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The tree mascot performs with the Stanford Band for the Admit Weekend participants. by Linda Cicero via SALLIE

I Am Stanford: Rosie La Puma

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The tree mascot performs with the Stanford Band for the Admit Weekend participants. by Linda Cicero via SALLIE


This is the story of how an embarrassing moment with my dad during NSO led me to me find my perfect major and feel fulfilled as a Stanford student. Actually, don’t tell him that; he’ll never let me live it down. This story actually covers a lot more, but I hope you take away the fact that every chance encounter and opportunity you have at Stanford could lead to something great.

First, let me back up a little and introduce myself. My name is Rosie La Puma; I grew up in a suburb of D.C. until I was 9 and then moved out to Southern California to a city called Palos Verdes outside of Los Angeles. I have a wonderful, goofy family: my two parents, two little sisters and one sassy fat cat.

Arriving on the farm for freshman fall, I had everything prepared: car loaded with bags, iStanford app downloaded, Approaching Stanford booklet read. There was only one little problem: I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do at Stanford.

Day 1

On the first day of NSO, before I had to make some basic decisions in the what-to-do realm (like choosing classes - yikes!), I met the person who would help me laugh through all my indecision: Bianca, my freshman roommate. We ended up rooming together again sophomore year and spend our time asking each other for advice, exchanging essays for review, practicing Spanish, going out to eat, baking in the dorm kitchenette… the list goes on. Even an introvert (like me!) found it pretty easy to find kindred spirits among the diverse and endlessly interesting Stanford community.

The {foot}hills are alive...with the sound of music (+ radio). Music has always been a big part of my life, and one of the few things I did know from before Day 1 at Stanford was that I wanted to audition for the Stanford Symphony Orchestra. Two years later, I still revel at the opportunity to play wonderful, challenging music in the newly-opened Bing Concert Hall.

I joined the pit orchestra of Rams Head’s Les Miserable freshman spring and TAP’s Evita sophomore spring. My viola has also gotten some use in a piano quintet, at advent/Christmas concerts, and in dorm room jam sessions with my freshman RA. No matter what your skill level and whether or not you have interest in pursuing music past college, there is always someone on campus who is willing to play with you.

I was able to reconnect to another high school passion of mine: storytelling. The Stanford Storytelling Project is an arts initiative on campus that, among other things, produces a podcast called State of the Human. Relating anecdotes over pizza at open meetings, searching through 200-year-old pun books in Green Library, and recording voice overs in the mildly-sketchy KZSU studio under Memorial Auditorium, I knew I’d found another home.

My freshman fall I plunged in with The Science of Mythbusters (Thinking Matters), Contemporary Women Fiction Writers (IntroSem), Chem31X (a prereq for a lot of upper level science courses) and Music 160 (Stanford Symphony Orchestra).

All three quarters of my freshman year ended up being a similar mix of WAYs/PWR classes, potentially “practical” classes and {lots of} classes I thought sounded fascinating and fun. It was like being a little kid at the ice cream shop that let me try unlimited samples! In my two years thus far I can say I’ve tried:

Chemistry, English, Music, Theater and Performance Studies, Math, Sign Language, Spanish, Psychology, Economics, Political Science, Engineering, Feminist/Gender Studies, Iberian and Latin American Culture, Psychiatry, and Law.

Too much breadth and not enough depth, you say? *shrug* Perhaps. But all those classes overlapped in sometimes surprising ways: one particularly amusing week I was studying Cuban politics in my Latin America class, researching Cuban revolutionary music for my Spanish class, and reading a novel on Jewish-Cuban identity in an English IntroSem. Oh, and the next week Obama happened to mention that he was reopening diplomatic relations with Cuba. Life is funny that way.

Finding and Serving Community

I found my real home, however, in the Catholic Community at Stanford (CC@S). CC@S events were the places where I first got to know upperclassmen, first established my weekly routine, and first met community members who were not college-aged. I can’t tell you how excited I was to sit down to dinner at a real kitchen table in San Jose with my choir director and her family (yay children!) halfway through freshman fall. BTW, you may come to think of your pantry with a strange nostalgia.

Praying and worshiping with the Catholic Community was a way to find familiarity among the strange, and to discover that it’s totally ok to be religious in college - in fact, it’s been super grounding.

After a fabulous internship with an organization called Catholic Relief Services (CRS) last summer, I joined the CC@S Social Justice Team this past year and got to put my faith into action through service, advocacy, and action. I joined the Stanford Association for International Development (SAID) and helped plan a conference on Forced Migration with speakers like Alexander Alenikoff, the Deputy General of the UNHCR.

Not everything in my Stanford experience was breezy and fun. Stanford can be hard. Sometimes, you might feel lonely. Sometimes, you might feel overwhelmed. Sometimes (especially if you’re indecisive) you might even feel a little directionless. But the trick to resilience, for me at least, was joining and giving back to the communities that made me feel whole.

Major {and Minor} Decisions

Two weeks before the end of sophomore year, I finally declared International Relations as my major; a week later, I tagged on Creative Writing as a minor.

This decision brings me back to that mildly embarrassing moment with my Dad during NSO. We were at an Open House for the Office of Religious Life, and my Dad charged right up the Catholic Community table and started talking to Lourdes, the campus minister. Five minutes later, he had volunteered me up as a musician, group leader, and graphic designer. Within a week I was designing the weekly newsletter for CC@S. A few months later I was having my first immersive service experience on an Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trip with CC@S, then getting a recommendation from Lourdes for a summer internship with Catholic Relief Services, then I’m suddenly starting my sophomore year and wondering if, just maybe, I might want to dedicate my life to a major with the subtitle “Social Development and Human Well Being”.

I don’t know. The butterfly effect can certainly be overstated; perhaps my decision really was a result of the conversation with an IR major I had on a hike in Muir Woods, or an amazing book I read called The Underground Girls of Kabul, or late influence of listening to NPR every day on the drive to my high school.

But either way, at Stanford you’ll meet people and confront ideas that you perhaps never would have considered before, and those may be the ones you fall head over heels for. Those little moments will add up to the person you will be when you leave. And, halfway through my Stanford experience, I guarantee that day will come quicker than you think.

Rosie La Puma

International Relations
Class of 2017

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