What I Didn’t Realize About Pomona Until I Went Abroad

As I’m starting my fourth month abroad in Budapest and the last month of my junior year, I’m starting to reflect on my time abroad, but also on my time back at Pomona College. I’ve begun to realize that leaving Pomona for a few months has made me realize a lot about the college, and I’d like to share a few of these thoughts with you. Quite a few of these are apparent but easy to forget while you’re still at the college:

1. The SoCal sunshine truly is wonderful.

Sunny Budapest
Budapest is getting a lot more sun these days. Here the sun shines over the Liberty Statue.

Sure, I’ve always enjoyed the sunshine at Pomona. It’s always been nice to lie on Marston Quad with a book (probably assigned for a class), to eat lunch outside in the Frary courtyard, and to walk around in shorts even in February. But I didn’t appreciate the sunshine fully until I experienced two weeks straight of sun-less skies as soon as I arrived here. The forecast alternated between rain, snow, and generally overcast. The third week, as soon as the clouds cleared enough for the first rays of sun to peek through, my friends and I all rushed outside to soak in the Vitamin D (and take a few pictures for Instagram to document the occasion). All of a sudden, people seemed more cheerful and the city seemed more inviting, making me miss the days of Southern California sunshine at Pomona.

2. The Pomona College workers make dorm life easy.

When was the last time you had to take out the trash or go out to buy toilet paper?

3. The “Claremont Bubble” is real. 

The Claremont Bubble. The physical, social, and cultural separation between the college and the real world. It makes it easy to forget that there are communities that consist of more than staff, faculty, and people in the ages of 18 to 22 working to get their assignment in by Wednesday morning. There are cafe owners, commuters, grandparents, children, and dogs (and quite a lot of dogs indeed in Budapest!). There are neighborhoods with their own unique personalities and trains that can take us to explore these places. It often happens that being on campus for so long, we get involved in our own daily activities and forget that there is more around us. So remember to get off campus from time to time. Go on a 47 Things trip. Volunteer with the the Draper Center for Community Partnerships. Or even just take a walk to the Claremont Village and people-watch for a few hours and remind yourself that there is more out there.

4. The college does so much to foster community.

Budapest Dog
A dog inside a restaurant. Yes, they love their dogs here!

My program at the Budapest Semester in Mathematics consists of 60 students, most from the United States. We take classes only with each other and generally have very few interactions with Hungarians or other international students, so it is pretty hard to meet people we aren’t taking classes with. At Pomona, though, there are always options for communities to meet other people. Right off the bat, during Orientation Week for freshmen, the Sponsor Group system creates the building blocks of a community of people living in the same dorm. There is the Asian American Mentor Program, the Office of Black Student Affairs, and the Chicano Latina Student Affairs Center. There are endless clubs and organizations to join. These are all opportunities to reach out and get to know someone.

5. Dining halls are convenient, but are nice to take a break from. 

Dinner Party
A couple of us gather for a dinner party. Photo: Corrine Yap

On campus, if you’re hungry from the hours of 7:30 to 10 am, 11 am to 2 pm, or 4:45 pm to 8:00 pm, you can find hot food at a dining hall somewhere across the 5Cs. There is a wide variety of options and you can browse through all of the options across the 5Cs with the 5C Menu App, which you can even download on your phone. But it’s nice to take a break and cook for yourself or a few friends. Cooking can serve as a study break, a way to bond with friends, and even a way to educate yourself about what you are putting into your body.

6. There are endless study spots across campus. 

This last one is something I did not notice until I came to Budapest, and life became one big cafe-crawl as we bounced from one cafe to the next searching for free wi-fi and a place to do work.

Study at the library or lounges in dorms. Go to the academic buildings and find a free room with chalkboards and whiteboards. Go to one of the many computer lounges around campus. Check out the SCC Mail Room for a quiet study spot, the SCC patio tables for an outdoor setting, or the Coop Fountain if you want to study with some music in the background. Stake out a cozy spot at the Motley Coffeehouse and enjoy a Bowl of Soul. Explore the campus. Take advantage of everything it has to offer.