Travel Diary 3: Stanford University EPGY

August 3, 2010 § 2 Comments

Yeah, no witty series title. Sorry!

Back in January, I applied for the EPGY program at Stanford University, initially for the Creative Writing program. Lo and behold, when I got my acceptance letter, it was for the Expository Writing program. I was a bit too excited to go to Stanford for three weeks to actually care that I didn’t get my first choice class. But, see, at that point, I wasn’t even really sure what Expository Writing was.

Forward seven months later and I’m on my way to Stanford:

It was my first time flying alone, which was pretty unbelievable to me. I’ve flown sooo much in my lifetime, but never completely by myself. I don’t really have an adventurous story to tell you about that since I’m a lazy person and slept my way through it, but… I did have CranApple to drink, which is my absolutely favorite on planes!

Sad story… I got off the plane and towards baggage claim, which is where the program would be waiting for pick-up. You know what’s the first thing I see? The pickup area for NSLC, my camp from last year. I was seriously contemplating just “losing my way” and going to Berkeley instead, but I’m so glad I didn’t. See, I conveniently forgot about the fact that no one I knew from last year would be actually there, so it’d be strangers and… yeah.

So, this first post is going to be about my actual Expository Writing course. Our group of intellectual geniuses got together and just stared at each other:

Okay, except actually. (I completely stole that phrase from my friend Sasha…) Nah, it was definitely a trillion times more hardcore than that, although staring contests did get pretty intense…

In three weeks, we wrote eleven (11! 11! 11!) essays from prompts. We also spent hours revising, editing (self, counselor, peer, group, teacher), and then rewriting these essays. Sometimes, we were assigned to completely revamp the essays through twist endings, different intros. For a personal movie review, we had to go to the library (which was beyond gorgeous) and hunt through stacks of old, dusty archives for critiques back in the day, and then completely rewrite the essay from an objective point of view.

That’s not all.

Nope, we also had to read an essay every night from this book. Some were long and drawn out and really hard to read. Others were wittier, funnier, more engaging. I enjoyed many of them and shunned the rest of them. We also had to read passages from “Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace” by Joseph M. Williams and “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King.

That’s still not all.

There were lectures. Tons of them. Toulmin method, warrants and claims, reasons, ethos/pathos/logos, arguments, introductions/conclusions, sentences and paragraphs. I’ve heard them all. (Oh, and do you like my nifty breakfast in the picture? Tiger Spice chai lattes were my go-to drinks every morning and there’s my precious raspberry croissant :))

Our instructor, Jessica Weare, was phenomenal. She threw so much information at us, first of all. She’s incredibly knowledgeable in her craft. Second of all, one of my pet peeves is when teachers are really vague. They tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t sound good, but don’t give any hints whatsoever at changing it. Jessica’s so not like that. She helps you pinpoint whatever’s off and then talks about ways you can make it better. She really zeroes in on your weaknesses and through time and exercises, helps you turn them into your strengths.

But, best of all, she helped us absorb knowledge through engaging and fun ways. We held a really heated debate and watched video clips almost every class. Jon Stewart is my new best friend. South Park, The Hills (how WACKO is that ending?!?!)… everything! And then, for an assignment… Jessica took us to SFMOMA.

We saw the exhibit “From Calder to Warhol” which is from the Fisher Collection. Absolutely amaaaaazing! (The above art is a silkscreen of Jackie O, by Andy Warhol)

This was a tapestry by Chuck Close. It was cross-stitched by hand!

One of Calder’s mobiles. These were so fascinating… There were so many parts to it and all of them were varied in size and shape, yet it stayed perfectly balanced.

We had two classrooms, one with windows and one without. Here’s the view we got to enjoy half the time:

Not too shabby! And here are our classrooms themselves:



And this is what we do best: Power naps during break time! On chairs, on tables, on floors. Rock on.

With that, I must say that this course has been so fulfilling and so valuable in every way. I’ve learned a lot about myself personally, but more importantly, I’ve learned a lot about my own writing. I really went into the root of things and built my way up. My voice, my syntax and organization, diction… It’s been wonderful. Thank you, Jessica and thank you, my wonderful classmates.

There’s only one more thing left to say.

Dear trees, I’m sorry.



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