The Life-Changing Decision Pants

We see you!

My first ever visit to Pomona!
My first ever visit to Pomona!

‘Tis the season for prospective students, and sure enough, here you are! You’re walking around campus, going on tours, clutching maps, and carrying or wearing admissions paraphernalia. You are equipped with your nicest business-casual interview outfits and nervous-looking parents, trying to get a read on different schools and whether you might see yourself there. Right now, maybe you’re facing the first life-changing decision you’ve ever had to make. Many decisions have undoubtedly been made for you growing up, regardless of your background, and now here’s a decision that is — at least partially — yours.

My awesome friend/boss Feather Flores recently wrote a post about what Pomona isn’t, and I wanted to follow up on that. It’s decision time for the Class of 2019, so I’ll take this opportunity to tell you why I chose Pomona and why you shouldn’t. [Read more…]

What I Didn’t Realize About Pomona Until I Went Abroad

As I’m starting my fourth month abroad in Budapest and the last month of my junior year, I’m starting to reflect on my time abroad, but also on my time back at Pomona College. I’ve begun to realize that leaving Pomona for a few months has made me realize a lot about the college, and I’d like to share a few of these thoughts with you. Quite a few of these are apparent but easy to forget while you’re still at the college:

1. The SoCal sunshine truly is wonderful.

Sunny Budapest
Budapest is getting a lot more sun these days. Here the sun shines over the Liberty Statue.

Sure, I’ve always enjoyed the sunshine at Pomona. It’s always been nice to lie on Marston Quad with a book (probably assigned for a class), to eat lunch outside in the Frary courtyard, and to walk around in shorts even in February. But I didn’t appreciate the sunshine fully until I experienced two weeks straight of sun-less skies as soon as I arrived here. The forecast alternated between rain, snow, and generally overcast. The third week, as soon as the clouds cleared enough for the first rays of sun to peek through, my friends and I all rushed outside to soak in the Vitamin D (and take a few pictures for Instagram to document the occasion). All of a sudden, people seemed more cheerful and the city seemed more inviting, making me miss the days of Southern California sunshine at Pomona. [Read more…]

Southern in Southern California

Regional difference was something I expected to be a challenge when I came to California. I love it here at Pomona College, but even the college recognizes its lack of representation of students from the South. In welcoming the Class of 2018, the admission office celebrates “a particularly strong increase in students from the South [+45%].” Of course, the percentage increased most likely from single digits.

PHOTO IN NLR 4-22-06 257
The Arkansas River and the Little Rock Skyline.

College is an opportunity for building personal skills that are valuable in life generally, like how to adjust to new living environments. Highway this, highway that, San What’s-It-Called and San Who-Is-That. I had to take a moment to soak in all that is Southern California. After all, I’m from a state much more obscure, one that no one seems to remember, nor seems able to pronounce correctly: Arkansas. [Read more…]

For the Prospective International Student Wondering About Comfort Zones

As the head mentor for the International Student Mentor Program (ISMP), I have always felt that the presence of international students on campus brings an interesting dynamic to campus life. We grew up in different environments and cultures (what Bourdieu calls habitus), and the things we do and say here sometimes challenge assumptions that students and professors make both in and out of the classrooms.

However, I would like to focus more on the personal – how having a group of international students on campus made me a better person. Apart from the obvious reason of having a support network, knowing people from so many parts of the world has also made me reconsider much of my own thinking. The mainstream media shapes how we view different countries in the world, and we begin to have singular narratives of certain countries – what Chimamanda Adichie would term the “danger of a single story”.

I might have included this reference just to showcase this photo I took with Chimamanda when she visited Pomona College last year.
I might have included this reference just to showcase the photo I took with Chimamanda when she visited Pomona College last year.

For example, before coming to Pomona College, my impression of Pakistan was that it was a dangerous, lawless and a fundamentalist Islamic state. This was what I got from the news I saw on television, and trust me, my parents will freak out if I ever tell them I now want to visit Pakistan.

But I had the luck of making a Pakistani friend after coming to college, and she overturned many of the prior impressions I had about the country. I learnt that Lahore, where she comes from, is a beautiful city with a thriving arts scene. I learnt that Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad are all cities in Pakistan with different characters and “feels”. But most of all, I managed to have a human connection with the country, so that the Pakistanis I see on television are no longer just disconnected “Others” to me, but have their own agency and thoughts beyond the simplified portrayals I see on television. [Read more…]

What Pomona Isn’t

Pomona is an incredible institution, so it makes sense that so much of what you hear about it is positive. If you like to measure the worth of things in rankings, we’re #8 on the Forbes national list, #5 on the U.S. News & World Report liberal arts college list, #20 on The Daily Beast’s list (#1 and #7 on the “Student Life” and “Campus Quality” sublistings, respectively), and a bunch of good numbers on the Princeton Review’s various lists. If you prefer measuring the worth of things empirically, ask a random student on campus how they feel about the college and you’re guaranteed to come away with at least one positive remark– “The campus is so beautiful!” ; “There are lots of opportunities and supportive professors” ; “The people here are just the best.”

That’s a lot to take in. And it’s a lot of positivity.

There should be no misconceptions about the campus: it’s just objectively gorgeous.

This year, I am one of Pomona’s 70-something sponsors; I live in the same hall as, and (try to) serve as a mentor to, 14 first-year students, along with my co-sponsor. (Shout-out to Zach Hauser, who may possibly be the greatest human being alive.)

One of the biggest things I’ve watched my sponsees struggle with is the process of re-evaluating their prior notions of life at Pomona. Because there is so much positive rhetoric surrounding the college–though not without good reason–it’s easy to form misconceptions about what being a student at Pomona is really like. After all, it’s always different once you’re on the other side.

So I want this post to be a space for you, the future Class of 2019, to read about some of the elements of being a student at this college that you normally won’t hear about until you get here. Without further ado,

5 Things Pomona College Isn’t [Read more…]

Independent Study and Small-College Education

Getting reflective and looking at my completed draft from afar
Getting reflective and looking at my completed draft from afar

On the Wednesday afternoon of spring break, I sat in the Coop Fountain staring at my laptop screen. My real spring break had started thirty seconds beforehand, when I clicked “send” on an email to my advisor containing the first draft of my independent study paper. The moment felt surprisingly anticlimactic. I shut my laptop, walked outside into the sunny spring weather that had been staring me down through the windows for the past few days, and cheerily dialed my family to chat and catch up.

Okay, I’m exaggerating slightly. I had been working intensively on the paper since Saturday morning, but also had taken a day trip on Sunday to Long Beach (which is about an hour away). The next couple days also included occasional sanity breaks for card games (my suite has recently developed a weakness for Sentinels of the Multiverse), food, and much-needed sleep. Nonetheless, I spent most of my waking hours in the first half of the week typing, making diagrams, or tapping my fingertips impatiently on my keyboard while waiting for coherent thoughts to form. It sounds pretty awful, save for the fact that this will be — no, really – the most important paper I’ve written in college so far.

[Read more…]