Stanford students are widely known to possess a sense of intellectual vitality. Tell us about an idea or an experience you have had that you find intellectually engaging.
When I moved from Long Beach, CA to Philadelphia, PA in the seventh grade, I encountered an environment far different from the one I had become accustomed to. In Long Beach, everyday was a struggle for survival. By the age of nine, I had witnessed the death of my mother and one of my best friends getting shot. Moreover, academics were often overshadowed by the gangs and violence that surrounded my home. In fact, if you were not in a gang by fifth grade, you soon would be, and I was no exception. However, everything changed in 2006 when my grandma moved me and my sister to Philadelphia.
No longer burdened by the constant pressure of having to look over my shoulder while walking to school, I suddenly became fascinated with the world around me. One afternoon as I walked home from school, I stopped and thought of how long it would take me to get home. I wondered how I would even go about figuring that out because I did not know any mathematics beyond pre-algebra. Nevertheless, I had to know. Intrigued by that question, I rushed home and started experimenting. First, I measured the distance I traveled in one step. Next, I calculated the length of my block and wrote these numbers down in my notebook. Intuitively, I knew I could then formulate how long it would take me to get home. I was elated! I had deduced that time equals distance divided by my average pace. Even though I later discovered that I was not the only person to figure this out, this epiphany showed me how rewarding and exhilarating science and experimentation could be. That spark of inquisitiveness inspired me to catch up on the years of education I had missed, and pursue a career as a scientist.
In one word: family.
When I was young, my family and I lived in San Diego, my father worked in the military, and my mother looked after me and my older sister, Christina. My dad worked tirelessly to provide for us. As a result, my earliest memories are not of both of my parents, but of my mother. My mother’s passing due to breast cancer when I was three was difficult emotionally for me, and the events that followed set the trajectory of my life.
After my mother passed, we moved from San Diego to Long Beach, California. With Christina and me starting elementary school, and no one to look after us while our dad was at work, we began getting dropped off at Judy’s Day Care. We would stay with Judy during the day, and our dad would pick us up at night. However, Christina and I started living with Judy for weeks at a time, with our dad picking us up on Saturdays, and then dropping us off again on Sunday nights. Living with Judy, and her four children, from kindergarten to sixth grade, is the second factor that shaped my life. This experience taught me that family is not limited by one’s genes or blood-type, because Judy became a mother to me and Christina.
This idea of the importance of family was reinforced in 2009 when Mr. Olson, my mentor, took me in after my family and I lost our home. Both Judy’s and Mr. Olson’s actions made me realize that and that anyone can make a profound impact in someone else’s life.
Recently, I have applied these lessons to my own life. After my grandmother suffered a stroke last year, I took on more responsibility in the household, taking care of family chores and preparing meals for her.
A year later, my grandmother has made a full recovery. Ultimately, I have come to appreciate my hardships. Despite the difficulties and setbacks, through them I have met the most amazing and influential people in my life, all of whom I still consider family today, and that is beyond anything I could ever ask for.
Virtually all of Stanford’s undergraduates live on campus. What would you want your future roommate to know about you? Tell us something about you that will help your future roommate-and us-know you better.
I call top-bunk!
Now that that’s taken care of, I guess I should tell you a little bit about myself. As I look around my room, I see my soccer ball laying on the floor, the picture of my mother next to my bed, my chess set atop my dresser, my junkyard of LEGO parts on my desk, and my shelf with books ranging from “Cosmos,” written by Carl Sagan, to “The Great Gatsby” to “Captain Underpants.”
As a student, I love to learn, and YouTube is my mentor: I've learned how to breakdance, tie a tie, and find the area under a curve.
As an individual, I have been shaped by the people who took me in when I was cold and the experiences that have made me the person I am today.
I’m kind of a quirky guy, to be honest. I’m the guy that stutters to the girl he likes, but can easily talk to a crowd of people. I’m a lover of languages. I’m fluent in French, Russian, and Sarcasm. Rubik’s cubing is my favorite sport and playing hide-and-seek is my favorite past time. I’m a master chef and my PB&Js are to die for. Party rock shuffling is my favorite celebration dance and, yes, I can teach you how to Dougie. I’m allergic to bee-stings and my enthusiasm is contagious. Expressing myself through music and memes is my outlet. Exploring my creativity through robotics is my passion and making the most of every opportunity is my purpose.
Here’s to four years of opportunities,
Your roommate, Eric Smalls