Having attended other post-secondary institutions, Stanford’s small and tightly-knit group of transfer students has the unique ability to make comparisons and shed light on what many Stanford undergraduates likely take for granted. Diana Munoz-Villanueva and Teryn Norris are two such transfer students. In addition to telling their stories, they were asked to compare their former post-secondary institutions to Stanford, focusing specifically on making comparisons regarding Stanford’s political life, academics, and social life.
Diana Munoz-Villanueva was born in Mexico and moved to the US when she was 14 years old. After living in Los Angeles for a brief period of time, she and her family eventually moved to San Francisco. She says that she is 100 percent Mexican and takes pride in her roots, but, at the same time, calls the Bay Area her home and takes pride in living in this country.****
Out of high school, Munoz-Villanueva applied to and was accepted at a number of schools throughout California, including U.C. Berkeley. Munoz-Villanueva says that she really wanted to attend Berkeley, but, due to financial concerns and because she wasn’t sure what she wanted to study, she ultimately decided to attend City College of San Francisco. Munoz-Villanueva says that she had no intention of applying to Stanford until her chancellor at City College recommended it. “Even though you’re breathing, your lungs are still empty,” she said about learning of her acceptance to Stanford.
Munoz-Villanueva was once again accepted at Berkeley. “Honestly, it wasn’t even a real question. I knew that it was going to be Stanford. The textbooks that I’m reading are the textbooks that my professors wrote, and there’s absolutely nothing better than knowing that the person teaching you is the best at what they do,” she said. Munoz-Villanueva is a junior, and has plans to major in engineering.
Political Life: “In San Francisco, it wouldn’t be a Wednesday if students weren’t gathering and talking about something that was going on, whether it be the war or the bank bailouts. They were very outspoken about how they felt. I haven’t seen as much of that here at Stanford, but I don’t want to say that it’s because Stanford students aren’t as mobilized or as outspoken. Clearly, this is an institution with amazing students and amazing minds.”
Academics: “I don’t think the material here is impossibly hard, but I do realize that the amount of work that I have to do is a lot more. The amount of work is three times what I used to have. Before school started, I read the first chapter for each one of my classes, and, even though I did that and thought I was ahead of schedule, it turned out that I was just with the class. Everybody had already read the first chapter.”
Social Life: “Of course, in a community college, you live off campus, so you don’t get to experience as many parties. I did go to one party here, and I didn’t find it that appealing to me. I felt that there were way too many kids just trying to experiment with alcohol. I came here to study, to get my work done. Yes, I want to have free time, but I would rather sit around a table and have a drink with friends.”
Most surprising thing about Stanford: “The people. I thought the campus was going to be more conservative and that students would not be so open minded. I actually was very surprised with how liberal students on campus are and how well opinionated they are. Also, if you say ‘hi’ to people here, they ‘hi’ back, with a big smile. I’m so used to the big city, where everybody is tired and stressed out; everybody here is always happy and smiley.”
Originally from Asheville, North Carolina, Teryn Norris decided to attend Johns Hopkins University after high school. Norris says that his decision to attend Hopkins was based on the fact that he wanted to study international relations and international economics.
At Hopkins, Norris served as president of his class, and, after a year-long campaign, convinced the president of the university to adopt a new clean energy initiative that he launched. The summer of his freshman year, Norris worked at a public policy think tank here in the Bay Area called the Breakthrough Institute, which focuses on clean-energy policy. While there, Teryn proposed that he launch a young leaders initiative, and eventually took time off from Hopkins to work at the Breakthrough Institute full time. Norris worked in the Bay area until he decided to come to Stanford.
Norris says that Stanford had a lot more resources in his areas of interest and that Stanford’s location and good financial aid were particularly convenient. “I wanted to go to a school that had more resources in energy, especially energy policy but also, more broadly, economic policy,” he said. Norris considers himself a junior and plans to major in public policy.
Political Life: “The reputation at Hopkins and the general feeling you get being there is not that the student body is apathetic, but that, certainly, there is less student activism. When I was there, I launched this campaign to get a new energy and climate policy, and I actually saw a pretty significant outpouring of student interest and support. I do think in the past, Hopkins has been more apathetic, and part of that has to do with the admissions policy. I believe that the administration is now shifting their admissions policy, looking to build a little more active and a little bit more diverse student body. I think that, on the whole, the Stanford student body is much more active.”****
Academics: “I think people here take academics just as seriously as people at Hopkins, but that here, people are able to manage themselves a little better – they can still manage their academics without allowing it consume all of them. I think there are more people at Hopkins whose academics end up just consuming all of them, especially the biomedical engineers there. Hopkins has the reputation for attracting a lot of premeds because of the hospitals and its focus on the life sciences. So, it’s a little more cutthroat in terms of the academics and in terms of the way that students interact with their classes and what they prioritize.”
Social Life: “Certainly, I think the student body here is happier in general, and I think that’s for a number of reasons. One is that it’s Stanford, and everyone is proud to be here and knows what an amazing institution it is – everyone here is very happy with their financial aid packages. A lot of people at Hopkins are Ivy League rejects. They wanted to go to Yale or Princeton, and Hopkins was maybe in the middle of their selection. I think there are a lot of those, so they don’t necessarily have as much school pride.”
Most surprising thing about Stanford: “I didn’t realize how influential and important and conservative the Hoover institution was. Your first impression of Stanford is that it’s in the Bay Area, it’s near San Francisco; you would expect it to be this beacon of progressive leaning perspectives. Ultimately, it was nice to know that there was a diversity of thought here.”