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Bradley Huang meditating, rainforest in Brisbane. Photo by Sharon Barazani.

Reflecting on Freshman Year

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Bradley Huang meditating, rainforest in Brisbane. Photo by Sharon Barazani.


This is the story of how a class with the simple goal of reflection helped me feel like I belonged at Stanford.

To set the scene, my first quarter of freshman year felt like one long transition. It was kind of hard. At the beginning of winter quarter, I was more than ready to start “getting the most of Stanford,” whatever that meant, and to stop feeling like I was lost or missing out.

So I tried to sign up for Designing Your Stanford, a class for freshman and sophomores that focuses on tools for designing a thoughtful and individualized Stanford experience. I thought that class was what I needed to find my path here on campus. Unfortunately, it didn’t work with my schedule that winter.

Disappointed, I decided to enroll in a First Year Reflections Seminar instead. This choice changed my outlook on freshman year and gave me the little push I needed to figure out what I wanted.

From the moment I walked into the seminar room on the second floor of Sweet Hall, I liked the class. The space was more like a lounge than a classroom, with snacks on a coffee table, and the seminar student leaders smiled a lot. But I was struck most by the number of other freshman there. They all seemed just as interested in reflecting on the year as I was.

Everyone will tell you that the best part of Stanford is the people. Well, I think it’s true because the positive experience I had in that seminar was a result of practicing reflection within a larger group of my peers. Each of them faced common freshman year problems but brought a unique perspective to share.

If I’d done our class activities on my own, it could have been somewhat helpful, but reflecting as a group made me see my personal vision in a different way and also allowed me to make new friends. We even made a Stanford bucket list all together.

The seminar only met three times during the quarter, but I looked forward to every session. Life at Stanford moves pretty fast, and this one class made me finally stop to think about the things that are important to me. With the space to think and a little encouragement, I could refocus my time and energy on the things that matter instead of worrying about missed opportunities.

On the last day of the class, I walked outside to Meyer Green and felt the contentment that had been missing. I finally felt like a part of Stanford.

Hayden Payne

Class of 2019

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