a blustery view of alcatraz with the golden gate bridge in the background


This week has been quite a long one, as it did not start on the Monday, but also included the weekend before, as we attended orientation for the summer session over the weekend.



On Saturday, we checked into school and received our student IDs, signifying our status as Stanford students for the quarter! The seniors were all very welcoming, and gave us high fives as we entered the building in which to check in. While collecting our IDs, we also collected a bunch of freebies, including a Stanford Summer Session t-shirt, frisbee, pen and waterbottle.

Next, we proceeded to our home for the quarter – Branner Hall! There, we collected our room keys, and proceeded to our rooms to meet our pre-assigned roommates, which was rather exciting, as we were told beforehand that they would be of a different nationality. For us, our roommates come from all over the world, ranging from China, to Turkey to Mexico etc.

branner hall accommodation

That same day, we had a welcome reception, and we took the opportunity to explore the campus on foot, as we made our way to the venue. The Stanford campus is so much bigger than that of SUTD, and its architecture entirely different. Funnily, the school resembled a country club, with its light brown exteriors, arched corridors, palm trees, and countless water features dotted around campus. In some water features, there were even people swimming to escape the heat!

along the halls of stanford’s main quad



As many of us had limited space in our bags, we did not bring bedsheets, pillows, or blankets. This conveniently served as an excuse for us to go to the famed WALMART. Unfortunately, many of the Summer Sessions students had the same idea, and the Walmart was really crowded. Thankfully, we managed to get what we needed before they ran out.

The next day, we decided to head back to Walmart to get bicycles, as we were told that is how everyone commutes around campus, since it is so big. The walk from one end to the other can be as long as 30 minutes according to google maps! Once again, everyone had the same idea, and we were left with limited options. But, we managed to get them, and proceeded to cycle back to campus, instead of taking the public bus (buses in America have a rack for carrying bicycles in front of the bus).

That night, we patronized the Arrillaga dining commons for the first time. Each week we are allowed 14 meals, and the dining commons serve breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. We were overwhelmed by the buffet-style, wide selection of food available. There was a salad bar, burger bar, daily specials, pasta with a choice of sauce, soup, fruits and dessert. The highlight however was the discovery of the ice-cream machine and the brownies!

arrillaga dining commons
the wide spread of options that they offer



Class started on Monday, and we used our nifty new bikes to get to class. There are a lot of courses available for summer, and some popular courses amongst us include: emotional psychology, literature, algorithms, neuroscience, and so on. Typically, we have lessons four days a week, with only one or two classes a day. Classes range from two hours to three hours, and these can be at 9/10am, 1pm or 4pm.

taking our fresh wheels for a ride
personality psychology class in building 200



Tuesday to Thursday passed much the same as Monday did, with us having lessons in the day, and consuming our meals in the dining commons. In our free time, we would do our readings or pre-class assignments to prepare for the upcoming lessons, and to free up time for our weekend plans.



As many of us did not have lessons on Fridays, we decided to go out on Thursday night! We rented a car from Enterprise, the car rental with the best rates in school, and by a stroke of luck, we got a JEEP, despite paying for a lower end sedan! We headed to the San Francisco Premium Outlet, a haven for anyone who loves shopping, or is looking for some deals and steals. There really is something for everyone here, although the drive was quite long, and traffic was not the best, it was totally worth it as we shopped from afternoon till closing time at 9pm. We later found out that in view of 4thJuly, there were additional sales!

our first enterprise rental – a jeep !



We did not have lessons on Friday, and we still had the car until 2pm, so we decided to explore outside of the school! Farmer’s markets are wildly popular here, and we wanted to see what they were about. There are different markets dotted all around, and there will always be at least one market open on each day of the week. We proceeded to the San Jose Farmer’s Market, but it was underwhelming, as there were few stalls to patronize, and limited options. However, it is located to San Jose Public Market, which would make an excellent place to chill and dine, especially so at night, with its al fresco seating, and fairy lights. Since we were in the area, we decided to see where else we could go, and found the San Jose Flea Market. It was basically the American version of our Pasar Malam, with rows upon rows of stalls selling all sorts of things. There were wigs, gadgets, brooms, cleaning supplies, textiles, Mexican snacks, pinatas, produce, dried goods etc. However, since it was a weekday, many stalls were not open. We managed to get some Mexican snacks (on the recommendation of one of our friend’s Mexican rooomates), to try, as we cannot get these back home.

downtown san jose farmers market
piñata shop – san jose flea market (shot on ektar 35mm)
fresh produce – san jose flea market (ektar 35mm)



We went to Alcatraz with the school as part of our IHP. The audio tour was really eye opening, as we heard real life testimonies from both convicts, and prison guards of their time at Alcatraz. The tour was not too heavy, but it was not lighthearted either, and was grounded in the bleak reality of living in a prison such as Alcatraz.

listening to the audio guide of alcatraz (ektar 35mm)
a blustery view of alcatraz with the golden gate bridge in the background

We had the option to go back via school transport after the tour, but we opted to explore downtown San Francisco on our own instead. Since the pier for the Alcatraz boat was near Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf, we headed there. The area mostly consisted of tourist shops, seafood restaurants, and street performers. Nonetheless, the ambience was really lively, and we enjoyed soaking it in. Pier 39 also has sea lions!

sea lions out for a little sun action

The draw at Fisherman’s Wharf for us was really the Musee Mechanique, an arcade filled with vintage, coin-operated arcade games. The games were well priced, ranging from $0.25 to $1. It was so interesting to take a step back in time, to witness the marvel of engineering in how these mechanized games were built, and to just have fun. Things were much simpler back then, but the games were equally, if not more fun than they are now!

musée méchanique – the time capsule for arcade games
table ice hockey

To end off the day, we went to Ghirardelli Square. Ghirardelli is a famous chocolate brand that originated from San Francisco, and the original store is three storeys. The staff were extremely friendly and helpful, and gave us samples for the flavours we were curious about! We had one of their famous hot fudge sundaes too! Besides being a chocolatier, the square had many other curated shops for us to browse.

ghiradelli square
the famed hot fudge



As lessons resume on Monday once more, we spent most of this day catching up on work, having spent most of our weekend having fun. For lunch, we headed to the nearby farmer’s market – California Avenue Farmer’s Market which is a mere 1.6km from where we live. This time, our farmer’s market experience was much better. The place was bustling, and we managed to get fresh peaches, flowers, and other food to share. We went to the market pretty late (it operates from 9am to 1pm every Sunday), but we definitely want to come back here another Sunday at an earlier time to get a full market experience!

california avenue farmers market
savoury crepes, rôtisserie chicken, pita bread, cilantro pesto, avocados

written by: elizabeth

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