Phase Changes

The first official day of spring is less than two weeks away, although if you just looked at the weather forecast of our “winter,” you would have thought that spring came several weeks ago. With spring comes: (a) warmer weather, (b) longer days, (c) pollen, (d) pollen allergies, and (e) sponsor selection. Like most other experiences that I’ve had as a sponsor, watching some of my sponsees go through the selection process provides an interesting self-reflective opportunity to look back on the year-long period between when I was chosen to be a sponsor and the not-so-far-away end of my time in this position.

Despite being an ED (early decision), I admit I knew very little about the sponsor group program, and unlike some of my good friends, it wasn’t a tipping factor in my decision to apply ED to Pomona. Even in the days leading up to move-in day, I was more anxious to figure out the chemistry with my roommate than that of the people in my immediate vicinity; after all, how compatible could a group of 10 first-years and two sophomores be just based on a bunch of electronic housing forms?

A picture of my sponsor group at our first dinner on move-in day. Photo credit to Sergio Rodriguez (PO '16).
A picture of my sponsor group at our first dinner on move-in day. Photo credit to Sergio Rodriguez (PO ’16).

Very compatible as it so turned out. My sponsor group was arguably one of the tightest-knit in our class (agreed upon by both us and first-years outside of our sponsor group). We frequently ate together, partied together, griped about having to declare majors together, and when the time came for the sponsor selection process, seven of the 10 of us applied. All seven became sponsors this year, a solid 10% of the entire sponsor team. It was a fitting transition from our first year of college, a year filled with new things and exploration, to our second year, a year with more pressure to “figure out our lives.” Between the seven of us and our respective co-sponsors, the number of first-years who can trace their lineage back to our sponsors, Spencer Heim (PO ’15) and Tyler Womack (PO ’15), numbers somewhere close to a quarter of the first-year class. This was evidenced when we took over Frary during snack for a sort of “family reunion” last week featuring everyone from our original sponsor group (minus Tyler who’s studying in Ecuador) and our sponsees (well, the ones who bothered to show up anyway).

A picture of our original sponsor group and some of our sponsees. Photo credit to Feather Flores (PO '17).
A picture of our original sponsor group and some of our sponsees. Photo credit to Feather Flores (PO ’17).

Experiencing both sides of the sponsor group program is kind of what I imagine being a parent is like in that you understand (a) why your parents did what they did, and (b) just how frustrating you could be as a child. Now this doesn’t mean that I don’t like my sponsor group; they’re all smart, dedicated, passionate individuals. But they’re very different from my sponsor group last year, so different in fact that I would probably say that my sponsor group this year is the polar opposite of that of my first year at Pomona. Whereas I saw every one of my spiblings every day last year, I can go days without seeing some of my sponsees depending on how schedules overlap (or don’t). My sponsor group would have dinner together practically every day of the week last year; I’ve been able to convince my entire sponsor group to get together maybe twice the entire year. I would describe my sponsor group this year as simply different, which can come off as bearing negative connotations, but what’s better and what’s worse?

Everyone comes into Pomona with a different idea of the sponsor group. Some have immensely high expectations for it and have wanted to be sponsors from the day they stepped onto campus. For others, it is simply part of the package that they signed up for in coming to Pomona that they must bear with. For some, the people they meet in their sponsor group will be lifelong friends. For others, those people are just passing acquaintances. Better and worse are simply terms that change depending on each person’s own perception of what they want in and from a sponsor group. As a sponsor, what I want and expect are different from what I wanted as a first-year. So for me, things are neither better nor worse, but simply different. Of course there are things that I would have liked to have happened or developed, but there are also things that I’m happy haven’t happened. At the end of the day, I’m just another student. Sponsors can’t magically make people become best friends with each other; in fact, we can’t even make people get along with each other. Some don’t, and that’s the reality of what happens when 15 people are placed together in a somewhat random arrangement based on varying responses on a housing form. In many respects, this is the beauty of the sponsor group program: it is what you make of it, whether you’re a sponsor or a sponsee.

Now that I’m watching my sponsees write their essays, give their interviews, and experience intermittent anxiety attacks about what’s going to happen to them next year, last year seems so far away. Next year seems so far away. Spring Break seems so far away. (Having a chemistry midterm on Friday doesn’t exactly help.) Even though there’s still a little more than eight weeks, six midterms, and four finals between me and the official end of the semester, it’s hard not to think ahead to next year. Where will I be? Where will my spiblings be? Where will my sponsees be? Who will be be? These are all very deep philosophical questions that require some serious attention. But not tonight. Tonight is dedicated to another round of confusing geology papers.