Semester 1 at Pomona: First-Year Impressions

From my time at Pomona College as a first semester first-year student, I have had so many memorable moments and have learned so much, not only from my classes (Macroeconomics, Calculus, First Year Seminar, and Intermediate Spanish), but from many occasions beyond the classroom.

As one of America’s foremost liberal arts institutions, Pomona College provides its students an abundance of resources and opportunities to closely interact with our professors. The list could go on and on, but some examples include the Claremont Colleges Library, the warm and cozy department libraries, evening study group sessions with the presence of faculty members or student mentors, and casual lunch conversations with our professors (kudos to Pomona for funding faculty-student interactions).

I had expected to experience the aforementioned benefits prior to arriving on campus. What pleasantly surprised me was how well Pomona has been able to maximize the joys of our learning experience by taking advantage of its own student body. Basically, the way that the system works is that Pomona is paying for students to get free academic tutoring from other students who specialize in subjects including mathematics, the natural sciences, foreign languages, economics, and computer science. Not only do they help with homework assignments and papers, effectively reducing the level of stress that could otherwise overwhelm us at times due to the challenging nature of the assignments, they also share their personal experience in the subject and personalized study tips. At the mentor sessions and study groups, students usually go through the class materials and homework assignments in advance and prepare questions that they find intriguing to share with the rest of the group. For my Calculus study group, for instance, to prepare for our final (which our professor calls “Final Fun Activity” to make the exam sound more fun, and more like an active learning experience), we met in a math classroom at night and used all of the blackboards that covered its four walls to write down main concepts and come up with questions for each other. Oftentimes, students also initiate our own informal study groups and meet in the study rooms in the residence halls.

Embracing Freshman Year!
Embracing Freshman Year!

This semester, I spent more than 5 hours each week going to tutoring sessions at the Quantitative Skills Center and / or the Foreign Languages Resources Center (for Spanish), as well as to mentor sessions and study groups. This has become my learning lifestyle at Pomona, and I have been thoroughly enjoying the experience of collaborating with my peers or working alongside student mentors to tackle challenging problems together, to learn from the experience about different approaches to learning that would best suit me, and to feel an immense sense of accomplishment afterwards.

The academics at Pomona can be challenging and simultaneously rewarding. Moreover, I have enjoyed taking advantage of the numerous student organizations, part-time job opportunities, and myriad of events that Pomona has to offer. This semester, I got involved in the Student Media Committee, Speakers Committee, Claremont Colleges Television, the local radio station KSPC, weekly newspaper “The Student Life”, “Claremont Law Journal”, and “Claremont Port Side” and have worked for the Pomona College Communications Office on a weekly basis. In addition, I went to 80 events throughout the semester, including lectures, “Chat and Chew” events (where students discuss different kinds of issues while having dinner at the Frank Dining Hall), salsa dances, casual gatherings sponsored by different academic departments and information sessions for potential majors.

One of my favorite weekend pastimes has been Greek lessons, which I’m taking for no credit and my friend (who is originally from Greece, is fluent in four languages, and has been further challenging himself with Intermediate Japanese) is teaching for no salary. I wanted to start learning Greek because I’ve been interested in the cultural aspects of the country, and my friend enjoys teaching it because he “wants to spend time with such a beautiful language” every weekend. We have a textbook and a workbook from which he assigns homework to facilitate the learning process, and work on all of the essential language learning skills, including listening, speaking, grammar, reading, and writing. These Greek lessons are not just a fun language learning experience, but also a weekend pastime from which I get inspired by my friend’s passion for language and learn from the skills that he personally used to succeed in learning foreign languages.

This semester reflections could go on and on as I take all of those memorable moments with the amazing people home with me for the winter break. I cannot wait to get back on campus to keep exploring what Pomona has to offer next spring.