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Episode Notes | Episode Transcript | AskTheGuest

 Hi Fives (5 Highlights)   3-Minute Listen

As a passionate member of the Stanford University Alumni, Aya Yagi looks back at her Undergraduate Experience in this podcast. Aya Yagi is a graduate of Stanford with a Bachelor’s degree in French and Music.

Aya’s Stanford Undergraduate experience was very rich and broad. Her freshman year was a rough transition from high school. She also liked so many courses, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do.

So, she explored a lot.

She used Study Abroad in Paris in her Sophomore year as a way to escape the campus, but in the end it probably was therapeutic. Aya immersed herself in music and joined the Stanford Symphony.

Hi-Fives from the Podcast are:

  1. Overall Experience
  2. Why Stanford?
  3. “Great” Peers
  4. Study Abroad in Paris
  5. Advice to Aspiring Students

Episode Notes

Episode Title: Aya Yagi on Stanford: French & Music, Study Abroad in Paris, and Midnight Pizzas.

While growing up, music was a big part of Aya’s life. She played the piano and violin. She loved foreign languages. French in particular. Aya recalls her transition from her public school in Oakland, California to Stanford as being rough.

Aya Yagi is a graduate of Stanford University with a Bachelor’s degree in French and Music. Now, as a member of the Stanford University Alumni, Aya shares her Undergraduate Experience.

In particular, we discuss the following with her:

  • Choosing Stanford
  • Majoring in French and Music
  • Study Abroad in Paris
  • Stanford Symphony
  • Advice to Aspirants

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Introduction to Aya Yagi, Stanford University [0:37]
  • Hi Fives - Podcast Highlights [1:22]
  • Overall Experience [4:48]
  • Why Stanford? [5:44]
  • High School Interests [8:04]
  • Transition to Stanford [9:07]
  • “Great” Peers [10:42]
  • Professors [12:20]
  • Dorms [13:41]
  • Cultural, Social Scene [15:00]
  • Stanford Symphony & other Activities [16:58]
  • Study Abroad in Paris [18:28]
  • Adjusting Back on Campus [23:18]
  • Summers [25:53]
  • Choosing French and Music as Majors [33;30]
  • Stanford’s Impact [37:39]
  • Stanford Redo [41:11]
  • Advice to Aspiring Students [44:04]
  • Memories [46:45]

Our Guest: Aya Yagi is a graduate from Stanford University with a Bachelor’s degree in French Language and Literature, and Music. Aya received her Master’s degree in Education, Culture and Society from the University of Pennsylvania.

Memorable Quote: “I loved the time that I had abroad. And it actually came about because freshman year, I was kind of having a culture shock and adjusting to kind of college, and kind of specifically the elite environment, and really making sense of that. And so, freshman year, I think, January or so I was like, you know, I would like to take a break from campus.” Aya, on her Freshman Year at Stanford.

Episode Transcript: Please visit Episode’s Transcript.

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Episode Transcript

Transcript of the episode’s audio.

Aya 0:15

I remember freshman year one of my RAs that I was closer to was saying, you know, at the end of the day, all you're going to remember is like the friends that you had, like the good some of those good moments. And I was like, What are you talking about? I'm here to study. I'm not here to make friends.

Venkat  0:37  [Introduction to Aya Yagi, Stanford]

Aya Yagi is a graduate of Stanford University with a Bachelor’s degree in French and Music.

While growing up, Music was a big part of Aya’s life.

Aya played the piano and violin and practiced music in her free time.

In school, She didn’t meet a class she didn’t like.

She loved foreign languages. French in particular.

Venkat Raman  1:02

Aya  joins us on our podcast to tell us about her Stanford undergraduate experience.

Before we jump into the podcast, here are the High-Fives,  Five Highlights from the podcast:

Aya  1:22  [Highlights - Hi Fives]

[Overall Experience]

But thinking back at the experience, some of the things that I really enjoyed is just you know, Stanford, the institution has the privilege of having access to so many different resources, and opportunities. So I got to do a lot of things that I very likely wouldn't have had the opportunity to do otherwise.

[Why Stanford?]

And so really, the reason I chose Stanford, obviously, it has a lot of kind of resources. And, you know, people have a lot of great things to say about it. And also my decision came down to the fact that they would basically pay for my undergraduate experience. So that's really the driving factor that led me to choose Stanford.

[“Great” Peers]

It's like a dorm room of 90 people. And you all take the same core classes, you live in the dorms together, you eat in the same dining room, we have like Thursday night, kind of showcases around like special lectures, and like art presentations and things like that.

 

[Study Abroad in Paris]

I loved the time that I had abroad. And it actually came about because freshman year, I was kind of having a culture shock and adjusting to kind of college, and kind of specifically the elite environment, and really making sense of that. And so, freshman year, I think, January or so I was like, you know, I would like to take a break from campus. And I always knew that I really wanted to study abroad.

[Advice to Aspiring Studnents]

I think one is like really taking some time to understand like, what what you really enjoy, like what drives you what motivates you? Also, on the flip side, like what don't you want to do? And I know that like thing that as someone who didn't have a lot of things I didn't like, sometimes that is a hard question. But I think anything to help you really crystallize, like, what are you about? What do you want out of your college experience, and like really using that to guide you?

Venkat Raman  3:18

These were the Hi5s, brought to you by College Matters. Alma Matters.

Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Venkat Raman  3:29

Now, I'm sure you want to hear the entire podcast on Stanford with Aya.

So without further ado, here is Aya Yagi!

----------------------

Venkat Raman  3:38  

Let me start by welcoming you to our podcast. College Matters Alma Matters. Thank you so much for making the time.

Aya  3:47  

Yeah, thank you for having me excited to chat with you today.

Venkat Raman  3:51  

Absolutely. waiting to hear about your experience at Stanford. And I think just by way of introduction, we are trying to chronicle college stories from folks like you for the benefit of aspiring students all over the world. So this kind of podcast should be extremely, extremely beneficial. So thank you again.

Aya  4:17  

Yeah, of course, really excited to help out and kind of share, I think it's always helpful to hear how other people have navigated things. So excited to kind of share, share what I have to share, as long as it's helpful to anyone, so

Venkat Raman  4:30  

Yeah, absolutely. I'm sure it will. Cool. So let's start at the beginning. Sort of just give us sort of a sense of what your overall experience at Stanford was, like, as you kind of look at it in the rearview mirror.

Aya  4:48  [Overall Experience]

Yeah, great question. So I think like, there's a lot of great experiences that I had. There were also a lot of challenges, um, but thinking back at the experience, some of the things that I really enjoyed It is just, you know, Stanford that the institution has the privilege of having access to so many different resources, and opportunities. So I got to do a lot of things that I very likely wouldn't have had the opportunity to do otherwise. For example, even just like studying abroad, and joining like the symphony orchestra in the year where they built the new concert hall, the big concert hall, and then going on tour that summer, like etc, etc. So there's a lot of really great things that I was able to hear. Yeah. So yeah, those are some of the highlights, and we'll get into more of them later.

Venkat Raman  5:39  

Let's start with why did you go to Stanford?

Aya  5:44  [Why Stanford?]

Yeah, great question. My answers, probably not exactly what everyone would say. But growing up, so I grew up in Oakland, California, and very close to Berkeley. And I was always someone who grew up in the public school system. And I was actually very attached to UC Berkeley, which is funny, because it's the rival school, also to say, of Stanford, um, but end of the day, like I, you know, was thinking about the different schools that I wanted to apply to kind of in the summer of, what is it, but it's the summer before senior year, and then thinking through, you know, like, I actually would really need financial aid to be able to afford kind of a lot of the college experience without having a lot of debt. So I was like, Okay, where can I apply to, and Stanford, like other kind of elite universities does have a very generous financial aid package for families to who would benefit from it. So that kind of led me to apply to Stanford as one of my choices. Um, and so really, the reason I chose Stanford, obviously, it has a lot of kind of resources. And, you know, people have a lot of great things to say about it. And also my decision came down to the fact that they would basically pay for my undergraduate experience. So that's really the driving factor that led me to choose Stanford.

Venkat Raman  7:07  

Are the schools did you look at what will be competing schools in your mind?

Aya  7:12  

Great question. Um, I applied to, I think four of the UCs. Honest, I don't remember it's been a long time since college. But, um, I think I applied to UC Berkeley, I think you see, LA, UC Santa Cruz, and probably another one of the UCs. I spent one of the summers in high school, doing a summer program at UC Santa Cruz, and I love the campus. That's why I remember that one in particular that I applied to. I also applied to Harvard and Williams, and Princeton, and USC. I think those are the ones that I applied.

Venkat Raman  7:55  

Before we kind of get to Stanford. Let's talk a little bit about your high school. What what kind of things did you do? What kind of person were you in high school?

Aya  8:04  [High School Interests]

Yeah. Um, so as far as I can remember, I mean, the arts were always a part of my life. So I started playing piano and violin kind of young at a young age. And so really, that was a lot of the focus that I had kind of outside of academics. Um, I went to orchestra I did kind of practicing music was a lot of what I did in my spare time and singing and things like that. At school. I was never a person that had like, oh, I only really liked this subject. Your I hate XYZ subjects. I pretty much enjoy all of my classes. I also really like foreign languages. So French class was one of my favorites.

Venkat Raman  8:48  

Let's talk about coming to Stanford, the transition from Oakland, Oakland high, you said a Skyline High was it? Yeah. Skyline High to Stanford, public school to private school now. And of course, from school to college. So how was that transition?

Aya  9:07  [Transition to Stanford]

Yeah, great question. I think like, it was a rough transition in some ways. And also, I'm like, okay, in other ways. So for context, like the the school district that I grew up in, at the time, there were like, a lot of challenges. For example, the district was like near bankrupt. We had a different principal every year. So to go from that environment to like a very elite university, it was difficult, like I kind of knew that I wouldn't necessarily be prepared similar to my, their peers, who went to like prep school. That being said, um, I think one of the things that was great is like, I didn't know I went to Stanford with specific plans of like, I really still want to do music, so I knew I would still take music classes. I knew that I really enjoyed French and things like that. So I sought out classes like that in freshman year. In addition, I knew that I still liked other subjects like math, and things like that. So I like took a math class like all of those things. So what was kind of helpful in that transition was knowing like, what I really enjoyed doing, and then kind of further exploring that in college. So that was kind of what the transition was like. That being said, it was really difficult to kind of understand how to navigate college, how to navigate the institution, kind of getting the resources you need, like, even like what questions to ask, right? Like when you're feeling lost in class, for example. So yeah.

Venkat Raman  10:39  

So what did you think of your classmates?

Aya  10:42  [“Great” Peers]

Yeah, I think well, so I think my experience probably a little bit different. Because Oakland has kind of a pretty diverse population. For me, like Stanford was less diverse. So that was kind of a culture shock. There, yeah, like, much fewer people of color and things like that. However, like it was really great, like, some of my best friends that I still talk to, to this day, from freshman year were from different countries. So that was like really great to interact with all of those people. And especially like one of the programs that Stanford has is called Sweet. It's like structured liberal education, I believe is the acronym. And it's kind of a live in intensive humanities philosophies for so about, actually, half of your coursework throughout all of freshman year is dedicated. You take it's like a dorm room of 90 people. And you all take the same core classes, you live in the dorms together, in the same dining room, we have like Thursday night, kind of showcases around like special lectures, and like art presentations and things like that. And that was really great to kind of deeply get to know, my peers who I live with and study with, in addition to of course, the other classes that I was taking. So yeah, so that was great. Finding people who kind of really wanted to dive deep into various things. Take a really holistic approach to learning. So that was

Venkat Raman  12:14  

What did you think of the professors, and the teaching and the classes?

Aya  12:20  [Professors]

Yeah, I mean, like, again, I think it depends a lot on which class in which Professor, but like, on the whole, like, across my experience, I did find several professors who are like, not only like good at what they do, and the research, but also good, like teachers really supportive and like caring, you can hit like, like some, some professors are good at teaching others are good at research. Others also do those things and kind of have an additional element of kind of caring, and like supporting students, I think, in their journey. So several, several of my preference, professors were like that, again, also, because I did music, I signed up for private lessons kind of early on, starting freshman year. And that was really great. Because my violin teacher like that, that is a constant typically that you have kind of throughout your years, of course, some people switch their teachers but um, so that's always great to have someone who like sees you through the years of your college experience. Um, but yeah, so I even I stay in touch with some of my professors even now. And some of the people I met like through study abroad. Faculty, for example.

Venkat Raman  13:36  

What did, what did you think of the dorms and the general campus living?

Aya  13:41  [Dorms]

Yeah, um, I think see, let's see what is helpful to say, um, the dorms that I were alive I was in, not all of them are like the most desirable housing like, you know, I think there are different tiers of housing, I was never very concerned with like living in like, the nicest one or the newest one. So definitely, if that is a priority for you, make sure you scope out that information. So for me like the freshman year one that I was in like the building was quite old, but I would say like the the dining hall was one of the better ones on campus. So that was always helpful. I really like eating so that is very important to me. And then in terms of sophomore year, I actually studied abroad early in my undergraduate career, so I was away for fall and winter of my sophomore year. So when I came back, that was like, I just like wasn't very integrated into the dorm community because I did not wish to be that year. But yeah, I mean, the dorms are our dorms, they're comfortable, not always new. But you make do with wherever you know, you're assigned or you get the luck of the draw.

Venkat Raman  14:56  

What did you think of the general social and cultural scene?

Aya  15:00  [Cultural, Social Scene]

Yeah, I think the social scene I think, if you can make it like what you want it to be. So one of the things that I heard in there's like someone who called you like when you're getting ready to decide like a current student, and they would say, you know, there's there's the three S's or something that you can think of which is like social life sleep, and what was the other studying studying grief. And so you can decide like what you want to focus on. And for me, like, I'm pretty introverted. Like, I prefer having a small group of friends. And I really, like I had the attitude, especially early on in my undergrad career, like I'm in college to study and learn things. So that's my priority. So I wasn't big on like parties or anything, but for people who are there's definitely that scene, there's the row, etc, etc. But for me, like I basically, if I was not in class, I was probably in the music building. I'm kind of just like hanging out in the dorms. I think one thing that is like fun about not just Stanford, but like, I think a lot of American college dorm is that often there's like a gathering space, there might be like a communal piano, because I like to do a lot of music, I'd often be there like singing, and people might join me or like all of that. So yeah, I think there's lots of different ways to have a social kind of community and like, whatever you're looking for. And I think that is one thing that's really important is to like, um, whatever your style of socializing is, try to kind of find your people, the people that you're comfortable with the people who you share, like values and interests with. So that like, you can make your experience whatever you want it to be.

Venkat Raman  16:52  

So you mentioned Stanford symphony, tell us about that. And other things that you were involved in?

Aya  16:58  [Stanford Symphony & other Activities]

To be honest, I knew that the new concert hall was opening, and I knew that they were going on tour. So that's why I joined. And also, I just put it off earlier in my year. So that was great. It's really fun to I mean, I played in youth orchestras when I was in high school. So it's always really fun to be in that environment. And I got a lot of joy out of it. And also, like, as a music major, I think a lot of the time outside of course, work like also trying to practice or at least like try, not always successful, but at least try. Um, and what else I was also a part of, side by side, which was like a community service oriented thinking group. And we'd go, we were, I don't know how many people we were maybe like a dozen of us were in the group, a dozen ish. And we'd go to kind of retirement homes and nursing homes and seeing kind of songs from an older generation, like the 50s, and the 60s, kind of things that the people in in those communities would like to listen to. So we take time, every weekend or so, to go kind of thing to those communities. And that was great.

Venkat Raman  18:12  

You mentioned study abroad. So talk about that. You also did some overseas seminar I see. So tell us about your experience abroad in general.

Aya  18:28  [Study Abroad in Paris]

Yeah, um, this is definitely one of the highlights. I loved the time that I had abroad. And it actually came about because freshman year, I was kind of having a culture shock and adjusting to kind of college, and kind of specifically the elite environment, and really making sense of that. And so, freshman year, I think, January or so I was like, you know, I would like to take a break from campus. And I always knew that I really wanted to study abroad, likely and and luckily, Stanford has one of its off overseas campuses. In Paris. I was like, okay, you know, what I'm going to apply? It's not super common for sophomores to be studying abroad. Typically, I think people study abroad junior year, but I was like, You know what, it's not gonna hurt. Let me just apply. And I got through it was great. Um, and so in, let's see. So I was there for maybe September to probably February or March. Yeah, of the sophomore season. That was really great. I had an most of the classes are in taught in French. I had the opportunity to take French classes in my high school. And I just like really clicked with the language, etc, etc. So I was pretty comfortable speaking the language already on day one, which was very helpful. And also we'd have you know, professors from different universities in Paris who come to see or who's come to lecture, specifically around like politics. I think there was like a music class. There's an art history class, there's one on like, archive texture and art history around like cathedrals, which was really great to kind of mix. You know, you'd get to go visit sites in Paris, come back to the classroom and have different lectures. And that was really lovely. I also really wanted to make sure that I had, like a university experience. So you can actually take classes at the Sorbonne in Paris. And so I decided to take an Egyptology class in the Paris University, which was amazing, um, definitely did not register the fact that like, it'd be so hard to just take that class, like, I didn't know anything really about Egyptology in English. So learning all the terminology in French was definitely. But that was great, because, um, Sanford makes sure that you have like additional support, like from a tutor or the professor. So actually, the actual professor who was teaching those classes, also had like, one on one time with me, which is rare, but also like really great. And like, obviously, like all your finals, and your essays and things like that are in French. So it's both like a challenge and also really great. I do remember though, like sitting in my host family's room in December, the first quarter, many people decided to kind of treat, study abroad, kind of like a vacation. I did not I like took a full course load. I do remember one moment where I was like, Oh, my God, what did what am I doing? I have so many. However, it was really lovely. And also one special element of the study abroad. You might recall, I mentioned that I have a violin teacher on Stanford campus. I did know because music is important to me, I wanted to make sure I had lessons in Paris as well. And so my teacher, like chatted with another faculty member at Stanford, who has a friend that she knew, from her kind of performances and collaboration kind of globally, I was able to have a violin teacher in Paris who was, you know, an orchestra member in one of the Paris orchestras. And she was, you know, one of the best violin teachers I'd ever encountered. And so that was an additional element that was really so lovely. And I did luck out that my host family was also really amazing. I don't think that's that's always the case. I think sometimes people don't jive with their host families. But I really did have a great experience there. And that did also lead me to return to campus spring quarter, but leave again and go to Paris during the summer after sophomore year. And just do like a personal research project that I got, like funding from the French department from a force. So yeah, in a nutshell, that is the study abroad experience.

Venkat Raman  22:48  

You said that, at the you know, the second semester, second, quarter, third quarter of your freshman year, you kind of wanted to go study abroad, or at least take a get a break from campus. When you came back, almost in your junior year? How did it feel? I mean, what did you feel the last two years were a lot more comfortable? And you felt comfortable and compatible with what was going on?

Aya  23:18  [Adjusting Back on Campus]

Yeah, great question. I think like that space was really important to like, kind of crystallized, like, what is important to me, what do I want to get out of the Stanford experience? I mean, like, even now, what is it? Let's see, I graduated in 2014. In what, six years pass, like, there's a lot of chat, like, I mean, just to go into some of the things that led me to consider, you know, leaving campus for a little bit to study abroad is just, you know, like, I come from, like a middle class family, like, generally comfortable upbringing, and also like, again, kind of knowing, like, the experiences that my peers in high school were having, like, again, this is a call it a high school where there was a really high dropout rate, right? There's people who don't have the opportunity to go to college, like a lot of different varying challenges, inequities in society, etc, etc. And then be in an environment in college where like, of course, money does not grow on trees, but at Stanford, sometimes it does feel like that, right? Like, I had access to so many things. And also, you know, like being told, like, oh, you know, your classmates at Stanford are going to be the next, like, Supreme Court justices, or like, the next CEO is or the next whatever. And like, that's all great. And my peers were great. And also, like, I think there was like, a deep lack of awareness of like, privileges that we hold and like how power works in society. And so, you know, I was like, trying to grapple with all of those things. I didn't necessarily have the words to describe that. Um, but So with all of that, I think just having some time away, really leaning into the things that I enjoyed because I didn't start off really deciding that I would be a French music major, I think for a while. You know that that voice in the back of your head or like the voice of your parents in your head? Find something. And so, you know, it took me a while to land on the things that you know, this is, I'm just gonna believe in it. It doesn't always work. But for me it did. And just like stick to what I know, because I think that's really important to have like grounding in your college experience of like, just knowing what you value and like keeping with that. So I think that time away was helpful and kind of really reflecting and then moving forward helping me consider, okay, what are the different types of things I might consider, kind of for the rest of my college experience, and kind of beyond?

Venkat Raman  25:39  

A little bit about your summers, and then we can come back to your majors. Let's talk about what you did the different summers, I think you mentioned one summer, but let's talk about different years.

Aya  25:53  [Summers]

Great question. And I'm very glad you sent the outline in advance because this one, I was like, let me take a second to remember what I did every summer. So yes, so after freshman year, I don't remember exactly why or exactly. When I decided this was gonna be my summer, I probably just wanted to have some money that was not coming from like a research assistantship, I'm not really sure. But I wanted a job in the summer. And Stanford has like, um, I mean, some people who might be listening to these podcasts might be a part of them, but like they have, I don't remember what the acronym stands for. But they have summer schools for like middle schoolers, or high schoolers. And one of them was called EPG. Why at the time, they were looking for kind of live in residential kind of like, RA is like, residential counselors for the summer program, so I was like, I can do that. I like this. Um, and, you know, there was a time where I wasn't sure that I was gonna get hired because it was specifically for the math class. And the person interviewing me was like, Yeah, I get that you're interested in all these different things. But like, just so you know, like, these kids are going to be middle schoolers, but they're, like, very intensely interested in math. I was like, You know what, like, I also like math like true. Like, not my, my grades weren't great in my math classes at Stanford, but I feel like I could still support them in a residential capacity. I did not think I would get the job. But after I stepped away from the interview, I got a call later that day, I think saying like, yeah, you're hired, I'm pretty sure they just needed another person. And they're just like, at this point, let's just hire her, which I'm okay with.

Aya  27:31  

But anyways, so that was my summer, I will say it was kind of a grueling job. Like, there were so many hours we put in, we were like, on call from maybe I might be lying, but something around like 7am to like 10pm, because like, obviously, they're middle schoolers. So we have to be responsible for like, taking them to breakfast, taking them to class, supporting them in class, helping them with homework, helping with activities, so it was very exhausting. I don't know that I went to it again, although it was a good experience. I love getting to know the kids. Um, so that's how I spent my college the freshman year, summer after.

Aya  28:05  

I also so in summer, the sophomore year, I did go to Paris first, I think a month or so, to do my research project. Again, a lot of departments will have funding for you in the summer, really, really recommend that people kind of take those opportunities, even if you're like, I don't know, if I'll get it just like apply, there's no harm in it. And to do that, like my project for that I was like very interested in like exploring like interests, like disciplinary kind of 1830s Paris, through the lens of music, visual arts and literature. So I was kind of like tracking like, there's like three artists and like creators like one like Chopin, one Balzac and dilla quartz. And so I was looking at like what each of these people kind of created in that decade of the 1830s. And like what was happening in history, so like, it was a really lovely time of like, diving into different archives and different libraries in Paris. And really, like it was a lovely, lovely time.

Aya  29:06  

So that was sophomore year, summer, junior year, summer was when I started thinking, okay, like, based on all the experiences I'm having, I really care about, like educational, like equity and opportunities. And also because I love the art as like maybe I want to go into like education, like art education. So one of the programs that Stanford has is through like the Art Institute, and maybe calling it wrong, but something like the Arts Institute, and there's a lot of internships available in the summer with different kinds of arts organizations, nonprofits. And so one of them was actually very conveniently located in San Francisco with the San Francisco Ballet, and specifically the Center for damp education. So I spent my summer kind of interning with that organization. The organization really loved me. And I had a great time, kind of getting to know the folks in in the data center, I also kind of bet that experience made me realize like a lot of the pros and cons of working in kind of a Education Department of a large, large or arts organization, things like that. Um, but anyway, so that's kind of the acuity of experience. I had junior year. And then I know typically people are like, I'm going to graduate and like that is it however, um, I because again, Stanford has really amazing resources that is like something that I like will always say, and so summer, they have these, I think it's been overseas like summer seminars, typically, you should still have to be a student to go on the summer seminar. So typically, graduating seniors are not going to go on those seminars, however, like one of them was just like, very close to the different like research interests I had. And I like, just tried to understand like, is it possible for me to still go and then it was because like, you could do like delayed graduation until summer quarter, essentially to be able to go on that summer seminar to southern France kind of looking at kind of troubadour poetry and music. And it was just really great to deep into that history. That's like very different from like Parisian history, for example, understanding kind of different languages from that region, like Oct done and like things like that. And yeah, just getting to know the professor is one who, who goes from Stanford with you. She's one of the professors that I've really enjoyed learning from kind of throughout my career. Marissa Galvez, and also kind of got to learn from kind of the faculty and local folks in southern France as well, in our button, so that was really great. I think one thing I forgot, I think, I think it's the summer after junior year was when the Stanford Symphony went on tour to Europe, we were doing like it was one of the Beethoven anniversaries like for I, to be honest, I did. It's one of the Beethoven anniversaries, birth or death, I'm not really sure, I don't remember. But because of that, and the big concert hall opening, that whole season, we were working through all of the Beethoven symphony. So the idea for the summer tour was to kind of go through from Beethoven's first place to kind of different places that he was during his life, and playing through the different symphonies across our tour of like, 10 days or so. And that was really great. It was very hectic, sometimes our conductor would change the program, the morning of which you're not always happy about, but it was great. So yeah, so I think those are, we covered all the stuff.

Venkat Raman  32:55  

Now that sounds like a really dizzying set of things there!

Venkat Raman  33:06  

Okay, so by now, I know that you love everything, French, and you love music. But I still have to ask you, how did you pick that major? I mean, I think somewhere early on, you mentioned that you weren't sure about French and music, as major. So how did that crystallize? And what was your thinking behind picking these majors?

Aya  33:30  [Choosing French and Music as Majors]

Yeah, great question. So I think typically, when you apply, there's like, you don't have to at least when I applied, you didn't have to declare a major, but you could indicate like interest. And I think what I put as my like, potential interest was something along the lines of like, international relations, French music, or math, like some combination, like maybe three of those. And so what I did, upon what I thought was the recommendation of faculty, and people in general was like, people tell you like, oh, like use freshman year to explore or like use the first couple years to explore. So I did that because again, I didn't really know what I was doing. But so like, if you look at my transcript, like don't look at the grades, but the grades, like, I took truly a variety of classes. So like, again, I took the core like math 50 series, which everyone told me not to do on track, because that's when the math majors take it and they throw off the curb. Again, things that I should have listened to, but I was like, No, it's a good learning experience for me. So I took several math classes. I took like, music history classes, I took French classes I took like, random, there's like intro seminars where like you can take different like classes in different fields at some point in my, like, 10 year I took a course on like in the medical school about like strokes, and things like that. I took what else like very random classes I took, um, anyways, the details are not important. But basically I did take a very like, sure, like variety, including like CS 106, A, which is one of the most popular and the intro computer science class, things like that. And then sometimes, you know, advisors would take a look at my transcript and be like, what, why? Why did you take but all of that to say, I spent a long time really exploring and trying different things. And again, to my both benefit and downfall, I really don't have things that I hate doing. Um, so that like, is why it took me a while to kind of figure out okay, what do I want to major in, etc, etc. And again, because I had in the back of my mind, like, I know, I like music and French, but like, do I want to do a major in them? Do I want like a different kind of major for a while I declared symbolic systems, which I thought was a good way to kind of incorporate my love for like languages, but also like thinking about like science and like symbols and like things like, however, again, I think just thinking about, like, the coursework that's required and like the schedule, and like what classes offered when I was like, You know what, this is not realistic. I don't think this is gonna work. And I was like, you know, what, what do I want to spend, like the rest remaining two years of my Stanford life doing? Because I think they declared pretty late, I think they declared a French or music like, somewhat through junior year, I wanted to, maybe friends I had already declared, but like music I declared later. But really, again, it was just like thinking about what do I want to do? And like, also see what classes are offered? And what will I be able to complete in time was part of the decision. Definitely. And I think like, part of my philosophy is like, you know, whatever you major in, if you are learning skills, or if you are, like building experiences that are meaningful to you and can serve you in the long run, like your major doesn't have to like, exactly translate to like the job that you're doing afterwards. Like, of course it could. But I just believe that like it, you know, you can make it almost any major work for you, as long as you know how to frame it, and how to run run forward with it. So anyways, that's a little bit of like, how I like eventually decided.

Venkat Raman  37:31  

You mentioned you've been out of college for a few years. How do you think Stanford has shaped what you've done after college?

Aya  37:39  [Stanford’s Impact]

Yeah, great question. Um, I think so once again, kind of, I think of the four years of college as like both disillusionment with American society, and like the world, and also just like crystallizing the things that I believe in the things that I value, like, I really care about, kind of the gaps that we have in this society and like other societies, and I was like, really trying to think through especially the last two years of my college experience, like, what am I going to do, like, I am one small person, like, what impact can I have? Where can I make a difference? I thought for a while that it was gonna be around education. And I did think that it would be like public, like not being a teacher, but like something related to public schools, or like a nonprofit in that, like, arena of things. And so because of that, after college, what I want to do is I went to France and like taught English for, like, 10 or so months, or seven months, something like that, um, as part of this, like exchange program between the two governments. And so that was like, my time to actually like, confirm, like, is it not teaching? Or is it like related to teaching? Like, do I want to explore this, I quickly came to the conclusion that no teaching is not what I am cut out for, I do not have the energy to deal with children. For a long time, because I was in elementary school, that was my assignment and what I wanted to do, the kids were lovely, but also I do not have the energy. But during that time, I also applied to grad school programs. Um, and so I basically applied to three programs. And I was like, if I get into one, I'll go to one basically. And I did get into Penn, where I did a program that's called education, culture and society. And so that was really my chance, I thought to like really better understand like, structurally like, how does education work in this country, especially around public education. It was really also a really great time to kind of think, just dive into social sciences more, which I did just didn't do in Stanford at Stanford. Not that it doesn't exist it does on campus at Stanford, but I just like didn't get into it. So anyways, long story Short, like I think like the experiences I had at Stanford, both the good and like, the not so good, really just like helped me crystallize. Like what it is that I want to do like what I want to have an impact on just kind of like help inform the choices I make afterwards. Um, and so like, right now I work as a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant. And like, it's not exactly the kind of education I was thinking, but it is thinking about, you know, how do these kind of institutional and structural kind of injustices and like the structural kind of differences and experiences that we have, how does it then show up in the workplace? And what can we do to kind of mitigate the effects of those kind of systems and inequalities that we see? So I don't know, it's kind of a high level answer. But it does kind of contribute like Stanford, and the experiences that I had kind of holistically did contribute to how I thought about my career and the next steps that I take.

Venkat Raman  41:05  

What you would do differently if you could go back in time and redo those four years at Stanford?

Aya  41:11  [Stanford Redo]

Yeah, great question. So this is also another one of the questions I did try to think of in advance, but unfortunately, did not great. But I will share some of the things I thought of I think one of the things I do differently is like, not like a big thing. I think, I spent, like, I wasted too much of my own time and energy, like worrying about like, how do I ask this question or like, like, I know, I need help. But I don't even know what questions to ask. And I think that's a common experience for a lot of people, especially who like haven't navigated these kinds of university setting. And I think that's something I would just do differently. Like, I don't know, like, how I would have done it differently, because I didn't know. But like, that is definitely something that that I hope that people feel comfortable. Like, it's always scary, I think, to ask a question or to say like, I have no idea what's going on. And I think you know, especially in these kinds of universities, sometimes it can be challenging to kind of like, strike up conversation with professors. And like, go to office hours, I was like, I don't even logistically know how office hours work. I'm like, do I just go? Will there be other people or their time slots involved? So anyways, all of those questions that you might think are like, too silly to ask or like, they're obvious, like, no, if you have the questions, someone else does, too. But I do wish that like, I was a little bit more, I'm kind of able to ask those questions and feel more comfortable there. That being said, I'm trying to think what else? Oh, I will say one of the things I do wish I did that I didn't do is like, oh, sorry. I'm like an honors thesis. Like under this impression that like to do an honors thesis, you have to be like, super good, like the best, like, the best person, like the best researcher ever, like be able to participate. Like no one really told me that, but it was just like the impression that I had, I think that was wrong. I think anyone can pursue an honors thesis if they so chose. But again, that is something that I definitely do wish I did. And I think apparently, again, just like I do wish, I just like, had a little bit of that institutional, like knowledge and comfort and like cultural capital to be able to navigate. But again, I think largely speaking, I'm someone that like, I believe I am here because of the choices I made and like the different things that I that I did do. Um, so generally speaking, I don't think anything I would like drastically do differently. But there are things I wish I knew.

Venkat Raman  43:50  

So now, from your vantage point, what would you tell all those aspiring students who want to go to college applying to college or maybe want to go to one of the elite schools like Stanford?

Aya  44:04  [Advice to Aspiring Students]

Yeah, um, I think just one is like, regardless of if it's Stanford or any other university, I think one is like really taking some time to understand like, what what you really enjoy, like, what drives you? What motivates you? Also, on the flip side, like, what don't you want to do? And I know that like saying that, as someone who didn't have a lot of things I didn't like, sometimes that is a hard question. But I think anything to help you really crystallize, like, what are you about? What do you want out of your college experience, and like really using that to guide you? And also like, your application process? I think like, as much as you can really be like, kind of true to yourself is helpful, of course, like, based on a whole lot of factors. It's not always easy to do that. Um, but I think wherever possible like that, that is something that I would recommend. I also think like, I don't know my whole philosophy in applying to college. I was like, if they don't want me I don't want them to like, where I get in and like go with that. Again, I like applied early to Stanford and like very like, luckily got in. And I do really think it's luck. You know, we're told even in the first day of our like orientation at Stanford, this is one of the, like, honest things that I really did appreciate hearing that, that first day of like, Listen, you all are here, a class of I forgot how many people but like, let you know, you're you all are here. And also Stanford could have chosen a whole different new class of folks that you weren't a part of, with, like equally amazing, folks. So I think just like that, just keeping that in mind is always really helpful too, because I think so much of this, and especially now, it's like, it's wild, the acceptance rates and things like that. But again, wherever you are applying really thinking about what you want, and tend to guide that. And also, sometimes it's really hard to know what you want. So as much as possible, just trying to find like your people in your advocates, whether it's like your peers and classmates, whether it's your residential assist a ra, or whether it's, you know, a professor that you're like, really enjoying getting to talk to just like trying to build those relationships, I think is really is really helpful if once you're once you're in in college, wherever.

Venkat Raman  46:23  

Okay, so we are winding down here. And before we sign off, I would like you to share some memories or traditions at Stanford or anything else that you feel would be interesting, relevant, or something we haven't touched on that you want to tell our listeners?

Aya  46:45  [Memories]

Yeah, definitely. The the fondest memories like for me, I some other things like besides the larger things that we've talked about, like study abroad, like it really is just lose like general, like regular moments that you're having with like, friends that you're really close with. I remember freshman year, one of my RAs that I was closer to was saying, you know, at the end of the day, all you're gonna remember is like the friends that you had, like the good some of those good moments. And I was like, What are you talking about? I'm here to study I'm not here. But like, yeah, it really is true, like looking back, like thinking of some of my best friends from college, like, just thinking about the like midnight pieces that we ordered while we were studying for the final, or like, you know, just walking around campus late at night, and like chatting about like random things like those are really some of the fondest memories from college. So I don't know, all of that is important. So I guess like to say that, obviously, studying is important, obviously, all these things like get what you want out of college, and also like just making time for building really those relationships that can last a really long time. So yeah, I would leave with that.

Venkat Raman  47:54  

Fabulous. So I hope this has been a very exciting and exhilarating sort of conversation. Great to see what you've been able to do at Stanford and beyond so and also for sharing that, I mean, taking the time to be generous to share both in terms of time and detail. So thank you for much for your time. I think the students will thank you for this as well. And I do want to talk to you more sometime in the future. And we can sort of dive into a couple of the issues and topics that you raised today. But for now. Thank you Take care, be safe.

Aya  48:31  

Thank you. Great to be here.

---------------------

Venkat  48:39  [Close]

Hi again!

Hope you enjoyed our podcast with Aya Yagi on Stanford University.

Aya’s Stanford Undergraduate experience was very rich and broad.

Her freshman year was a rough transition from high school. She also wasn’t sure what she wanted to do.

So, she explored a lot.

She used Study Abroad in Paris in her Sophomore year as a way to escape the campus, but in the end it probably was therapeutic.

Aya immersed herself in music and joined the Symphony Orchestra which eventually led to her majoring in Music and French.

I hope Aya’s experience gives you a good idea of what to expect at Stanford.

For your questions or comments on this podcast, please email podcast at almamatters.io [podcast@almamatters.io].

Thank you all so much for listening to our podcast today.

Transcripts for this podcast and previous podcasts are on almamatters.io forward slash podcasts [almamatters.io/podcasts].

To stay connected with us, Subscribe to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify or visit anchor.fm forward slash almamatters [anchor.fm/almamatters] to check us out.

Till we meet again, take care and be safe.

Thank you!

Summary Keywords

Stanford University Alumni Podcast, Podcast for High Schoolers, Stanford Alumni Podcast, College Podcast, Undergraduate Experience, Stanford Alumni, High School Students, Stanford University, US Colleges, College Admissions, College Applications, Stanford Symphony, French and Music Major, Study Abroad in Paris


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