I have decided to start a new (surprisingly similar looking) blog about my service trip to Guatemala this summer! I would love to see you there. Check out my first post:
The Lord is my shepherd;
I have everything I need.
He lets me rest in fields of green grass
and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water.
He gives me new strength.
He guides me in the right paths,
as he has promised.
Even if I go through the deepest darkness,
I will not be afraid, Lord,
for you are with me.
Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.
You prepare a banquet for me,
where all my enemies can see me;
you welcome me as an honored guest
and fill my cup to the brim.
I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life;
and your house will be my home as long as I live.
Wow! I have been at Stanford for over seven weeks now and only have two more weeks of class before Thanksgiving. Time flies at this school. Every week without fail I look back and think “where did time go?”
These past two months I have had the opportunity to do so many things to further pursue my passions. Stanford started an initiative last year to really focus on the issue of human trafficking, and the lecture series and research initiative have continued this Fall.
From Dark Networks to Dark Markets: Applying Intelligence Principles to Human Trafficking Networks
This lecture examined human trafficking from a perspective I had never used before. The lecturer, a political scientist, explained how the trafficking network works and how we can use our own form of networking to fight it. As someone who barely knows anything about computer science or coding, I found his discussion on how coding can be used to fight the networks of human trafficking fascinating. Companies like Palintir are starting to use CS to fight crime and the results are incredible.
IJM Benefit Dinner – San Fransisco
Thanks to an incredible family that supports Cardinal Life, my Christian fellowship on campus, a group of us were able to go to this dinner put on by the International Justice Mission. We heard a general overview of the organization from Gary Haugen, the CEO of IJM, and then more specific details on their work from Saju Mathew, the director of operations in South Asia. The stories of the work they do blew me away and reignited my dream to work for them.
Documentary: Opium Brides
Each year the United Nations puts on an international film festival in Palo Alto. This year’s focus was Human Dignity, and I went to go see one of the movies with my roommate. It focused on “opium brides” – young girls in Afghanistan who are sold to repay the debt their parents accumulate when the government slashes their opium crop and they have no way to repay the drug traffickers. The movie was somewhat horrifying because it showed the brutal realities these families face. I had no knowledge of the issue beforehand and am glad I went to see the film.
Panel Discussion about Proposition 35 (the CASE Act) on human trafficking in California
Next I went to this panel discussion on this proposition that will be on the California ballot in November. The proposal is called Californians Against Sexual Exploitation and in the last month there has been a lot of controversy over the consequences it will have once put into place. At this event we got to here both sides of the argument from representatives of the police department, lawters, social workers, and Daphne Phung, the author of the proposition. In all honesty, I still don’t know what I would vote. As a 17 year old though I don’t have to! I think it will pass because so far the people I have talked to who have not read it, and who don’t fully understand the issue, are all going to vote for it because “obviously we’re not in favor of sexual exploitation.” I don’t know how bad the consequences would be. I don’t fully understand the proposition system either – it seems sort of non-professional to me. I’m just going all european and maintaining that the government can probably write laws better than we can!
Religious Perspectives on the Death Penalty
This event included two religious figures, one from a Catholic and one from a Jewish background. They addressed the current debate around the death penalty, then focused on religious reasons to oppose it. I thought the details they gave were fascinating. I had no idea that the majority of evangelical Christians support it, including large church organizations all over the US. Again, my european bias steps in and makes me wonder what on earth people see in the death penalty. In California alone, the government would save one billion dollars over the next 5 years if the death penalty was eliminated. We also discussed arguments against it from a religious perspective such as the story in John 8 of the women caught in adultery. Though according to Jewish law she should have been stoned to death, Jesus offers her forgiveness and tells the crowd that whoever is innocent should throw the first stone. The old testament clearly endorses the death penalty, but we no longer live under OT law but under the grace of Jesus. I believe that only God has the authority to determine whether someone lives or dies and thus the death penalty is unjustifiable.
Health, Human Rights and Why We Should Care
This seminar lasted all day but I only had the chance to go to two lectures: Access to Health in Africa, and The Right to Health in India. Both were extremely informative and discussed individually designed projects that were very inspiring. One grad student discussed his work in South Africa, where he had implemented a program to teach people basic first aid skills. I was especially impressed with the way he measured the program’s lasting success, because that seems to be one of the hardest aspects of human rights work.
Not For Sale’s Global Forum
Last but certainly not least: this past Thursday and Friday I had the chance to volunteer at Not For Sale‘s global forum on human trafficking. It was incredible. The greatest thing in life is to be surrounded by people who share your passion, faith and hope for the future, and I got to experience that for two full days. I came back literally glowing I felt so on fire for God and for working to fight human trafficking and global injustice. I really enjoyed my job – I was stationed at the International Projects station, and my work consisted of talking to everyone who walked by about their involvement in the battle against modern day slavery and convincing people to become partners of the organization. Due to the layout of the conference room, I was right by the main stage and got to hear a lot of the fabulous speakers. The interactive nature of the forum also meant I got to talk to lawyers, non-profit workers and social workers who share my passion for fighting human trafficking. It was so encouraging to hear the work that is currently being done – but also see that there is a real need for the work I want to do.
There were two interactions I had that especially impacted me. I got to speak to the directer of Passion, a Christian conference where college students from all over the world come together to worship and commit to serving God. Next week he’s visiting IJM’s headquarters in South Asia, and he said, “When I tell them that there’s this girl named Nicolle from Vienna, studying at Stanford so that she can come work with them, they are going to be so excited.” Sometimes actually working as a lawyer, directly combatting human trafficking seems so far off. I still have so many years of school, and so many people want to work for IJM that at times I wonder if I will actually ever get a job with them. But when he said that I just thought “Wow. I’m actually going to do this.” The other was a conversation I had with John Richmond, a prosecutor who works with the U.S. Department of Justice to fight human trafficking in America. He loves his job. How many lawyers do you meet like that? He told me that one of the most important things he believes people can do to be effective at fighting for global justice is to get the best education they can. He said that what we need now is not compassion for victims of human trafficking, but educated people who will use their resources to fight for them. This revamped my motivation and reminded me that even though I still have years of school ahead of me, there is a greater purpose for everything I do here.
My first week of college is over.
I made it through a week of classes, about 300 pages of reading and my first frat party. I went to multiple different christian groups, and found a great small group with girls that I know I’m going to love. I actually managed to wake up every morning to go to my 9:00 class (somewhat of a shock at this school). And most importantly, I had a ton of fun.
There’s a lot I’ve learned in the first week. Some of it to do with school, some of it to do with Stanford, lots of it to do with myself.
1. Biking here is one of the most nerve wracking things I have ever done in my life. At Stanford nearly everyone bikes to class, to the gym, to the grocery store, to the library, etc. The general consensus is that undergrads don’t wear helmets and grad students do. I have to admit that after biking around the circle of death I’ve decided to act like a grad student.
2. Everyone I meet here blows my mind. Seriously I’ve never been surrounded by so many people who have all done amazing things. Also, my dorm is awesome. There’s this crazy sense of extreme trust and everyone loves being with each other so much.
3. There are so many things to do here! I went to the activities fair on Friday – so overwhelming. It was all I could do to keep myself from joining ALL the organizations. To deal with this I’ve decided to get involved with different organizations each year. If I decide I like crew, I will probably do it this year and next year. All four years I want to be involved in Christian Fellowship – this year I’m part of Cardinal Life. I’m also running for dorm president which would put me on Frosh Council which plans the Freshman Formal and other events for our class. At some point over the next few years I would like to do a capella, write for one of the campus journals and try mock trial. I know it’s a ton of things so I’m NOT going to try to do it all at once … although a part of me would love to try!
4. The weather here is amazing. It’s almost October and we had a pool party and I’ve been living in shorts. The only time it’s cold is in the mornings on the way to class when it is freezing!
5. My classes are awesome. My statistics teacher has a sweet German accent, my Econ professor is funny and I know my Justice class is going to prepare me extremely well for law school. Then there’s my seminar on microfinance which is by far my favorite class. The professor, an entrepreneur himself, teaches in the economics and law departments. The class only has 20 students in it, which allows for a lot of interaction and discussion, but get this – it’s broadcasted live to 1000 other students at over 75 schools across the nation. Students at NYU and Georgetown watch it on TV, and I actually get to be there in the classroom. This school is so cool.
I made it through the first week – let’s see how much longer I last!
I have decided to take a somewhat easy quarter to easy me into life at school and give me enough time to learn to row! I am so excited for all the opportunities here which go way beyond the classroom and this quarter I also want to have enough time to make close friends and get settled in. I am taking 14 units right now (the minimum is 12 and maximum is 20, but they advise freshman not to take more than 15).
PSYCH 10 – Introduction to Statistical Methods: Precalculus (5 units) This class is a requirement for the Human Biology major and will also fulfill my math requirement.
PSYCH 50 – Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience (4 units) This is basically a class on everything I’ve always wanted to know about brain biology. I looked at the textbook and just thought “oh my gosh yes this is the class for me!”
ETHICSOC 171 – Justice (5 units) This class will fulfil my humanities requirement (something I’m dreading almost as much as the Engineering and Applied Sciences requirement) and sounds super interesting. I’ve heard it has a lot of reading but is a great class.
ECON 23I - Introduction to Microfinance (1-2 units) This is a 1-2 unit seminar taught by an upper level student. I’m excited because there will only be maximum 20 of us in the class and I think it will be really interesting!
A friend of mine messaged me and asked how things were going at school after my first few days there. My schedule here has been so packed and I only had a few moments to answer with: EVERYTHING IS AWESOME THIS IS THE COOLEST SCHOOL EVER. Needless to say, this has been one of the best weeks of my life.
On Tuesday, September 15th, all of the “nationals” showed up. ISO ended and the craziness of NSO began. I met my roommate and 80 other frosh who live in my dorm. My roommate grew up in Stanford, CA but is Italian, so she spent her summers in Italy. We have a lot in common – she’s also interested in global health and international politics. I think we’re going to have a great year together! That day I toured the REC center and went to an open house on religious faith at Stanford. We had our Opening Convocation Ceremony and played mixer games with our dorm. So many names to remember!! That’s been almost the most exhausting part. Remembering names and trying not to ask people “what are you going to study” for the 4000th time. At the end of the day a lot of us were ready for bed … but no. It was time for BAND RUN! All 1700 freshman – and a whole ton of upperclassman – ran all around campus with the band blasting tunes. The Leeland Stanford Junior Marching Band is not your average marching band. To join you do not have to be able to play an instrument – but you have to be certifiably crazy. Band run ended at around 1:00 in the morning. And because my dorm is even more extreme, we went fountain hopping afterwards.
Wednesday was packed as well. I woke up bright and early to take my Spanish placement test… and was placed into First Year Spanish, Third Quarter. Welcome to Stanford. We then had a “Discover Stanford” session and went to various lectures on planning your first quarter and choosing classes. After dinner we had what turned out to be the best event of NSO: Faces. We heard from all different Stanford students on their experiences here. The very first speaker was an African-American who talked about the way his Christian faith had supported him throughout his first two years as a Stanford student and how it was a key factor in overcoming a drinking problem. It was so cool to hear that! I hadn’t met very many Christians up until that point and it was great to hear that they are a significant part of the community here – even if they are small in number. After hearing different speakers from all different personal backgrounds, and watching student groups perform, we headed back to the dorm for our own version of Faces. Our RAs asked us to write a few characteristics on index cards in two categories – visible and invisible traits. These were then written on a board at the front of the room, anonymously. It was so interesting to see how the visible traits and invisible traits varied. Some people put characteristics on the invisible side that others thought were visible. Looking at that board I realized that I was surrounded by people who had gone through so much more than I ever imagined. I think that already we had begun to fall into the “Stanford happiness trap” of always answering “great” when someone asks you how you’re doing and being happy ALL the time. I’m not saying it’s bad to be happy – not at all. But it’s better to be open. The RA’s then opened the floor, and slowly we began to pour our hearts out to each other. People told stories they said they had never recalled to anyone before, and the room was filled with brutal honesty and deep trust. I did not remember most people’s names, yet I had heard their deepest struggles. We talked for three hours. Since then, my dorm has grown closer and closer. We know that we’re all here for each other and we make an effort to be social and connect with one another. I love my dorm, and this is going to be an awesome year!
The next few days were a mixture of activities and some much needed free time. Thursday we had our “First Lecture” and attended other lectures by professors on their favorite topics. Then we got to meet with our Pre-Major Advisor. Mine is a HumBio professor who focuses on global health and specifically disease prevention. It’s easy to get caught up here in thinking everyone else has things more figured out than you do… and I had begun to fall into that trap. Talking to her was great because she encouraged me that HumBio seemed like a great fit and that Stanford was going to be wonderful for me! Thursday night we had another big meeting called “The Real World: Stanford” where different students talked about alcohol, drugs, sex and campus life in general. They did it through a series of skits that were interesting and entertaining.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday I spent with my classmates, exploring the campus and seeing what it has to offer. On Sunday InterVarsity took us to Peninsula Bible Church for the first stop on the church tour. All of the interested freshman in Stern, my dorm complex, went together. There were six of us from my dorm which was awesome. Although I loved meeting more Christians and going to church I don’t think PBC will end up being my home church. Sorry Mom and Dad! :) Next week we’re trying out a smaller church called Highway. I also want to go to Menlo Park Presbyterian soon.
Monday I start my classes! Here we go!