When friends from home would ask me when I was going back to school, I’d throw out some date in mid-August, mumbling that I was going back a couple weeks early for some freshman-orientation-something-something-you know. I tried my best to avoid explaining that I was going back early for “sponsor training,” a term totally unfamiliar to my non-Pomona friends. The few who did hear the full story peppered me with questions: “What’s a sponsor?” “Are you, like, an RA?” “Do you get paid?” “Wait, why do you want to live with a bunch of freshmen?”
They were relevant questions and I remember wondering the same things about my sponsors upon arriving at Pomona as a first-year. Why did these sophomores–with friends of their own–want to live in a hall with confused freshmen? They didn’t even get paid like RAs! A year and a couple grueling weeks of sponsor training later, I understand. Being a sponsor, part of the Residence Hall Staff, is an opportunity I’m so glad I took. We’re trained to deal with issues that come up; we discuss race, class, gender, mental health, body image, and so on; we learn all about resources on campus, but we also join a community of awesome individuals whose goal is to make life on campus the best it can be. As sponsors, we’re resources for our 10-20 freshman (or transfer) sponsees, but we’re also mentors, confidantes, classmates, and friends.
Despite my concerns, living on a freshman hall is not like re-living my freshman year. While I love the atmosphere of excitement and anticipation that pervades my hall, I’m thankful that this year, I can be a little more laid-back about things. I love being able to tell my sponsees about cool goings-on on campus, whether it’s Art After Hours or an interesting-sounding Pizza & Politics lecture. Hanging out in the hall is always fun, but I still see my own friends and do my own thing. It’s a balance between the contagious excitement of freshman year and the easygoing flow of sophomore year that I’ve come to really enjoy.
The sponsor experience has challenged me and frustrated me, but it’s also made me a more considerate, intentional, and self-aware person. Also, it has placed me in a few amazing groups of people–my sponsor group, the sponsor community, and the greater Residence Hall Staff community. So far, I’m loving the experience.