For the Prospective Student Wondering About Los Angeles

Coming to the US for college was my first time entering this country, and my eager mind was filled with preconceived notions and images of this place, notions created through a childhood diet of Sesame Street and American Idol. Los Angeles was a fantastical place for me, a glamorous city filled with celebrities in sweatshirts walking down sidewalks drinking Starbucks (or, as the tabloid magazines will tell us: “Jake Gyllenhaal casually walking his dog on a Sunday – looks fabulous!”).

(Turns out this actually is a thing.)

I recall Pink spending 80% of her concert time in the air when I went to her Truth About Love tour..
I recall Pink spending 80% of her concert time in the air when I went to her Truth About Love tour…

So you can imagine my surprise when I visited Hollywood Boulevard shortly after starting college, and saw that it was not what I had thought it would be. This did not seem like the place that eager American Idol contestants would shed tears of joy to come to, and where were the CELEBRITIES? Why do I need to pay $47 (yes that IS the actual price) to peer at their homes behind tall walls? Why is Captain America harassing me to take a photo with him? Why did a group of old men just tell me to repent in the name of the Lord?

This surprise slowly turned into a sense of disappointment, a feeling often shared by my friends from home or from other countries when I bring them to Hollywood Boulevard. Prior notions of Hollywood gets shattered as they realized Hollywood Boulevard is pretty much a tourist spot.

Freshmen eagerly taking the Metrolink for the first time, circa 2011
Freshmen eagerly taking the Metrolink for the first time, circa 2011.

For a while during freshmen year, I came to dislike Los Angeles. I felt unsafe in some parts of the city, the public transportation system was a mess, streets were dirty, and traffic on the freeway is always so aggravating. Compared to the comforts of spruced-up Claremont, Los Angeles didn’t hold much appeal.

However, in the fall semester of my Freshmen Year, the lovely Professor Jill Grigsby brought my Introduction to Sociology class on a fieldtrip to Downtown Los Angeles. After taking the Metrolink there, she enthusiastically talked about the history of LA Union Station, led us through Olvera Street, took us on a walk amidst the tall buildings of Downtown LA, showed us around Grand Central Market, and ended the trip with a ride up to Bunker Hill on Angel’s Flight (before it closed for good!). This trip gave me a hint on how much history and culture there was in this city seemingly devoid of heritage. [Read more…]

What I Wish I Hadn’t Learned

When I first came to Pomona, I was very concerned with how much I would have to learn. I imagined that I would have to cram in order to be academically prepared for my first semester, because I hadn’t learned enough in high school.

However, how much I had to learn paled in comparison to how much I had to unlearn. The bad habits, unconsidered assumptions, and false beliefs I had as a result of my high school experience hurt me far more than any ignorance did.

1. School is easy

The “school” part of high school was the easy part. Doing well required showing up on time and showing that you had learned exactly what the teacher said you had to learn. Not exactly a mentally challenging process.

The hard part of high school (disregarding interpersonal and emotional concerns, which any self-help book written for adolescents will assure you are the hardest parts) was putting in the time necessary to do well in school while also fitting in time to do other things. It was an exercise in efficiency, not intellectual growth.

This is definitely not the case at Pomona! My classes here have made feel more stupid than I have felt in years, in the best way possible. In just the first semester, I’ve stared at a physics or math problem set feeling completely lost more times than I can count. For the first time in my academic career, my teachers can tell the difference between a paper I’ve written on no sleep the night before it was due and a paper that received my full attention and effort.

[Read more…]

Field Trips and Farms

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been on two very interesting class field trips — one to a Christian Miao minority village and one to an organic farm.

As part of my Ethnic Minorities in Yunnan class, we visited an isolated Miao (Hmong, in English) village about 3 hours outside of Kunming. Besides honoring Miao traditions, this village was unique in that almost everyone practiced Christianity. Over 100 years ago, Western missionaries arrived in this village and constructed a church. They also gave the Miao language a written form and translated the Bible into this written language. None of the surrounding villages practice Christianity, but religion is a big part of peoples’ lives in this village and the church is a very central place in the community.

We visited on Sunday, so that we could observe the church service and singing.

On the way into the Miao village.
On the way into the Miao village.

[Read more…]

The Motley Coffeehouse: Where I Spent the Last of my Flex

Motley Coffeehouse Cats
Fierce baristas, from left to right, Izzy, Carmen, and Mary Lynn. (Photocred: Natasha Kraus SC ’15)

At what point does something become an obsession? That what I’m constantly wondering these days as I keep finding myself back at The Motley.

Like way too many others, I often put off the majority of my homework for Sunday nights. But after working for a couple hours, there’s no better way to take a break (or call it a night) than by going to the Motley at Scripps. Or even better, going to Snack at Frary, then The Motley.

It’s actually surprising that a lot of people don’t even know what the Motley IS! I’ve suggested to some friends, “Hey, wanna go to the Motley?” and have gotten responses varying from “The what?” to “Oh, that’s the place at Scripps, right?” Allow me to elucidate things for you. [Read more…]

Thanksgiving in China: At Home Away from Home

photo 1-1

I’m not someone who is particularly into Thanksgiving. At the risk of sounding like a party-pooping Grinch, I have to admit I’ve never been too crazy about the holiday some people claim as their favorite day of the year. I like the idea of a day set aside to give thanks, I love having a break, and it’s pretty great to spend an entire day eating. But the American tradition of giving thanks for what we have by gorging on food, then engaging in the materialistic madness that is Black Friday seems a little twisted to me. And the staunch, traditional, turkey-centric menu is something that seems out of place in my household, and probably many immigrant households, year after year. Raised by a wonderful cook of a Chinese mother, I never had that burning love for mashed potatoes and gravy (or mac and cheese, or cream cheese bagels, or ketchup…the list goes on) that most of my friends clearly possessed. On this distinctly American holiday, I never felt completely “American”. Then there’s the colonialist history of the holiday, which is a whole separate issue I won’t go into right now. Suffice to say, I’ve always been a little hesitant when it comes to this holiday.

I write all of this under a picture of a Thanksgiving dinner spread, in a blog post titled “Thanksgiving in China”. So what’s the deal? [Read more…]

Thanksgiving in the Bay: The Ease of Transportation Available to Students

Viewing Downtown

This post is going to be a rather quick one because this doesn’t relate overly to Pomona but is something of a testament to its brilliant location! I’m from the East Coast (which I talk about in depth here), which definitely is an issue when it comes to holidays. Fortunately, there’s TONS of the stuff to do on campus for any holiday, but I happen to spend my Thanksgivings in San Francisco due to familial connections.

First off, HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL OF YOU READING THIS. I hope it was brilliant and family-filled and generally awesome. Last year, I drove up to San Francisco with 3 other students on one of the most beautiful drives imaginable.

Last year’s drive was pretty easy. I pitched in for gas and was delivered from dorm to doorstep! This year, I had to head out on the wide variety of public transit available to me.

[Read more…]