I still talk with people in my cohort about our first interview weekend. For many of us, it was not just a good experience, but a special one. The interviews themselves provide the usual nerdy thrill of meeting professors at the forefront of their discipline. Stanford's weekend distinguished itself by the sheer number of events it packed into its four-day marathon. A self-guided exploration of beautiful outdoor statuary! A hike through a redwood forest to a beer garden! A fully stocked waffle bar in Russ Fernald's backyard! The weekend catered to interests I didn't even know I had.
But, much like an American tourist in North Korea, I suspected that some dismal, overworked secret hid behind the happy facade. I believe I texted my mother: "This place is a fairyland. Something is wrong."
After three years, I'm thankful (and, honestly, a little surprised) to find that the program is every bit as good as it seemed. Today, as then, Stanford Neuroscience constantly distinguishes itself through little details: the tents and quickdraws in the trunks of cars; the casual amity between students and professors; the wicked sense of humor that touches every formal event and occasionally takes the form of iambic pentameter.
For all the fun I had at that first interview, I've enjoyed the subsequent ones even more. Interview Weekend is a festival for the entire Stanford Neuro community. Regardless of whether or not they decide the program is a good fit, I hope that visiting students enjoy their first time here as much as we did.