Places They Can’t Forget

Photo: Getty Images and Linda A. Cicero/Stanford News Service

Photography by Melina Walling

Through the Haas Center’s Cardinal Quarter program, Stanford students can spend a quarter off campus—from New York to Cambodia—melding academics with public service work. We caught up with recent participants to find out how their location changed their perspectives.

Portrait of Zoe Ong

Zoe Ong, ’22

Location: Battambang, Cambodia
Service: English education, community development at Tassel

The place
“It’s very hot, there’s these amazing mountains and trees and forests and jungles, and beautiful temples, and all these things to see.

“But there’s also a lot of pain. Whether it’s French colonialism or, in the ’70s there was a genocide. There’s a lot of trauma that remains.”

The takeaway
“Cambodia possesses so much beautiful and resilient culture and tradition, and it’s important to understand the history of Cambodia when you go there.”

Portrait of Matthew Riley

Matthew Riley, ’19

Location: Waterford, Michigan
Service: Public health, foster youth at Crossroads for Youth

The place
“I was working in Oxford, Mich., which is about 30 minutes north of my hometown of Waterford—starting to get into more farm country of Michigan.

“In a setting like New York City, the day-to-day is pretty different from someone living in Oxford or a rural township—your school bus ride may be an hour-long drive in a rural county.”

The takeaway
“On Stanford’s campus, we get used to that bubble mentality where everything is on campus. But I was driving 30 minutes to work every day. There wasn’t that sense of immediacy.”

Portrait of Rachel Vaughan

Rachel Vaughan, ’20

Location: Clarksdale, Mississippi
Service: Education, community work at the Spring Institute

The place
“The nearest landmark city that people recognize is Memphis, Tenn. One grocery store, and it’s a Walmart. No Starbucks, none of the amenities I was accustomed to living at Stanford.

“On the one hand, Clarksdale is predominantly African American. But there was also this significant contingent of upper-middle-class white people. It’s not integrated at all.”

The takeaway
“We would go to this great wings place, buy some lemon chicken wings, and have them right next to the Sunflower River. I had experiences that I can’t replicate, because they’re unique to that place.”

Portrait of Regina Kong

Regina Kong, ’22

Location: Inian Islands, Alaska
Service: Oral history at the Inian Islands Institute, Ecological Field School

The place
“I was living on this island in the middle of the wilderness. A lot of days there wasn’t electricity; some days we had no running water, so we would just drink from the creek.

“I’d never had the experience of hunting for my own food, fishing, planting, foraging for mushrooms. I was living close to the land in a way I had never done before.”

The takeaway
“I didn’t have a cell connection, so I wasn’t able to call people. When you strip things away . . . that’s something I learned this summer: what’s really essential in my life.”

Melina Walling, ’20, is an intern at Stanford.