>> Thursday, May 07, 2009

A few weeks after our trip to the East coast, I returned to the US for a trip to Palo Alto ("tall stick"), California to visit Stanford Law School. Though we needed to buy sweaters and mittens for our visit to the East, the only things I found myself lacking at Stanford were sunglasses and sunscreen; the weather was beautiful, in the middle 70s to low 80s every day.

If I were choosing a law school based on weather and asthetics, Stanford would have won hands down. As it turned out, though, Stanford would have been my choice even without those bonuses; it was the perfect mix of all the things I loved about the other schools: it is one of the country's best law schools and will certainly open up a lot of opportunities to me, it had beautiful facilities, a really welcoming faculty, and students that seemed genuinely happy to be there; and it just felt right even in the first few hours of my visit. After talking to Paul on the phone one of my last nights there, he finally confessed that he had been rooting for the bike-friendly, dog-friendly, warm weather, close-to-an-Ikea Palo Alto all along, and we came to the surprisingly easy decision that we'll call Palo Alto home for the next few years.

I can't really capture the sense of community or the academic opportunities or the gut feeling that I got there, but I can express the beautiful surroundings, so here goes. Palm Drive is the famous one mile stretch of road lined with palm trees leading into the Stanford campus and the quad:

Here's the Stanford Memorial Church in the quad:
Stanford has fountains all over the campus, and unlike Truman, Stanford both keeps its fountains full and allows people to enjoy them. On the weekday I was there, there were students in swimsuits sunbathing in the fountains and others wading in to cool off between classes. Over the weekend there were tons of families on campus riding bikes or rollerblading or having a picnic, and plenty of people there with their dogs playing frisbee or cooling off in a fountain:
The law school itself is in one U-shaped building just a few minutes' walk from the student union, bookstore, post office, and the heart of campus. The middle section has the law school café with a beautiful patio out in the back and some conference rooms upstairs, the right section has the classrooms, and the left wing has the library and faculty offices.
Here's the view from the second story of the law school building. The skies really were that bright blue.
Here's the campus bookstore:
And this is the old student union:
Stanford has a tall tower, the Hoover Institute, that houses a think tank, library, and visiting faculty offices (Condoleezza Rice apparently had her office there). You can also ride to the top and take pictures, so I did. Here's the view to the north with the San Francisco Bay in the background:
And here's the view to the south of the law school building and the mountains back behind:
After the three days of admitted students events, I was sold. To make the trip even better, our friends Keith and Erin made the trip up from San Diego to meet me, catch up, and explore Palo Alto and San Francisco. Though the 7-1/2 hour trip is enough of a trek by itself, Keith ane Erin deserve even more credit for coming considering that they made the trip with their dog, survived the LA traffic, and spent seemingly endless hours in Wal-Mart thanks to a tire blowout. They finally arrived, and we stayed up late catching up. They (understandably) spent the next morning sleeping in while I finished the admitted students weekend by having breakfast with a lot of my future classmates and observing a class. That afternoon, Keith, Erin, and I reunited and went into San Francisco to Fisherman's Wharf and took a boat ride around the bay. We went under the Golden Gate bridge:
Here are Keith and Erin with the Golden Gate Bridge behind them:
And we went around the island of Alcatraz:
One of my favorite parts of the day were the sea lions that camp out on the docks of Pier 39. They were pretty noisy, a little smelly, and I'm sure Dora would have lumped them into the monkey family, but I thought they were pretty cute.

More than a year after starting the law school process and beginning to think about post-Peace Corps plans, it's a great relief to know where I'll be studying and where we'll be living. After having no control over where we did our Peace Corps service, it's quite the change to have had full control over where we'll be living next, and to have picked a place that's so easy to be exited about. Just today Paul found a list of 103 things to do in San Francisco; I've got #56 covered, so only 102 to go!


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