I am always looking for new ways to expand myself and to gain knowledge about things that interest me as well as things that I have never heard of. I love the thought of throwing myself into a completely different experience that I will be able to share later on. So when the opportunity presented itself to me to apply for Stanford Summer College as a sophomore in high school, I jumped. I can still clearly envision the smile on my face when I unexpectedly pulled the thick acceptance envelope out of the mailbox one day. And that was just the beginning of the greatest excursion I have ever gone on. The drive up to Palo Alto from San Diego included a few days’ stop in San Francisco to see the sights that my sister and I had yet to experience. This had little effect on calming my excitement, though, for the two months of college that I had ahead of me. It was not until the morning of the drive from San Francisco to Stanford’s quaint home in Palo Alto that I began to feel the nerves kick in. As my dad drove my mom, my sister and I through the little town, I was shocked at how different it was than I had expected. In fact, I had no idea what to expect. I knew we had somewhat arrived to our destination when I saw the big billboard advertising Stanford’s football team and tickets for the upcoming season, and I immediately pulled out my camera and began snapping photo after blurry photo of the big sign. Little did I know that I would have so much interaction with the Division I football players themselves, and looking back on my obsession with the billboard at the beginning of last summer now just makes me smile and laugh. At this point in our family trip, I had no knowledge of Stanford University’s campus as I do now. We wound through small roads surrounded by tall trees, and I began to grow extremely worried. “This is gonna suck,” I said half jokingly, “I’m not gonna be able to handle this for two months.” My disdainful view of nature and my love of urban city both overtook me as my fear increased more and more as we seemed to drive deeper and deeper into a forest. Eventually, my dad found the street that the GPS was trying so hard to guide us to: Santa Teresa. This is the street that I would be residing on for eight full weeks as I would grow to know the worldly-known campus. There was already a long line of students and parents waiting to pick up their personalized packets and be led to the carefully assigned dorm rooms. I nearly started crying right then and there. Those kids in line were the individuals I was going to be surrounded by for two months, and the three people sitting in the car with me? They were the ones that I would be leaving for two months, a mere state-length away. I had never been away from family for this long, and the realization scared me to death. The summer that I spent taking classes at Stanford and living the full college experience was the best summer of my sixteen years in existence. One of the most nerve-wracking hours of my life was quickly followed by nearly fifty-six days of pure excitement and amazing new encounters. I know it was a trip that I could only really appreciate once, but I would not have chosen anything else.
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