Stanford Spotlight - Akshay Dinakar

Stanford Spotlight - Akshay Dinakar

Here's to you, smile buddy

In this world of Stanford, where success is measured on a Silicon Valley scale, it’s important to recognize different metrics of fulfillment. There is such an emphasis on tech (cough, cough – CS) that it is especially interesting to me when people come up with their own ways to shine. Such is the case with Akshay. He is loved in our dorm for bringing happiness to Stanford every single day. Without him, my freshman experience would be dramatically different. I want to not only thank him, but also to demonstrate what it’s like to be successful at Stanford without necessarily pulling a 4.0 or writing computer programs. Sometimes, a smile is the way to change the world – I know this because this is what Akshay is doing.

Anyone who knows Akshay knows he doesn’t just march to the beat of his own drum – he dances wildly to the music of the Stanford Flash Mob Orchestra, an organization he created to bring spontaneous moments of happiness through music. Akshay is a musician, a designer, a dreamer, an artist and an incredible dorm mate. He has transformed his floor to be a place of play, relaxation and inspiration. There are balloons, streamers, mechanical engineering projects, a self-made pinball machine and music. His room is the place to go if you need to smile.

Throughout our dorm, Akshay has created a program called FroSoHappy. He has organized a system where each person in our dorm will receive anonymous notes, pictures and art from other residents. The goal is to spread happiness and gratitude for others throughout the near 200 people in our dorm. And it worked! As you walk the halls, you will see hundreds of notes from the past month with #FroSoHappy on the bottom to indicate that this anonymous note was a part of the project. What is even more amazing is that you will see other anonymous notes that are NOT part of this project – they were simply left there because people have noticed the impact that showing appreciation for others has had on the happiness of our dorm. This one project alone has made our dorm feel like home.

In addition to projects designed to put us all in a better mood, Akshay’s general goofy behavior brings a smile to our faces without his even trying to do so. After crowdsourcing a costume for Halloween, he now wears the King Julian (think Madagascar) costume each Sunday brunch. His imitation of good friends crack us up, and he is always down to mess with his dormmates by moving mattresses around.

Akshay makes me smile every single day. I love listening to his covers of popular music on his violin. I love working with him on mechanical engineering projects. I love jumping on his bandwagon and making others happy. So, here’s to you Akshay: you have made my freshman fall a blast. I’ve loved spending time with such a beautiful human being. You have reassured me that to succeed in Silicon Valley doesn’t necessarily mean software – sometimes, a smile can change the world, too. Yours has most definitely changed mine.

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What Your Hogwarts House Says About You

Get yourself sorted and find out where you belong in the world of witchcraft and wizardry.

Sorting at Hogwarts is a big deal. Being sorted into a house is essentially being placed into a family while you are away from home learning about witchcraft and wizardry. Your house is made up of the people you will live with, go to classes with, play Quidditch with and everything in between. You basically spend 24/7 with them. Your Hogwarts house is your home away from home.

When you get sorted into a house, it is based on your personality traits. The people in your house are typically like-minded people who display the same characteristics as you.

When you’re a first year at Hogwarts, the minute you set foot in the castle you are swept into the Great Hall to have the ancient Sorting Hat placed on your head. This Sorting Hat decides which “family” you’ll be spending your seven years with.

For some, it is very obvious which house they will be in, due to certain personality traits they possess. For others, they may exemplify traits that fit a multitude of houses and are uncertain where they may end up.

To find out where you belong, you can take the official "Harry Potter" Sorting Hat quiz at For all you muggles out there, these are the characteristics that the houses possess and what your house says about you:

Gryffindor: The house of the brave, loyal, courageous, adventurous, daring and chivalrous. Those who stand up for others are typically Gryffindors. Brave-hearted is the most well-known Gryffindor characteristic, and Gryffindors are also known for having a lot of nerve.

Gryffindors are people who hold a multitude of qualities alongside the ones listed, making them a very well-rounded house. People who are Gryffindors are often people who could fit nicely into another house but choose to tell the sorting hat they want Gryffindor (there's that bravery). "Do what is right" is the motto Gryffindors go by.

Being a Gryffindor means that you're probably the adventurous and courageous friend, and you are usually known for doing what is right.

Ravenclaw: The house is known for their wisdom, intelligence, creativity, cleverness and knowledge. Those who value brains over brawn can be found here. Ravenclaws often tend to be quite quirky as well. "Do what is wise" is the motto they strive to follow.

Though Ravenclaws can be know-it-alls sometimes, they most likely do know what the wisest decision is.

If you are known for being the quirky friend, the smartest in the group or just great at making wise decisions, you're definitely a Ravenclaw.

Hufflepuff: This house values hard work, dedication, fair play, patience, and loyalty. Hufflepuff’s are known for being just and true. "Do what is nice" is their motto.

Hufflepuff is known as the “nice house” and believes strongly in sparing peoples feelings and being kind. This is not to say that Hufflepuffs aren't smart or courageous. Hufflepuffs just enjoy making others happy and tend to be more patient towards people.

If you ever find that you are too nice for your own good and cannot bear to hurt someone’s feelings, congratulations, you are a Hufflepuff.

Slytherin: This is the house of the cunning, prideful, resourceful, ambitious, intelligent, and determined. Slytherin's love to be in charge and crave leadership. "Do what is necessary" is the motto of this house.

Slytherin is a fairly well-rounded house, similar to the other houses. They are loyal to those that are loyal to them just as Gryffindors are and are intelligent as Ravenclaws.

Slytherin house as a whole is not evil, despite how many dark wizards come out of this house. That is merely based on the choices of those wizards (so if your friend is a Slytherin, don’t judge, it doesn’t mean they are mean people). Slytherins do, however, have a tendency to be arrogant or prideful. This is most likely due to the fact that everyone in Slytherin is exceedingly proud to be there.

What Hogwarts house you’re in says a lot about the person you are, the traits you possess and how you may act in some situations. But in the end, your house is really just your home that is always there for you. Always.

Cover Image Credit: Warner Bros Pictures

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Has Seasonal Depression Become More Common Than Daylight?

To those who feel the darkness long before the sun goes down.


We have all heard about seasonal depression. There's always the one person in your friend group or workplace that claims it or has at least brought it up when you know it may not be all that serious. I don't mean to say this to invalidate a person's feelings, rather explain we all experience situations with different depths. Many can claim this, but, how many can truly say they have seasonal depression?

We know ourselves better than anyone else, but how can we help others?

It's hard to identify what others feel, trying to define the line between prolonged sadness and a chemical imbalance that causes depression. All we can truly understand is how we feel and try to relate it to others. I'll leave it to the professionals to explain what the chemical and psychologic differences are, but I can contribute a little bit of insight and personal experience if you're up for it.

The endless cycle of roller coastering emotions

I've had problems with depression year-round. I don't try to hide it because looking back, I have recognized the signs as early as the fifth grade. I never knew how to manage it well, and medication has never been a thing for me to habitually take as it is. The most discouraging for me is to continually try a medication for months all for it to not work or the side effects to be worse than what I felt before. I've always been one to talk with a therapist ever since a close family member of mine passed away, over 10 years ago. That may seem excessive, but that extra help to stay on track has always been beneficial for me.

All I need is a pause button

One thing that I'm just now coming to terms with is how hard it is for me to stick to a schedule or routine. I search for a mental and physical break whenever I can, but when I can't find one, I tend to create my own. Listen up, as a college student, that's not something to feasibly do and be able to pass classes. When I get so emotionally drained, I stop. I must have the break before I lose myself. Once I get into a bad routine, for example not getting more than three hours of sleep every night for weeks on end, then I have a hard time getting out of it because I may be able to keep up with the workload for once. The one thing I always forget about? My health. I can finally get all of my things done, but is it quality? Do I feel myself? Do I feel okay?

It's different for everyone

Depression, in and of itself, is different everyone. Mine has always been around the time classes start to pick up, around the time my classes start kicking me around in the dirt like I have lunch money to be taken. I know someone who has a vitamin D deficiency, so when it becomes fall and winter with, their Vitamin D levels are so depleted with the lack of sunshine, they can't help but feel low. You may think it's an easy fix but keeping the levels in the normal range is a hard thing to do.

Is this time management?

I know my experiences cause me to be picky about who I hang out with. If I can't be 100% comfortable with who I'm around, I don't think it's a good use of this stressful time. It's cold in my room in the mornings, why would I want to leave my bed? It gets darker earlier, why would I feel energized to stay on top of things when the sun doesn't even have the energy to stay up long? Maybe I notice it more because I have so much more time alone in the dark to think to myself, realizing what I could be doing and what I am not getting one.

The need to identify

My depression may be exposed more seasonally, it may be academically related, and it may be a mix of both. All I know is I always get to this point where I am only stuck, or at least I feel that way. I want to be able to define it, but if I keep pushing to define it, I lose more valuable time before I realize that no one can truly identify what I'm feeling in the same way I do. Maybe that makes me feel more alone, knowing I am stuck in my feelings with no definitive meaning or solution.

Help is only a phone call away

You are not alone and help is not far away.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

1-800-662-HELP (4357)

National Hopeline Network

1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

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