A Little Work, A Lot of Play

Exploration has always been an important aspect of my life. Coming to Pomona, I could not wait to explore beautiful SoCal and the surrounding areas. Over the course of the past month, I’ve debatably explored a larger variety of areas than I ever have before. Just a few highlights:

1. Deep Creek Hot Springs

The Deep Creek Hot Springs are absolutely beautiful. Parts of the hike are a bit technical and steep, but so worth it. The hot springs are wonderful—warm, relaxing and generally peaceful. One warning: some hot springs visitors dislike clothing.

Deep Creek Hot Springs Hike

Deep Creek Hot Springs Hike

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Encapsulated

You never know what you got till it’s gone. Although you think I might be referring to a significant other, best friend, or family member, I’m actually referring to the most important thing for many college students: a day off, of which we have exactly one of this semester when you exclude spring break. If you thought people were indecisive about choosing majors, you should see the flurry of conversations that go on when students try to decide on what to do with this precious little free time. Should one just sleep the entire day? Embark on an epic three-day outing to the great outdoors? Catch up on all of the work that you’ve gotten behind on? Day trip to L.A.? Pull an all-night marathon of Game of Thrones in anticipation of Season 4? The possibilities are endless.

Personally, I just wanted to sleep all day, but I felt that I should be more productive, so I did the obvious thing: I went to a reptile show. I’m sure that’s exactly what you were thinking.

Most people don’t even know that reptile shows exist. But in fact they do, and tens of thousands of people flock to some of the larger ones in SoCal, like the Reptile Super Show (Pomona, San Diego) or the North American Reptile Breeders Conference (Anaheim). For anyone looking to take their kid somewhere for the day, I highly endorse reptile shows; they’ll have better stuff than any zoo in the world, and better yet, you can buy it!

Bryan Blog Post Week 15

Microcosm, presented by Tree Walkers International

Most of the large shows are during the summer to maximize attendance, but there are many smaller ones throughout the year that feature equally interesting animals. So after spending the Friday off doing all of my homework for the weekend, my dad picked me up from Pomona and we drove to San Diego for Microcosm, a show with a focus on amphibian conservation (for those who don’t know, amphibians are one of the most at-risk groups on the planet due to disease and habitat loss).

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How Do I Love Pomona? Let Me Count the Ways

 

Photo courtesy of pomona.edu

Photo courtesy of pomona.edu

1. Friends 2. Professors—inspirers, teachers, mentors, supporters 3. Cross-courtyard hellos 4. Social gatherings 5. Barefeet and RayBans 6. Longboards 7. Frary frozen yogurt 8. Saturday picnics 9. Sunday barbeques 10. Grants and stipends 11. Class options 12. Office hours 13. Sunshine 14. Grassy fields 15. Waterpolo games 16. Baseball games 17. Proximity to skiing, hiking, surfing 18. Proximity to LA’s art museums, tourist attractions, cultural events 19. Networking 20. The 5-C System 21. Village restaurants, cafes, boutiques 22. Campus security > cops 23. Beautiful archways, pillars, architecture 24. Flex 25. Ontario Airport 26. Wednesday nights 27. Balcony couches 28. Open-mindedness 29.Dorm lounge pianos 30. Sense of community

Posted in Campus Events, Classes, Dorm Life, Pomona Traditions, Senior Life, Social Life, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Anatomy of a Sponsor Group

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My official sponsor group: the lovely residents of Harwood 1 West!
Photo courtesy of Maddi Cowen ’16.

Decision day has come and gone, and now that colleges across the nation have chosen their admitted students, it’s time for the critical second round of decisions to be made by the students themselves.

Last February, when I was added to the class of 2017 Facebook group, none of the admitted students who would become this year’s Pomona freshmen had any decisions to make. We were all accepted Early Decision I or II or admitted through the Questbridge program, so there was never any question for us: we were coming to Pomona. However, in late March and early April a flood of potential classmates were added to the group and new posts began to spring up:

“I am deciding between Stanford, Yale, and Pomona. I am interested in CS and philosophy. What should I do?”

“Even though I know this is not the place to receive an impartial answer, why should I choose Pomona over Yale?”

“Hey everyone, I love Pomona! Unfortunately, I have a thing for UChicago too. Could you guys please tell me why you chose Pomona over other great choices you may have had?”

Of course, it’s that time of year again and posts of a similar vein are coming around again in the Pomona College class of 2018 Facebook group. Most conversations address common themes, among them concerns about academic programs, campus location and financial aid. While it’s incredibly important to consider the academic programs and reputation of a school when making a final decision, (you’re going to college for the education, after all), it’s equally important to consider all aspects of your potential living situation. “School” and “everything else” aren’t such separate spheres anymore; you’ll be seeing the same people in your classes as you do in the dining halls and residence halls. There are over 6,300 of us across all seven campuses (including the two graduate schools), which can feel like a huge number at times and very little at others but, to put it in perspective, is only about 600 students larger than UCLA’s current freshman class alone. It’s still possible to feel “lost” in a class of 397, but I can’t imagine how it would feel to be just one student in a first-year class the size of our entire consortium, or not to recognize over 50% of the people I see in classes and dining halls and residence halls.

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This is my home at Pomona College, the Harwood residence hall…

Part of what made Pomona so alluring to me was
the idea of having a sponsor group. Your
sponsor group is what you make it: a core group of friends; a surrogate family; a loose collection of peers with whom you make small talk and share bathrooms; possibly nothing more than a band of strangers who live in close proximity to you. As with most things, everyone’s expectations and experiences are guaranteed to be slightly different. For me, my sponsor group both is and isn’t my “sponsor group.”

Let me explain.

I live in Harwood 1 West, which is exactly what it sounds like it is: the hall on the first floor on the West side of the Harwood residence hall. Besides me, inhabitants include ten other freshmen (my “spiblings”), three sophomore sponsors and one of the two Harwood RAs (a junior and in my opinion the best RA ever), each occupying a single in our hall (the exception being four of my spiblings who live paired in two doubles). This, technically speaking, is my sponsor group.

But it also isn’t. For one thing, I have a fourth unofficial sponsor (the girlfriend of one of my actual sponsors) whom I love to death and whom I forget lives in Oldenborg, not Harwood. For another: on the Pomona website, sponsor groups are described as being “built-in support group[s]—people with whom to talk, to procrastinate, to plan, to let off steam, to share a late-night snack.” My spiblings are my good friends, but these wonderful people in my sponsor group are not, with maybe one exception, my best friends—or my only ones.

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…and so is this, the Wig residence hall.

When I think of talking to people, I think of walking from dorm to dorm and having conversations in doorways, in hallways, in lounges. When I think of procrastinating, I think of being in my friend Kristen’s room (specifically, on her impossibly high bed) having seemingly endless conversations and/or watching ridiculous YouTube videos. When I think of planning, I think of my friend Anastasia and our endless list of schemes and half-baked ideas, formed between telling funny stories in the hallways of her dorm. When I think of late-night snacks, I think of the various sponsors or friends I have dragged with me to the Coop Fountain or the Village after dark, of ordering Round Table pizza at 1 a.m. and having to hide it from everyone pretending to study in the Wig lounge. And when I think of blowing off steam, I think of walking across the hall to my closest spibling’s room and ranting while he listens patiently, sometimes rolling his eyes and reminding me when I’m being ridiculous and sometimes offering me milk chocolate.

I’m still not entirely sure when or how it happened, but somehow my “sponsor group” expanded beyond the walls of Harwood 1 West. I spend about as much time in my dorm as I do out of it—perhaps a little more of the latter, even. When I think of Pomona in terms of “home,” I think of coming back to my room after a long and exhausting day, but I also think of my regular walk over to Wig (the residence hall directly West of Harwood, about 30 seconds from my room) to see how everyone else’s day is going. Or of my trek up to friends’ rooms on the second floor of Lyon (the residence hall directly South of Harwood, about a minute from my room).

For me, a sponsor group is indeed a support group. They’re the people you turn to when you need cheering up, when you have exciting news to share, when you feel lonely or like having serious discussions for no reason, when you want to watch a movie with someone and you can’t eat all the popcorn by yourself. But these definitions apply to all the people I love most, and these people aren’t limited to living in Harwood 1 West.

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Several of my good friends pausing attempts at homework  in order to pose for me in the Wig 1 hallway.

My sponsor group is Wig 1 Main, where we gather in the head sponsor’s room to play
Super Smash Bros or sit out in the hallway doing homework (or trying to) or go to dinner at Collins and take embarrassing Snapchats of each other mid-bite. It’s also Lyon 2 East and Lyon 2 Central, where homework and conversation sessions are facilitated by the open construction of the hall and random sing-along sessions occur spontaneously in Kristen’s or her sponsor’s room. It’s also Wig 2 North and Wig 2 Back, where I am included in low-key sponsor group dinners, trips into the village for froyo or boba and late-night games of Uno and ultimate frisbee. It’s also Wig 1 Back, whose crossword puzzle Thursday nights and study sessions in the lounge I’ve frequented (and come away from with amazing new music courtesy of Bianca’s Spotify playlists).

And, of course, it is Harwood 1 West, where brownies are made for most people’s birthdays and fountainings are planned days in advance to accommodate everyone’s insane schedules; the quote board is updated religiously and fondly re-read out loud in small groups late on weeknights; messages of affection/encouragement/congratulations are mysteriously left on the whiteboards outside our doors at regular intervals; and singing in the shower is condoned and even encouraged (I once heard a spibling join me in singing “Part of Your World” through the wall).

The point being that your sponsor group honestly is what you make it. My official sponsor group is an incredible collection of people whom I’m honored to know and be friends with—but what I consider my “sponsor group” isn’t limited to these people at all. To me, at least, a sponsor group is similar to a family: there’s the family you’re born with (or, you know, matched with based on a housing form) and the family you choose, and the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

So, when considering all aspects of what your potential living situation at Pomona would be? Know that you will definitely find a “sponsor group” that you love, that you fit into perfectly, that works for you. Whether it’s the group you’re placed in initially or a group you build friend by friend—or a combination of the two—it exists. And the definition you create for it is entirely your own.

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Sights for sore eyes at the end of a long day.

(Here’s the campus map, if you want or need to reference it at any point in the post. Also, my spibling Emily, who is also a Voices blogger, has written an excellent two-part account of her experience in our sponsor group here and here.)

Posted in Dorm Life, Freshman Experience | 1 Comment

Bracketology, or How to Pick a College

It’s that time of the year again. No, I’m not talking about spring break, mating season for half of the world’s animals, or the looming start of major league baseball. It’s March Madness time.

Picking brackets is something of an art and a lottery at the same time. Statistically, those who spent weeks researching the 68 teams in the tournament fare no better than those who let their children, pets, or sports-illiterate significant others make the picks for them. Although picking the higher seed in each case is a rookie mistake (in the first day alone, 9-seed Pittsburgh throttled 8-seed Colorado by a score of 77-48, 11-seed Dayton clinched an overtime thriller over 6-seed Ohio State, and two 12-seeds, Harvard and North Dakota State upset two 5-seeds, Cincinnati and Oklahoma, respectively), picking trendy upsets involves about as much guesswork as trying to predict the weather. After all, who ever watched teams like the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns or the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (I don’t even know what a chanticleer is)?

Bryan Post #15

This is apparently what a chanticleer looks like; source: Coastal Carolina University

This is probably why Warren Buffett feels comfortable offering a billion dollar prize to anyone with a perfect bracket through Yahoo; no one’s ever picked a perfect bracket. The probability according to a Duke professor of math is somewhere around 1 in 10 pentillion. This doesn’t make me feel so bad to have only correctly picked 13 of the first 16 winners; ESPN reported that of the more than 11 million brackets submitted on its website, fewer than 19,000 (approximately 0.17% of all brackets) correctly picked all 16 of the winners on the opening day of the tournament. By the time half of the games had been played on the second day, 3-seed Duke had fallen to 14-seed Mercer, 11-seed Tennessee had upset 6-seed UMass, and 10-seed Stanford had gutted out a win over 7-seed New Mexico, leaving just 16 perfect brackets left in the contest for Buffett’s billion dollars.

While most of the country is fascinated with Cinderella teams, buzzer-beaters, emotional post-game conferences, and alma mater pride, most of the nation’s high school seniors are anxiously waiting for college decisions. In many ways, trying to pick a perfect bracket is like trying to pick the right college. With so many factors, how do you compare two entirely different schools, neither of which you may have much orany first-hand experience with? Even overnight stays and tours (the equivalent of watching one or two nationally televised games) can only tell you so much. Talk to current students and they’ll spend more time talking about the strengths rather than addressing the weaknesses of their institution. (Ask any team if they think they can go all the way, and they’ll respond in the affirmative.) How much is a name brand worth (are #1 seeds, particularly Wichita State, really all they’re stacked up to be)? In the end, students who have decisions to make (i.e., not ED admits) will find themselves taking a bit of a shot in the dark. So many unknown variables can change one student’s experience compared to another. After all, how will you ever be fully sure that a college is right for you until you actually attend it?

Bryan Post #15

The Mercer Bears celebrate their victory over heavily-favored Duke. Source: ESPN, photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images.

This is both a lesson in “what-if’s” and multiverses as well as probability. What if people had been placed in different sponsor groups? Had different professors? Went on a different OA? I guarantee you that in one of my alternate universes (several actually), Bryan Gee is actually a biology major. Heck maybe I’m not even a science major anymore. In another, I’m not a sponsor. In yet another, I’m not an RA next year. Maybe in others, I’m not even at Pomona. Maybe I transferred. Maybe I went to Pitzer. Maybe I never heard about Pomona on a chance recommendation, never applied, and continue to confuse it with Cal Poly like everyone else. Everything in life, brackets or otherwise, is a game of probability (e.g. rolling dice, flipping coins, etc.)

Of course, in this universe, I’m a geology major at Pomona College. So let’s focus on what did happen, rather than what could have happened. I did hear about Pomona on a chance recommendation. I did tour the college. I did completely fall in love with its small, intimate atmosphere. I did feel attracted to its vision of an intellectual community. I certainly did appreciate the weather. I did want to be here (very badly I might add). I did completely rethink my desire to apply EA to Stanford. I did apply to Pomona ED. I did wind up in one of the best sponsor groups with an amazing roommate. I did have the exact kind of one-on-one academic relationships with my professors that I envisioned (i.e. first name basis). I did have classes with fewer than ten students. I did go to the Taylor Swift concert. I did play with puppies during finals week, did spend hours into the early morning having deep philosophical discussions instead of doing homework, and did spend most of the year wearing flip-flops and shorts to class. I did decide to be a sponsor. I did declare a major. I did all of the things I loved doing in my first year. I did even more things.

My experience cannot, will not, and should not be yours. After all, I don’t think there’s another Taylor Swift concert in the works. But the potential at Pomona to really do whatever you want, not just with respect to what you study or what career you start to build, but also with respect to what kind of person you want to be, what you want to do outside of the classroom, and what you want to contribute to Pomona is still the same as that which I’ve experienced: limitless. Choosing to come to Pomona isn’t like building a bracket. It’s about building a tree (graphically speaking). It’s about starting from the ground up, the fundamentals, and the basics, and building on your dreams, your passions, your interests, and your strengths to become something greater, larger, and more complete. It’s about starting as a seed and having the right nutrients surrounding you to foster your growth. It’s about what you can provide and give back. That’s what choosing to come to Pomona means.

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A Crash Course in… Academic Conferences?

For the budding academic, one of the more intimidating aspects of conducting research is having to actually present it when you’re finished! As an undergraduate student, I’m only just getting my feet wet with research (primarily in the field of psychology) so I haven’t had the chance to present research at a large conference, but watching my friends anxiously prepare to present their lab research or theses has been intimidating! Although a small town like Claremont isn’t a likely host of some huge national academic conference, we do get our fair share of opportunities to engage with other scholars and share our findings!

Diversity Symposium LogoEarlier this month, Claremont Graduate University hosted the 28th Annual Claremont Symposium on Applied Social Psychology. The first of these annual symposia was held in 1986, and they’ve occurred nearly every year since then. A professor from the 7Cs is always one of the symposium organizers in charge of inviting distinguished academics and researchers to speak on the topic selected for the year’s symposium. This year, Pomona College Psychology Professor Adam Pearson along with UCLA Psychology Professor Jenessa Shapiro invited professors to discuss a wide range of psychological approaches to the study of diversity.

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L.A. Museum Love

It’s finally spring break! After a week of midterms + misery, I finally have some time to myself, and that means sitting outside enjoying the lovely SoCal weather and writing to you, dear reader, about the stuff I’ve been up to.

Turrell sketches

Turrell sketches

LACMA

Annie and Emily with “Urban Light”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Daniel mentioned in his last post, Pomona does an awesome job subsidizing trips to make transportation (and events) more affordable. Last Friday, I took a trip to the LA County Museum of Art, or LACMA, with the Pomona Museum of Art (check them out here). They managed to get free tickets for a busload of Pomona kids for both general admission and special admission to the James Turrell (PO ’65) retrospective and a Calder exhibit. So instead of just standing outside and looking at the lamp post piece outside the museum like I did last time – which is incidentally a Chris Burden (PO ’69) – I actually got to go inside! And it was amazing. Continue reading

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Pets and Dorms

Before you ask if pets are even allowed in Pomona’s dorms, here’s the answer, from the Residence Hall page on the school’s website: “Pets are not permitted in the residence halls unless they are small, consistently caged, legal in California, benign, non-poisonous, and not objectionable to staff or other residents in the living area. Dogs and cats are prohibited.”

About a month ago, one of my spiblings, Cal, came up with a great idea: What if we used our sponsor group money (the $60-$70 sum of money that each sponsor group gets) on getting a hall hamster? At first, when we took an initial survey of our hall, everyone was on board, but once we had to put our votes down in a poll, people decided that they’d rather spend the money on something everyone would enjoy (for example, food), because not everyone would actually care for the hamster.

So, Cal and I decided that since we both really wanted a hamster, we’d buy one with our own money and split the cost and responsibility of taking care of it. Cal got all of the official paperwork done, since he was technically going to be the primary caretaker of the hamster (i.e., Cal was going to be the one who took the hamster home during breaks). However, we were going to share equal responsibility. We would transfer it between our rooms once a week (because more often than that would upset the hamster, and it was a reasonable amount of time for each person to have a hamster, especially since you have to change the bedding and clean out the cage once a week).

We finally got a cute little female hamster and named her Mibby, after M1B, or Mudd 1 Back. She’s currently in my room and I am happy to say that I love having her around! And thus, I present you with a brief guide to keep in mind if you’re considering getting a pet:

1. Really look into the pet you’re gonna get, and make sure you know what you’re committing to! Bunnies get stressed out in college environments and can have heart attacks, so they’re probably not a good idea unless you really live in a low-activity place. Chinchillas are so soft, but they’re really expensive and high maintenance. Hamsters are great, but they’re still a furry animal, so they’re prone to smelling at least a bit. I guess reptiles are pretty chill, but you know, you gotta make sure that having them doesn’t disturb anyone in your hall (and that goes for the cuddly animals, too).

2. Make sure you know what you’re going to do with them over break!

3. Do you have enough time to take care of a pet? Thankfully, hamsters tend to sleep during the day and be active at night, so Mibby’s always sleeping while I’m in class and wakes up around the time when I’m actually in my room and am available to take care of her. But playing with her takes time, too! If I don’t take her out occasionally and let her explore the world in her hamster ball, she’ll get restless and try to escape from her cage. When I do take her out, though, I have to follow her to make sure she doesn’t roll down a flight of steps or wander into someone else’s room. She’s a curious one!

4. How do the people in your hall feel about you having a pet? One of the requirements for having a pet is that it doesn’t disturb anybody, so if anyone morally objects to having an animal in captivity in your room or something, you should probably deal with that issue.

5. Can you afford to take care of a pet? Supplies run out and they cost money!

6. Are you willing to deal with pee? You have to be able to deal with droppings.

If you think getting a pet is too big of a responsibility for you but you really want one, ask around and see if any of your friends wants to co-own it with you, like what I’m doing! I really wanted a pet but didn’t know what I’d do with it over break, so I’m really glad that Cal wanted a hamster too and was willing to take her home over break.

If you can’t get a pet, look into volunteering at shelters that have animals you like! I volunteered at The Bunny Bunch Burrow in nearby Montclair, which houses bunnies, chinchillas, and guinea pigs, before I got Mibby, and it’s a great non-committal way to spend time with animals you like while making a difference in their lives.

No matter what you choose to do, make sure that it’s right for you. I hope my guide helped!

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Dealing with Rejection: A Four-Fold Breakdown

As spring draws near, the time of rejection letters (and hopefully acceptance letters) is upon us. Schools, potential employers and summer opportunity program coordinators are deciding whom they wish to accept and whom they wish to deny. Rejection is an inevitable part of life and, though never pleasant, it may be transformed into a positive force if handled well. The following are a few tips for handling rejection well.

1.         Evaluate the Finality of this Rejection

Ask yourself these questions: Is this rejection the final word? Are there any proactive steps I might take to still achieve my goals? Are there any alterable circumstances causing this rejection? If the possibility to achieve your goals still exists, you’re in luck. Occasionally, a rejection is simply a short-answer means of saying “change something.” If rejected from a school, you might write a letter to express strong continued interest, swaying the minds of administrators. If rejected from a summer position, you might change your dates of availability or offer to work for less pay.

2.         If the Rejection is Final, Accept the Decision with Grace and Poise

React to situations with grace. If this specific dream has not panned out and will not pan out, use this opportunity to begin building a reputation as a decorous, strong and gracious person. Respond to notes of rejection with a sincere “thank you for your time and consideration” and “best wishes for the upcoming summer/season/year.” You never know whom you may reencounter in the future or which bridges you may cross again.

3.         Learn and Grow

Ask yourself: Why was I rejected? Perhaps you could improve your resume. Perhaps you could gain more experience in a certain field. Perhaps you could take classes related to certain positions. Perhaps you could work on your ability to communicate effectively. Perhaps you could improve your interviewing skills. Use this rejection as an opportunity to improve aspects of your life.

4.         Dust Your Shoulders Off

Pick yourself up, dust your shoulders off, take a deep breath and move on. Search for other opportunities and other open doors. Though cliché, the saying “when one door closes, another opens” is all too true. This is one, and only one, rejection. Keep trying and you will, at some point, inevitably succeed.

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The Real Group Comes to Claremont!

Pomona College is conveniently situated in the heart of Southern California, less then an hour east of Los Angeles or north of Orange County. Catching a concert in Hollywood, taking a trip to Disneyland or Six Flags, or going to a Clippers game are just some of the things on the long list of things students can indulge in while living in Claremont. Throughout the semester, Pomona even organizes subsidized trips to make sure that cost or transportation issues don’t preclude students from having these experiences.

As you get deeper into the semester, however, I’ve found that it gets harder and harder to find time to get off-campus for these grander trips. When there’s always another paper around the corner, another midterm even though you swear you just had one, and a bunch of friends to catch meals with, it’s easy to opt into staying on campus on the weekends.

Luckily for Pomona students, sometimes the fun comes to us. Continue reading

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