|Stanford Report, May 14, 1997|
The Class of 2000: A year in the life
Fourth in a series
BY MARISA CIGARROA
At midnight every night during Dead Week preceding final examinations, Stanford students take a break from their studies to vent their frustrations in a cathartic act called the "primal scream." Freshman Ameen Khalil Saafir decided against participating in the offbeat tradition, because he found it "kind of silly." But one afternoon, two hours before his first final, Saafir spontaneously belted out a guttural yell that made his throat tingle. "It was really unexpected," he recalls. "Everything just kind of piled up on me, I got frustrated, and I guess I had to vent some energy."
When his last final was over, all Saafir could think about was going home. "Taking three three-hour tests in one week wore me out. When I was finished with exams, I didn't dwell on how I did on them. By that point, I just wanted to see my mommy," the Chicago-area native says, a childlike pout flitting across his face.
With their first quarter of college officially behind them, most freshmen returned to their old stomping grounds with a newfound appreciation for home-cooked food and high school friends. Some found it easy to readjust to life at home. Others had a rougher time.
For Saafir, David Lee, Milena Flores, Josia Lamberto-Egan and Christina McCarroll, winter vacation, despite its ups and downs, provided a much-needed break from college life. Saafir doesn't remember much about the four-hour plane ride home, because as soon as he buckled up, he was sound asleep.
Hanging out with his old buddies was refreshing, he says. "It was a lot different than being with my friends here because it seems like people here are always going through so many problems. Back home, everyone was more relaxed. And since we were on break, none of us had to worry about doing homework."
During the break, he broke up with his girlfriend because the "distance thing" was torturing him. "I couldn't handle being so far away from her," he says with a sigh, "so I guess it was good to have it resolved, but it's sad too."
Being away from his family, on the other hand, made him feel closer to home. "The separation made us appreciate each other all the more," Saafir says. His youngest sister, a high school freshman, particularly was excited to see him. "She always took me for granted before, but now that's changed," he says in a big-brotherly tone.
Cardinal-colored hair for dad
Before David Lee flew home for winter break, he called his dad in New Jersey and told him to expect a surprise: Lee had dyed his hair red before finals.
"I kept my hat on during the drive home so my dad didn't notice it at first," Lee says with a mischievous laugh. But he couldn't stall forever. When they arrived home, he took his hat off to greet his grandmother. Although his father didn't say anything, Lee recalls, every night at the dinner table, his eyes would fixate upon Lee's head.
The new hair color wasn't the only thing that was different about Lee. The day after he arrived, he woke up at 6:30 a.m. to go for a jog in the cold winter air - something he never would have done in high school. And later that day, he went to visit his former teachers. "They said I looked very happy, like I had a glow on me or something," he says with a wide smile.
Lee was the first person in his dorm to return to campus. "The air in the dorm was so stagnant, so I opened up all the windows and doors. It felt like I was coming back to where I belong. All of us refer to the dorm as our home now."
In fall quarter, Lee took up crew as an extracurricular activity. It was the first organized sport that he had belonged to and he liked it. But after a grueling first day of winter quarter practice, he decided to drop it because it would consume time he could use practicing for a solo piano recital he is going to give in April. "The recital is more important and has more personal meaning for me."
Not much time for family
One afternoon in early January, Milena Flores returned to her dorm and found a cutout of the Stanford Daily with her picture pasted on her door. The story accompanying the photograph quoted Stanford women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer, saying that the freshman point guard had played well so far. "I didn't know that I had come out in the Daily until 5 p.m. when I saw the article on my door," Flores says. "It was really funny."
Later that week, in a winning game against Oregon State, she stepped in for the senior point guard, who was injured. "I got to start in the game, which was a new experience," she says. "I had to really focus because I knew I had to play well and be as much of a leader as I could be. I think I did OK, although I made some mistakes that can be corrected."
Flores was able to spend only four days at home between quarters, because she had to go on the road with the team. "I realized Christmas break was going to be that short, so it didn't really affect me," she says, "and it was nice to go home and see my family." This quarter, in addition to taking the second parts of her CIV (Cultures, Ideas and Values) and Spanish classes, Flores is taking a writing class that is required of all freshmen. The first assignment she was given revolved around issues of identity. Flores decided to write about the moment, at age 12, when she first identified herself as an athlete.
"I was asked to play on a select team. I was recognized as a player with a special talent, a little more skill than the average person my age. I was able to see then that if I worked hard enough, basketball could take me places," she says.
Playing on Stanford's top-ranked team has only solidified her resolve to excel on the court. "Just being around people who are so passionate and competitive about basketball has strengthened my love of the sport and my desire to push myself to do my best every day," she says. "My teammates inspire me. They play through injuries that I didn't think would allow them to walk, let alone run up and down the court for an hour."
As for academics, Flores is still searching. "I haven't had that one particular class that will change my outlook on the world," she says. But that will come with time, she adds optimistically. After all, she's still a freshman.