Dec 1, 2016

The founding principle of all the activities of Zdenek and Michaela Bakala is, truly, the courage, which must, according to their belief, always go hand in hand with responsibility.
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Hideki Perrier - report


September 2014 - August 2015


Stanford University


Stanford Institute fro Theoretical Physics (SITP)


Stanford University is located next to Palo Alto, a ”city” in the middle of an residential area stretching from San Francisco to San Jose. The commercial area of Palo Alto is just one street a few blocks long, animated mostly during the day. However, San Francisco is about an hour away and makes good excursions for the weekend. The campus is very spread out as much of California is, so a bicycle is a must to get around. A lot of activities are offered to students like indoor and outdoor sports. From the academical perspective, Stanford is one of the best places to study theoretical physics and offers a very good working environment. What I appreciated the most was that everyone at the SITP department is on the same floor. Common areas are fitted with couches and blackboards, providing a good space for exchange of ideas and discussions. As we were a rather small research group, interactions were strong.


The preparation of the stay was quite boring but as I did it quite at the last minute, it increased a lot my eciency. Writing the research project for the application for the Bakala foundation as well as doing the visa application took me no more than one or two days. What took longer was to receive the I-20 form the University. I waited a bit too long before enquiring about the status of my application. In the end, I obtained the visa only a week before my departure. Concerning housing, I rented a place on Airbnb for the first two weeks and thought I would look for a permanent place from there.


Coming to Stanford from the airport by public transportation is doable although it’s not the fastest nor most convenient way. In particular, if arriving late, one has to arrange a bus shuttle. The place I had rented was ”close” to the train station but I still needed a taxi to get there. The first thing I have done on the following day was to buy a bike. The closest shop was on the other side of the campus and it took me an hour to get there. After that, everything was much easier. I could obtain the keys for my oce as well a my student card form the student center. I met my professor in the afternoon and was ready to work.


People had told me that housing near Palo Alto was very difficult to find. I therefore looked for announcements on Craigstlist and was calling right after they appeared. I would then bike directly to the place to visit. Often, people ask me to fill in a form and ask money to perform a credit check which I did not have as I had never stayed in the US before. However, after only three days, I visited a place and could sign the contract right away. The place was about a 20-minute bike ride away from work and 10 minutes from a supermarket which was perfect. The area being very residential was therefore not very lively at night which was totally different from what I was used to. During the last month of my stay, I was able to sublet a place in San Francisco and was commuting from there which took about an hour. I must say that it was totally worth it and would recommend anyone who likes to have a social life to rent a place in San Francisco and commute.


Stanford offers a lot of facilities on campus, mostly for sports. There are climbing walls, swimming pools, gyms and various playgrounds for all kinds of sports. Note that language and cooking courses are offered for free for spouses. In general, I had lunch with my supervisor and colleges at the oce. This was a good moment to discuss about general topics and to meet other people, especially other visitors coming to give a talk or for longer collaborations. The down side of having such a campus outside of town is that one is always surrounded by people from the university. It is a microcosm where one can eat, sleep and work without much contact with the outside world.


California weather is an endless summer, so whatever one plans, the weather will always be good. This makes it perfect for spending sometime during the weekend in San Francisco (which has a much cooler weather though) or to travel to other cities like Los Angeles or San Diego. One should also not miss the many beautiful parks like Yosemite, Joshua Tree and Death Valley just to name a few, although it will often take more than a weekend to fully appreciate them. Going to a bar or a restaurant after work around Stanford is a bit difficult as you need at least a bike if not a car. One usually has to coordinate with other people and meet them directly at the place. Apps like Yelp and Trip Advisor come in handy to find good restaurants and bars.


This last year has been an amazing experience, both from a research and from a life per- spective. Interacting with differently-minded people and getting a taste of the American life has been very enriching.

© Fondation Zdenek et Michaela Bakala