Transitioning From High School to College

College vs. High School… What are the differences? What was the transitioning process like for me? What might it look like for you? Before we look into these questions, we need to (1) recognize that every human being is so different from each other, and (2) remember the principle ceteris paribus: holding certain aspects constant requires us to recognize some constants in this case.

In response to my first point: My friends here at Pomona concluded that everyone is weird in some ways. After all, it is (partly) our weirdness that got us here. In terms of my second point: I regard my personality as a fairly constant attribute that has not changed much as I grew up. Realizing these facts, let me briefly present myself to you through this virtual platform. Some interesting (okay, perhaps weird, too) facets of my personality:

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For the Worried Prospective Who Wants to Stay Substance Free…

Abusing Ticket to Ride in our dorm room. It gives a more prolonged kick as compared to Settlers.
Abusing Ticket to Ride in our dorm room. It gives a more prolonged kick as compared to Settlers of Cattan.

When talking to international students, one of the things many were surprised by is substance use on college campuses. In many countries, Singapore included, the legal drinking age is 18 – lower than it is in the U.S. When we start drinking, it’s not with friends in a dorm room on a Friday night. It might be with our parents at a wedding, or at a bar with friends. There is no pressure to chug as much as you can, and alcohol is a part of social life in ways different in the U.S. You drink over a meal, over snacks, you have conversations, you bond. Needless to say, the drinking culture in the U.S. might come as a surprise (both nasty and pleasant) for many unacquainted with it.

Better music than some of the things they play in Doms

I entered Pomona College when I was 21, due to a two-year military stint back home – well above the drinking age. I am 24 and a senior now, I personally have never tried any substances in my life, and I have no intentions to start. The common response this draws from people is usually “Wow… that must be hard!”, perhaps picturing an internal struggle within me every weekend night as I consider the temptations of alcohol. Actually, it isn’t. Drinking and partying is one type of social life, let’s admit to that, but it is not the only one.

And so a shout-out to prospective students who wonder if they will “fit in” with the college social scene: It’s okay not to drink.

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At Pomona, ED Does Not Stand For Early Decision

For the ambivalent high-schooler about to make one of the most important decisions of your life, let me alleviate some of that adolescent stress with my own humble suggestion: YES. GO WITH SAM TO PROM. Oh, and while you’re at it, consider making the much easier choice about committing Early Decision to Pomona.

It was a dark and stormy night in the winter of my senior year, minus the dark and stormy part and plus the stressful and last-minute elements, when I opted to go with Early Decision 2. Oh how I stared at the computer screen, a click away from DESTINY. Click!

Since then, I have had an incredible experience here and continue to appreciate everything Pomona has to offer. At this point, ED in my eyes no longer stands for Early Decision but rather for Ehmergawd-best-decision-I’ve-ever-made-in-my-life-Duh. So in case any of my (possibly imagined) audience seeks any more reassurance, I have a list of a few incentives for joining the Sagehen flock ASAP:

1) The Obvious

Look at the beach! Wow. Such sunset. Much pretty.
Look at the beach! Wow. Such sunset. Much pretty.

We are in beautiful Southern California! Land of sunsets, year-round flip-flops, and, if you’re like me, the unfortunate but inconsequential year-round sunburn.

self five
Pun life, self-five

Here, beach life is pretty much a… shore thing (did you sea what I did there?) Moving on: in the last two weeks, I’ve visited Laguna Beach, seen a play in LA, and tried the finest dim sum Claremont has to offer. Plus, Pomona always has Zipcars available to drive anywhere, which is really convenient for trips like these.

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Classes in Kunming

Browsing through Pomona’s newly released Spring 2015 course schedule, I couldn’t help but think about just how different my classes here in Kunming are from classes at home. The most obvious difference is that all of my classes are conducted in Chinese. Adhering to the language pledge, we speak no English at all. Another major difference is size. While my classes at Pomona can be considered small, my classes here all have only 1-6 students — tiny. Formal descriptions of all the classes offered by Middlebury in Kunming can be found here. Below is a list of the four classes I am currently taking and my own descriptions.

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Textbooks and readings for my classes.

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An Added Richness We Cannot Afford to Overlook

Seeing colors change for the first time!

I still remember the day in mid-March when we were sitting down to discuss what Study Abroad required of us and what we should expect from being away. One of the statements that will forever remain in my thoughts is the following:

“Don’t expect Pomona College abroad–if you want Pomona College, then stay here.”

This was stated by Rhoda, the director of the Study Abroad Office, indicating that Pomona College is unique and not found elsewhere. Being at Pomona College when she said that, I was a little confused. I didn’t know why someone wouldn’t want a change from their normal setting and attend an institution abroad. Being abroad for almost two months has taught me why.

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SoCal Struggles: Beaches, Buses, and Birds, oh my!

Beach sunset silhouette
Sunset at Hermosa Beach, CA. Posing on the left: my friend, Emily.

While Pomona is only about 50 miles from the coast, getting to the beach is quite a struggle. I had never realized just how difficult it is to get around without a car in some areas. Being from urban Jersey, living right next to New York City, I’ve spent so much of my life commuting, taking trains and buses, that having a car never seemed necessary. While I have my license, I’ve only driven a handful of times. Coming to Pomona, I figured I still wouldn’t need to drive, since Claremont isn’t in the middle of nowhere, but after Fall Break, I’ve learned a few things: public transit is better back home, California sunsets are beautiful, and birds are evil creatures.

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Fall Break: Lost in Rural China Edition

After a long week of midterms, a few friends and I set off for a week of terrifically underplanned backpacking adventures. We had not yet booked hostels or figured out any transportation, but with packed backpacks, the exhilaration of having finished midterms, and overconfidence in our Chinese abilities, we boarded a 9-hour overnight train for Lijiang.

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Mountain view on the way into Lijiang.

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Why I Applied Early to Pomona

2 years ago, around this time, I told my parents that I wanted to apply ED1 to Pomona College.  It had been a long process of considering all of my options, a few hours of meditation, and a lot of listening to thought provoking music before I knew for sure.  The long two hour conversation I had with my parents after telling them only confirmed my desire to apply ED.  The main question I received from friends and family over the subsequent weeks was, ‘why?’ Specifically, ‘Why Pomona?’  With the next generation of ED students considering whether to take the plunge or not, I figure I’ll try and explain the most important decision I’ve made to date.

I hail from the great state of NY, and on first glance I would probably seem to be a pretty stereotypical East Coaster.  I walk a little too fast and with a little too much purpose, throw around EC slang, and I’m a little bit too familiar with I-95.  However I’m a born n’ raised die-hard SF Giants fan, worked in LA the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, and declared at a young age that I was going to move to the West Coast ASAP.  That being said, when it came time to look at colleges, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go West Coast.  My mother really wanted me to stay within driving distance, preferably not 3,000 miles away.  A lot of kids from my high school weren’t even allowed to go past the Mississippi River, and my closest friends planned on staying closer to home.  That being said, I decided to visit a series of West Coast schools, and from the moment I stepped on Pomona’s campus I felt a kind of energy I hadn’t felt anywhere else.

There’s always a group of people who will be passionate about the same things you are.

If you’re interested in Pomona and you’ve been on the campus, you’ve probably felt it. There’s no way to describe it other than an undercurrent of passion.  In the very fiber of this school, there’s passion.  Passion for literally everything you could possibly imagine, from a super specific area math to the most broad genre of film.  Everyone I spoke to in my visits to Pomona had a passion, and sometimes they had zero to do with school.  I met a guy who’s passion was announcing sporting events, a girl who learned Elvish and could recite the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, and a guy who designed crossword puzzles for the New York Times, all within 10 minutes of my tour. I have a passion for stories, so the idea of being surrounded by 1500+ people who all had passions and stories to tell was electrifying.  And when you realize the school itself is passionate, you have a community that is constantly becoming more and more passionate about more and more topics.  Some people will talk your ear off about how great the number 47 is (myself included), but not everyone loves 47.  The main thing, though, is that even the people who dislike 47 respected that passion.

Other schools were passionate, of course, generally about their athletics or a program or two, but nowhere else was as passionate about passions.  When I told my parents I wanted to apply ED1 to Pomona, I didn’t argue it for the top liberal arts college or the consortium or any of the many other pros that Pomona really pushes in their brochures.  I told my parents that I wanted to go to a school that would support my passions, surrounded by others who were just as passionate about their subjects as I was about mine.  There are tons of logistics for ED1, stuff that needs to be figured out both with family and on a personal level.  ED is not the right call for everyone, for a whole host of reasons, but if you’re considering applying ED anywhere, go with the place where you feel a special kind of energy.  I chose ED to Pomona because I wanted to be surrounded by passion.  And I can say with full confidence that it was one of the best decision I’ve ever made.