and she put a lot of pressure on herself."
Flores acknowledges that she's tough on herself. Since she worked so hard to become a part of Stanford long before she ever set foot on campus, she is intent on doing her best as a point guard on the court and as a student in the classroom.
"I already know the people on the basketball team and I feel comfortable with them, so I am not as wide-eyed as other freshmen who don't know anybody," she says. "Since I was here in August for 10 days with the team, I also know where things are and where to go if I have questions and need help."
Later that afternoon, she meets up with her mother and aunt outside El Centro Chicano. After a few welcoming remarks from the center's staff and Latino administrators, the university's Ballet Folklorico group performs for the crowd. Flores is impressed with the sense of pride displayed at the center, but she hesitates when her mother encourages her to pick up a ticket for a dinner hosted by the center the following week.
"I don't like to join things and not follow through with them. I'm afraid that might happen here because I don't have much extra time."
DAVID LEE, sporting the standard issue bermuda shorts and a T-shirt, is taking a break from orientation activities. He needs it. He spent most of Saturday attending workshops on fulfilling science, mathematics and engineering requirements.
Lee has been at Stanford for only three days but he has already picked his courses and purchased $277 worth of books. In addition to Math 51, Physics 41 and Music 272A, he is taking the History track of Cultures, Ideas and Values, a three-quarter requirement for all undergraduates universally known on campus as CIV.
"I wanted to take harder courses," he says, "but the people at the engineering session said that even the best students in the world aren't guaranteed to be the best students in those classes. That makes me a little nervous because I don't want to burn myself out by working too hard during the first quarter."
One of the orientation sessions he attended the day before was designed to help new students appreciate the creative side of a college education. Provost Condoleezza Rice, an expert on the former Soviet Union who, like Lee, is a pianist, encouraged students to take an active role in designing their Stanford experience, both inside and outside of the classroom.
"She was telling us to feel free to explore new things during our time here," says Lee, who is worried that he won't have the time to engage in extracurricular activities or the freedom to experiment academically. "I want to explore different areas but with this engineering major, everything is pretty much laid out for you."
Despite these concerns, he is entertaining thoughts of participating in a sport, such as crew. "In high school, I never participated in any organized sports, so this would be something new."
Whether or not Lee tries out for crew, he already has ventured into new territory. On his first night, he and several other people from his dorm chased the Stanford Marching Band around campus at midnight.
"I have never done anything crazy like that before," Lee says.
On his second night, he attended a party and actually danced. "It was the third time I've danced in my life. I told myself, 'Just do it.'"
CHRISTINA MCCARROLL remembers daydreaming about college as a child and thinking she would never be old enough to attend. "I never thought I would be that sophisticated," she laughs.
Three days into orientation, she concedes that she is feeling a bit overwhelmed by her newfound college freedoms. "I wouldn't want [college] to be very structured but having to make so many choices myself has taken me by surprise," she says. "It's a little disorienting."
Stopping for a few minutes at Tresidder Memorial Union, dressed in baggy jeans and a plaid flannel shirt, she reflects on college life now that she has a few days of college life behind her.
McCarroll, who is interested in both the humanities and sciences, has had a hard time selecting classes. After much deliberation, she picked Chemistry 31, Psychology 1, the Great Works track of CIV and a one-credit course in yoga.
"I decided to take chemistry my first quarter because I want to keep my options open," she says. "I am not really sure which direction I want to go and I don't want to look back in a year or so and wish I had started taking it earlier." She considered taking a math class for the same reason, but chose psychology instead because she feared that taking math and chemistry together in her first quarter might be too much.
Like many freshmen, McCarroll believed that starting college would give her the opportunity to reinvent certain aspects of herself.
Now, with a few days of experience, she is beginning to see things differently.
"When you move, I think you become more aware of the core elements of who you are," she says. "That's comforting in a sense because you take yourself with you no matter where you go. But it is also a little bit disconcerting because it means you have less of a chance to remake yourself."
Being one of about 7,000 undergraduates at Stanford takes some getting used to, McCarroll says. Dorm life helps. "It's nice to have a place to come back to, with people you see all the time," says the Larkin Hall resident.
McCarroll says she is still at the point where she's lucky if she remembers the names of the dozens of people she has met and where they are from. "It's not like we have gotten to explore each other's personalities yet," she says.
For the past two hours, AMEEN KHALIL SAAFIR and a group of about 20 other first-year students in the Cedro Hall lounge have been discussing diversity. The discussion is part of the orientation activities and follows a two-hour program called "Faces of the Community," a collection of dance, music and narratives performed by Stanford students in Memorial Auditorium.
Many of the minority students in the room say they are looking forward to exploring their own cultural identities while at Stanford, either by taking classes related to race and ethnicity or by joining a cultural group. Saafir, one of a handful of African Americans in the room, adds that he's looking forward to learning about other cultures by interacting with people from different ethnic groups on campus.
"Living in a diverse community not only gives us the chance to discover more about ourselves but it also gives us the opportunity to learn how to interact with people from different cultures," he says.
Sitting on his Stanford bedspread, dressed in Stanford sweatshirt and baseball cap, Saafir is veritably brimming with his newfound Cardinal essence. So far, his interactions with other freshmen in the dorm have exceeded his expectations.
"We all instantly just bonded together," he says. "Everyone is from some different part of the country and there is at least one aspect of every person whom I have met in the last couple of days that is amazing."
The former high school baseball player plans to try out for Stanford's team next year. "I seriously doubt I'll make the team," he says. " But in all honesty, it's worth a shot. What do I have to lose?"
He hopes his Navy ROTC training will help get him in good shape for the tryouts. Meantime, he is going to audition for one of the several a cappella groups on campus. If that doesn't pan out, he will try to join the Stanford Band.
After five days of being on campus, Saafir is eager for classes to start on the next day. He will be taking the Literature and Arts track of CIV, Calculus and Computer Science 106A. For the moment, he has put all thoughts of being a pre-med on hold.
"When I got here, I heard of a major I had never heard of before called symbolic systems," he says. "Basically it's a mixture of computer science, linguistics, philosophy and pyschology. It interested me more than medicine, so I am just going to start with that, and kind of go from there."
JOSIA LAMBERTO-EGAN is taking things in stride. His long dark hair pulled back in a ponytail, he's sporting mutton-chop sideburns and his attire could be loosely described as retro hippie. His Myth and Modernity CIV discussion section starts in 10 minutes. But before he can make the five-minute trek from Serra Hall to the Main Quadrangle, he has to haul 12 cardboard boxes and a couple of suitcases into his room.
"This is the first [session], so I am sure it will be OK if I get there a little late," he says. Half an hour later, Lamberto-Egan and about 12 other students are sitting around a wooden table, waiting for the discussion leader to arrive. The consensus seems to be that the he or she probably was given the wrong information about the class time or location.
As they wait, several students pull out calendars to see what's next on their schedules. They also take turns introducing themselves. The discussion then turns to books: Who bought all of the books on the reading list? How much did they cost? Did they get them new or used? And is an earlier edition of a book OK to use in class?
Lamberto-Egan remains quiet for the most part. He is the only student in the room who doesn't have a backpack. And he isn't wearing a watch, either.
"I guess I do feel a little different than everyone else," says the Choate Rosemary Hall graduate who spent last year traveling and working. The time away from school has helped put things in perspective, he says.
"A lot of people are taking courses like math and science, even if they are not interested in those fields, just because they feel they should take them," he says. "Even though classes just started, many people are already feeling the crunch. My schedule, on the other hand, is noticeably easier." He is taking Spanish for advanced speakers (he taught himself Spanish during his year off), CIV and the Dances of Latin America, and will be trying out for Ballet Folklorico.
"I did this very intentionally because I want to get a feel for what is going on non-academically while I still have the time to do that. In the winter or spring, I will start taking more intense classes and get more focused, hopefully on a specific area."
Lamberto-Egan realizes his laid-back approach to freshman year is not for everybody. But having attended a prep school back East, he says, has given him the confidence to stray off the beaten path.
"I had been at boarding school for two years and, in many ways, this is similar, especially in terms of dorm life and getting classes. I guess it's easy to feel more relaxed about things when they seem familiar.
A WEEK HAS PASSED since the members of the Class of 2000 arrived on campus. They have gotten to know their roommates, picked their courses, gone to a few classes and made some new friends.
At first glance, Flores and her roommate seem like a collegiate odd-couple: Flores is athletic, frequently wears shorts or jeans with T-shirts and is from the West Coast; her roomate is "artsy," tends to wear flowery, colorful dresses and is an Easterner.
Despite these differences, Flores is happy to report that she is getting along with her roommate just fine: "Julia is very easy-going, nice and funny."
So far, Flores hasn't mingled much with other people in her dorm.
"I've been gone a lot and the people in my hall have been gone a lot, too. This week has been pretty hectic," says Flores, who spent a good part of the past week juggling classes to synchronize her academic and athletic schedules. She is taking the Philosophy track of CIV, first-year Spanish and a beginning computer programming class.
Now that her time is mapped out for the next quarter, Flores feels like she's on track, at least for the time being.
"It takes me a while to ease into things," she says. "I have a comfort zone and I don't want to stray out of it until I get settled. When I feel more comfortable with my schedule, then I can explore new things." ST
Next Issue: Mid-terms, football games and dorm food: The Class of 2000 settles into its new life.