Stanford University welcomes Aussie Olympian Steve Solomon

Want to know what it’s like to study at a prestigious American college? Well Aussie Olympian Steve Solomon advises you watch movies like American Pie and Animal House for an indication. After competing as a 400m sprinter at the London 2012 Games, Steve is now studying at Stanford University under an athletic scholarship (note: we are very jealous)

American teen dramas inform us college life is all about living in dorms, sitting on grass, studying late in scary libraries, partying and drinking beer. All this awesomeness depravity is well and good on screen but is it a reflection of reality? Well in Steve’s case some of it truly is.

‘‘The people are awesome, and the weather is gorgeous’, said Steve. ‘The party life is lively and not to dissimilar from that we back home are familiar with through watching films such as American Pie and Animal House.’

Steve says US college culture has largely been shaped by the fact most students live on campus. This is a large point of difference between American and Australian tertiary institutions.

‘ There is something very special about living with all your friends, going and meeting new friends in class and then partying with students of all kinds’, said Steve.

Another point of difference according to Steve is that undergraduates have an easier time exploring their interests in the US.

‘ It is very easy to take classes purely because they interest you, even if they are completely unrelated to your intended major’, said Steve.

It’s certainly possible to take general knowledge courses in Oz, in fact some degrees demand it, but it’s not as common as in the US since we do not have a system that requires us to go to ‘specialty’ schools (think Law school) upon receiving an undergraduate degree.  Australian students have the opportunity to study law, psychology, and medicine from the get-go, which restricts how many free units we get to study non-related topics.

Steve went on to mention how beautiful the Stanford campus is—think rolling green lawns, huge trees, tennis courts and a shopping mall, or take a look for yourself at www.stanford.edu— and how beneficial its prime location is. Situated in the heart of Silicon Valley the university is surrounded by tech-start ups and hugely influential companies like Facebook and Google. That kind of proximity has its merits. The teaching faculty are world leaders in their fields and the guest lecturers are crazy famous.

‘In one week last term, I had the privilege of listening to Mark Zuckerberg, Condoleezza Rice and Melinda Gates lecture,’ said Steve.

Despite the obvious academic merits Steve says the best part of his experience so far has been the student life, and not just the party side of things. With acceptance rates as low as 5.6% the major benefit or studying at a private institution is being surrounded and inspired by like-minded people.

‘The administration process, although at times painstakingly arduous, is there to bring in the best all rounded applicants. Everybody is sociable. Everybody has a strong work ethic and a desire to make their time at university a time that they will remember for the rest of their lives,’ said Steve.

Steve plans to continue studying and racing for the rest of 2013. In August he is competing in the IAAF World Championships held in Moscow (www.iaaf.org/competitions/iaaf-world-championships). We wish him the best of luck.