Isabelle Popp: Stanford Summer Program


Ashlyn Korpak, Staff Writer

The light brown buildings tower over the lush,  green grass, beautiful trees, and meticulously cared for flower beds shaped like an “S.” As an immensely prestigious school, Stanford is known for its beauty and brilliance; however, many will never set foot on its grounds. But a few lucky high school students will not only set foot inside, but spend three weeks at Stanford. They will get the chance to learn from the best in one of the top ranking schools, and one of these fortunate students is junior Isabelle Popp.

“It was a really good opportunity,” Isabelle said. “The teacher was a graduate from Yale, so he knew what he was talking about, which was really cool. For me, it was more [about] being able to meet new people, which was probably the most exciting part.”

Stanford’s summer program for high school students is exclusive and difficult to get into. To  apply, two long essays and six short answer questions have to be answered. The acceptance rate into the program is only 15 percent. Once accepted into the program, Izzy had to choose a course to study. Isabelle and 23 other students picked the astrophysics class.

“We learned about the earth, the formation of the universe, and then Einstein’s equations, and what he worked on for most of his life,” Isabelle said. “It was something I was really interested in last year, and I didn’t know if that was what I want to do for a living.”

Now though, Isabelle isn’t so sure if astrophysics is a career she wants to pursue.

“It was really interesting,” Isabelle said, “However, a lot of it went above my head. Most of it was cool because by the end of the three weeks, you come to understand it, which was something that I never thought would [happen].”

For some kids, including Georgia Gallant, the summer program only strengthened their desire to pursue a career all the more.

“I had a sense that I liked computer science before I went to Stanford, but the program definitely affirmed my inclination,” Georgia said. “When I realized I didn’t want my session to end, I came to realize that computer science is simagejpeg_3omething I’m really passionate about.”

When they weren’t in the classroom, Izzy and the other students were allowed to explore the campus and the surrounding city, Palo Alto.

“A few of the days we went to Santa Cruz, the beach, and some days we would hang out in downtown Palo Alto,” she said. “ Or [we would] just walk around campus and hang out. It’s really gorgeous; it’s probably the prettiest campus I’ve ever seen.”

Izzy was not only immersed into the Palo Alto community, but she was surrounded by kids from all over the world with unique cultures and languages.

“Meeting people from around the world was definitely one of the coolest parts,” Georgia said.  “I haven’t ever met as many diverse people as I did at Stanford. Just comparing cultures would take hour long conversations. It was also beyond cool to get back to my regular routine but stay in contact with a friend that lives in Austria.”

To attend the program, it was required that you speak English; however, many kids spoke other languages, including Portuguese. 

Many parents know the fears and worries that come with their children leaving for college, but for many parents, including Izzy’s mom, Windi Popp, sending their high schoolers across the country, or even, for some families, across the world, is a terrifying notion.

“I was nervous leaving Isabelle for three weeks,” Popp said. “I worried that if anything went wrong, I wouldn’t be able to get to her very fast. When we dropped her off, I met the leaders and some of her house mates, which were from all over the country, and a couple from other countries. I realized all the kids were traveling far and wide to come to Stanford for this program. All the leaders wimagejpeg_0ere kind and reassuring that they would take good care of Isabelle. All the leaders were grad students from University of California Berkeley, Yale, and Harvard. I was excited she would be surrounded by talented people.”

Even though Izzy’s family was scared of her leaving to go across the country, they understand what a phenomenal opportunity this was for her.

“It was kind of like high school in a way,” Izzy said. “You’re just more free and independent.”