For the Prospective Student Thinking About Studying Abroad

The issue of study abroad has been discussed over and over again on this blog, probably moreso than any other single topic. However, it really testifies to the experiences and rewards that studying abroad can bring to a student, and today, I am going to provide my two cents’ worth on the matter.

View of the Nara plain
View of the Nara plain, south of Kyoto.

I studied abroad in Kyoto, Japan, and while many students choose to study abroad for a semester, I chose to spend my entire year abroad with the Associated Kyoto Program, a Pomona-approved program. I am not exaggerating when I say it was a life-changing experience, and even now, I look back on my junior year as a year filled with fun, joy and wonder.

Before I wax lyrical about the country, I would like to state my motivations for studying abroad in Japan, and for a year.

  1. I had never been to Japan.
  2. I wanted to travel all over Japan cheaply.
  3. I wanted to improve my Japanese.
  4. I wanted to experience the year in a life of a Japanese family.

Studying abroad for a year allowed me to realize all these personal goals. I lived for the year with a host family that spoke only Japanese with a thick local dialect, which meant a I was completely immersed in the language. From the moment I woke up to the moment I slept, I had no option but to communicate in Japanese. Life was an endless Oldenborg language table. [Read more…]

Returning from Abroad: New Perspectives on Pomona

Coming back from studying abroad has been a difficult adjustment, compounded perhaps by having returned to the States only 6 days before arriving in Claremont. For a couple weeks, I was overwhelmed — by the sheer number of people I knew on campus, by jumping right into classes without having time to readjust or catch up with friends, by having to answer the same questions about being abroad…the list goes on.

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Bread-baking success in Thailand!

Particularly difficult is reconciling the experiences and knowledge I gained abroad with life at Pomona. Southwestern China, rural Thailand, Bangkok — they’re nothing like Claremont. For a while I feared my experiences backpacking through Tiger Leaping Gorge, writing papers about ethnic minorities in China, farming in Northern Thailand, and eating delicious street food would have no counterparts in Claremont–that they’d be lost, stored away in a place so far from my present life, soon becoming only distant, intangible memories accessed less and less frequently.

This is not to say that I’ve found direct counterparts to my experiences abroad (I haven’t — though I’d LOVE to see 20 cent milk tea and late night street vendors in Claremont!). Instead, I’ve found ways to apply the lessons I learned and discoveries I made while abroad to life here at Pomona.

1. Organic farming and cooking! I learned so much from my two weeks living and working at a farm in rural Thailand, where I spent a lot of time thinking about consumption as well. On the farm, we grew everything we ate, and ate everything we grew — an incredible (and delicious) experience. Luckily, there are a few farms/gardens around Claremont that try to do just this. There are great opportunities to volunteer at Pomona’s Organic Farm, as well as participate in cool cooking workshops, and these have been great ways for me to reconnect with farm life and use what I learned abroad.

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Farm cooking workshop: stinging nettle pasta with arugula pesto! (photo by Sana Javeri-Kadri)

In addition, I plan to get involved helping with a friend’s after-school gardening and cooking program at Vista del Valle Elementary’s organic garden. [Read more…]

The dreaded question – “What’s your favorite class at Pomona?”

To every single person who has asked me this question, I apologize for implication that it was a ridiculous thing to ask.  If you had asked me the question in high school, I would have been able to reply within the moment (Hint: Whatever had the fewest numbers), but now such a question is as bewildering to me as Quantum Physics or how Douglas Adams was off by a mere 5 numbers.  When asked this now, I currently shrug my shoulders and say that I haven’t thought about it.  But that’s a TOTAL AND ABSOLUTE LIE.

The answer to what my favorite class at Pomona is not one that I can give a simple number or title for.  It’s a long, detailed explanation that you’re about to slog through and read because for some reason my inability to answer this question in one sentence is probably gnawing at you. The TL;DR for this one is, I have no favorite class.  You’re gonna have to read to figure out why. [Read more…]

Thoughts to Twenty-Thousand

Pomona College quad
Pomona College quad (officially, Marston Quadrangle)

“What would you say to a million people if you had the chance?”

That’s the question that prompted students in Designing Conversational Spaces, a course offered by NYU ITP, to launch a social interaction experiment called The Listserve. Once an individual subscribes, he or she has a 1/20000+ chance of being chosen to write to an international audience.

And on a random Thursday afternoon, I was chosen to write for it.

Several ideas tumbled around in my mind, colliding in various ways but never lighting a spark. I could write about how the greatest failure of my life marked the beginning of my adulthood. Or about my curious obsession with post-it notes, about my most treasured possession (a clear, non-functioning, hand-crafted umbrella with photos pasted on the underside) …or, how a certain chord in Beethoven’s Op 109 sonata wraps around my heart like a silky scarf. Which of those could be most meaningful to an arbitrary stranger on the other side of the world? 

But instead, I chose to write about Pomona College, and how my journey here has complemented and been complemented by my personal perspective on life.

Below is the exact email that was sent out: [Read more…]

Professors Test “Positive” on Humanity

If you’re a prospective student, you’re probably spending a lot of time wondering what college will be like. Maybe you’re wondering about your future social life, living away from home, or what clubs or organizations you’ll try/join/hate. As we collegefolk get ready for the spring semester and as you gear up for your college acceptances and decisions, I felt this would be the best time to address one of the main things that can make or break your college experience: professors.

Thatcher Music Building, home to many of the professors who make Pomona what it is to me
Thatcher Music Building, home to many of the professors who make Pomona what it is to me

Many people will tell you — correctly — that your college experience is more than just what happens in the classroom, but few would deny that academic learning is an enormous part of college.

Professors are the people who directly provide you with this part of your college education, which can result in a lot of tension or pressure in your relationships with them. An email or a side comment from a professor can either make your day or make you cry. A great class can make your semester your best one yet or ruin it. I’ve experienced all of these things to a certain degree, and I’d be surprised if any of my fellow students haven’t as well. [Read more…]