Farewell to Stanford-Thai Exchange Program (a little STEP journey)

I am sitting on the Coupa side of the Meyer library looking at my North star, the Hoover Tower, which the rooftop shines extraordinarily beautiful tonight, my last night at Stanford. I inhaled as if all air fill my lungs and hold it as long as they can almost explode at any moment.

Three weeks ago I was still whining about how dinning hall foods taste unpleasant, how the campus is so isolated that it felt as if I was placed in the middle of nowhere, and how much I miss Thai food full of herbs and spices. But at this moment, I hope that time stops and even if I have to wake up to see all those dinning hall foods tomorrow I will cherish every bite of it.

I close my eyes and make one wish to the Hoover Tower as I exhale. It was the wish that can change my life forever at this same  Hoover Tower I saw on my first day.

The first day I reach this place, everything feels like a dream. As I was heading toward the escondido village, feeling lost, the only thing I saw looking up was one bell tower just like the google image for ‘Stanford University.’ Unlike tropical climate, 5 am at Stanford can slowly penetrate the cold into your soul that you can feel the episode from your heart beat. But I still kept walking and trying to remind my conscience that this is real, I am really stepping on the Stanford ground and breathing the Stanford air, and nothing is going to stop me from walking to that bell tower. For some reason, I couldn’t sleep last night after the staffs brought me back from the SFO airport.

The campus is huge. I felt as if I was walking in the middle of nowhere and had no idea where the bell tower was. The cold shivered my bones that I could hardly tolerate, and therefore, had to unwillingly head back to Mirrilees, where I started. Simultaneously, it was hard to distinguish which one of the three buildings in front of me is Mirrilees. Without the student ID card, life is hard in this Farm. It is almost impossible to access the building without merciful students who opens the front door for you, especially, at 6 am. It was the first time I understood that people could froze to death.

Now that this is my last day, I am not sure how to feel. It felt ambivalent and bittersweet, at the same time. I want to go home, but I wish I can stay here. I can’t help rewinding everything that happened during this entire trip inside my mind along the way to SFO airport.
Two days ago, I visited Berkeley for the second time. It wasn’t as cold or rainy as my first time, but it certainly is more interesting.
With the least knowledge of what Stanford is like on my first day, I was already half in love with Berkeley due to the city setting, the street full of interesting foods, and our tour guide who kept persuading us to come to Berkeley as if it is the best place on the West coast.
I have to admit that the first tour was immensely enjoyable due to the fact that everything looked so interesting that you just want to see and feel a little bit of everything, the same way you see food in a buffet restaurant. Walking across the front of Cal comes the city central where several ethnic restaurants are presented.

 I was inspired by one of my favorite professors in Thailand, who have always wanted to study at Cal all his life. For this reason, I was looking forward to be here every minute and second I of my breath. I felt as if I am stepping on a place of his dreams and the world kept going. It was supposed to be the best moment, but in actuality time did not stop. Life goes on. There is nothing special that provokes an awe. This is just the land filled with party nerds and golden bears everywhere.

Kevin, our tour guide/ friend/poly sci/ Thai scholar showed us several bear statues, which is the mascot of Cal, as well as taking us to the most beautiful spot at Berkeley where he called the “Celeb Spot” on one of the buildings just like the hoover tower at Stanford. We saw one of the prettiest capture of the golden gate. It was the most amazing moment at Cal. Since, we need to rush back to Stanford, which will probably take us almost 2 hours, the tour only last for less than an hour.

However, this time (the second time at Berkeley) I got to spend more time at Cal and really see what it’s like. I was introduced to a couch surfing host from Cal by Irene, who made this trip happen. His name is Chris. He took us around Campus and explain every single detail that Kevin has left out the other day. Therefore, there is no Bias this time. Surprisingly, he knows Kevin.
I’d also spent the night with a couch surfing host who is currently a grad student in a co-op house at Cal. Luckily, one of his house mates provide us with the coziest bed ever because she wants to spend sometime at her boyfriend’s place for his birthday.

Couch surfing is a wonderful experience. More fun than I was expecting. I would not have known so much about Cal without this couch surfing network. Chris and his friend Andrew took us around the campus surrounded by row houses, where he stayed. We actually went up the tower this time. The smell of incense reminds us that this is the middle of telegraph street. The smell of public urination tell us this is near the people park. The melt (restaurant) is where Irene and I decided to meet up at Berkeley. If we see Starbucks, we are probably going to get some top dogs. On the other side of campus there is a Mayan or Aztec dance full of smoke and noises. It was a very interesting performance on campus considering Cal. Not sure if there is a relevance in this case.

Just like that, the car stopped. I am back to reality. I walked slowly to my gate at the airport after a final hug with my Stanford friends. We developed such a strong bond and I have no idea how opportunities like this will ever drop by again. I am so fortunate to have come this far, but as it turns out nothing lasts forever. Like my mother once said, every ending signals a new beginning and new beginnings are often inspired by impressive endings.