Photos: Martina Marek
“It was the reputation of the university rather then the country that made me go to Stanford,” says Martina. She was curious about how it would feel to study at the world’s most renowned universities. No wonder: Stanford is among the universities that have created leading digital experts by the dozen and that are known for successful college dropout startups. Martina indeed worked as an intern at a startup company during her three months’ summer holidays.
Life takes place on campus
Martina is particularly enthusiastic about Stanford campus: “The campus looks almost like a holiday resort. It’s incredibly beautiful and spacious and has various places for students to meet and study.” Since courses are very labor-intensive and the motivation of the students is very high, there is always something going on. Much of the students’ lives takes place on campus anyway: “Palo Alto is in the direct neighborhood, but is a rather boring American suburb. To get to San Francisco, it takes one hour.”
Many services are free for students
But students neither need to go to Palo Alto nor to San Francisco. Very much is offered on Stanford campus directly. The university provides assistance in all matters: “Tutors help students with their homework, community assistants organize socializing events. An incredible number of lectures are held on campus by research groups or by companies and enterprises. Sometimes, the university organizes its own career events.” Martina smiles and winks as she goes on: “To attract as many students as possible, there are almost always free meals during such events.” Martina is particularly impressed by the fact that almost everything is included: Fitness centers, sports ground, and pools are scattered over the campus, and there are free concerts and sports events.
Students must work harder
In spite of all of these amenities, it is not a walk in the park to study at Stanford: ”I found it not so easy to get used to everyday Stanford University life,” Martina admits. We must submit very comprehensive weekly assignments. Accordingly, the semesters are very stressful. But if you work hard, you will receive good marks.”
Life in the USA
What is the difference between living in the land of opportunity and living at home? “People here at Stanford are incredibly nice and friendly,” says Martina. It is completely normal to make small talk to total strangers. However, contacts mostly remain superficial. Martina is still surprised by the poor infrastructure that no one would expect in such a rich country. “Potholes on the roads, terrible mobile phone reception, slow internet – this is very strange.” Nature, however, is much more beautiful than at home. Martina is really enthusiastic and says that the national parks are just great and that there is no such amazing wildlife in the European countries.
Financing is easier than one thinks
As a scholarship holder, Martina had no financing problems: During the first year, she held a Fulbright fellowship, and in the second year, she received funding by DAAD. Martina recommends that students who are not awarded fellowships do not throw in the towel right away but apply nevertheless: “Many universities, mainly in the area of engineering, offer excellent payment to tutors or assistants. This often suffices to completely finance one’s studies.”