A Collegial Afternoon: Visiting Stanford University


Last Saturday, we were in Half Moon Bay, CA, and couldn't decide what to do before the wedding we were going to attend at 4 PM. We wanted to do some sort of sightseeing, but we didn't want to tire ourselves out before the big evening ahead. We had already explored the immediate area the day before, so we looked on the map to see other options. It turned out we were only 20 miles away from Palo Alto, so why not go to Stanford University?

Perhaps it sounds like a strange choice… To visit a school that you're not applying to (although, hey, you never know!) and that you have no connection to. But I love seeing college campuses of schools that I've heard so much about — to me, it's like seeing any other famous destination.


We were pleased that Palo Alto was a good 10 degrees warmer than Half Moon Bay, making it perfect weather for walking around. We didn't have all that much time, but we managed to hit a few highlights. We started at the quad, which is truly one of the most impressive I have ever seen. It's Mission-style, calling to mind the Santa Barbara Mission, only much grander. As if the architecture wasn't enough, there's also a group of Rodin sculptures called the Burghers of Calais, which commemorates the citizens who agreed to self-sacrifice to save their city during the Hundred Years' War.


Then we walked through the main arches and were greeted with the sight of Memorial Church's colorful facade. Interestingly, it has always been non-denominational. I'm sure it's beautiful inside, too, but we didn't get to go in because there was a wedding in progress. So many people want to get married there that Stanford limits it to students, alumni, staff and faculty, although if you are involved with the local religious community there seems to be ways around that.

We left the quad and came upon White Plaza, where we spotted a girl sitting at a table wearing a button that said something along the lines "ask me anything." So I decided to ask her what else I should see during my limited time on campus. She told me that I shouldn't miss the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts (or at the very least the Rodin sculpture garden outside it) and Lake Lagunita, around which students like to go running, take walks or relax and enjoy the views of the foothills.


We decided to go to the lake first. But when we got there, we couldn't find it — there was a puddle instead. We asked some students and, yes, this was indeed the lake. Supposedly, it gets full by the summer. It looked like it had a long way to go. I guess the students will have to use one of the four pools in the mean time.


We were already running short on time, so we began heading over to the Cantor Center. On the way, we stumbled upon the New Guinea Sculpture Garden. This might have been my favorite thing that I saw because it was so unexpected. In 1994, the school hosted 10 master carvers from Papua New Guinea to create this collection. There are a variety of works in wood and stone; some are even painted.

We were running out of time, so we weren't able to go inside the Cantor Center, which was too bad. We were, however, able to enjoy the Rodin sculptures outside the museum. Our time spent on the campus may have been short, but I felt like I got a good idea of the school. Even if you're out of the applying-to-college stage, Stanford is definitely worth a visit — it's quite an impressive place.


One Response to A Collegial Afternoon: Visiting Stanford University

  1. marina k. villatoro May 3, 2009 at 11:54 am #

    I love visiting universities. In the States and Europe we always did a day trip to a gorgeous university. In Central America the universities aren’t as stately or monumental, but they are fun too. Since my husband was studying in Costa Rica, and my son and I had lots of free time we started visiting him. And I discovered how much fun it is for the child as well. I actually wrote an article about it on my blog because I feel that they are such overlooked sights!
    Looking forward to participating in your carnival this week!

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