Junior Year Semester One Reflections: Debussy, and a Memo for My Future Self

The gentle softness. A dialogue where the two of them find phrases slipping naturally out of their inner souls, flowing, overlapping with each other at times and pausing for a restful break at others… That sheer sense of indescribable serendipity and relaxation that render you speechless: a quiet observer to this brave new world where you anticipate the unknown rises and falls. You realize that it is an excitement — a passion — that will consume you…


3 PM, the Bridges Hall of Music. Many a Sunday afternoon have I spent here, holding a copy of the program and allowing my attention to drift in whichever direction the music brings me. Sunday is not really my favorite day of the week, nor is the very concept of “Sunday”, perhaps: admittedly, the thought of Sunday looming close often compels me to think hard about selectively deserting some of the non-productive activities that have continuously tempted me on Fridays and Saturdays. Often, there is still much work remaining to be done on Sunday afternoons: a frightful reality indeed, considering that my weekdays are fairly hectic this semester as I commit to five full-credit classes and three PE classes while still persisting on attending as many events (talks, art and music performances, classical music concerts or other off-campus trips, snack socials, etc.) as I possibly can. Yet, glancing over other classical music aficionados’ heads calms me and temporarily liberates me from all the stress, in this mysteriously church-like ambience where some rays of the sun gently reach over to the seats from the windows that are located close to the high ceilings.

Debussy, Debussy: I have never truly encountered the right phrases to describe your music. From the first time I met you, you have captivated me entirely with your unique cadence and your distinctive charms… Layers and layers of flavors that make me wish to savor each sensation, even though I cannot exactly voice or name these feelings..


Perhaps like college. In some ways, at least.

It is still surreal to think that I am now officially a second semester junior at Pomona College. Three years have passed by since I nervously teared open the envelope that would contain the fateful entrance ticket to four key formative years of my life. In hope of cherishing those fleeting moments, I continue the tradition of my end of semester reflections for the future me, whom I suspect will be just as nostalgic as I am. Breaking the tradition, though, I shall opt for a less conventional format.

Future me, here is a little memo for you to remember my first semester of junior year: the exciting, the mundane, the in-betweens, etc.:

Surreal to think that I'm now officially a semester-two-jurnior at Pomona!
Surreal to think that I’m now officially a semester-two-junior at Pomona!

1. Waking up early in the morning as a consistent morning person and going to Frank for a delicious breakfast: an omelette with cheese and a strange self-invented mixture of warm Yerba Mate and cold apple juice. Don’t judge me: this is synergy! The perfect temperature. Plus, they look similar… Then, I would march across Marston Quad, catching up with some squirrels on the way and enjoying a view of Carnegie Hall (where the politics department is: as a politics major, Carnegie feels like home in many ways) basking in the morning sunshine. My destination would be Mason Hall, home to my Japanese classroom. This semester, I wanted to satisfy my long held passion for the Japanese language and its associated cultural elements by auditing a class that meets every day at either 8:10 AM or 9:00 AM, assigns homework every day, and holds exams and/or quizzes every week. It was interesting to experience that on a daily basis and go through Japanese students’ routine of greeting their fellow classmates and Sensei (professor/teacher) politely, bowing, etc., as well as observe informal rules such as not drinking water or going to the restroom during class.

2. Pizza and Politics (lunchtime talks are a very efficient way of learning while eating free food, as I continue to find) at Carnegie, Scripps talks upstairs from the dining hall, and other talks, some of which I helped to host for the law and public policy journal.
3. Meals: I can either be very social at times and very antisocial at other times, depending on the workload (mostly more social than not). Meals in the 5C dining halls and the Claremont Village (where I also enjoy pies and froyo) continue to be my favorite way of getting to know my existing friends and new friends alike in more depth. I like planning ahead for meals, as do many of my friends. Some meals are part-business meetings for school projects and the law journal — out of the 13 new partnerships and collaboration projects we have formed this semester, quite a few ideas were initiated over a lighthearted mealtime conversation.
4. Office Hours: these definitely continue to be an integral part of my academic life on campus. I’ve been going to office hours for my classes and sometimes, other professors who are not teaching me this semester’s as well to get exposed to their insights and life advice. For details, I’ve previously written about my “wild professors chase”, AKA office hours.
5. Sports: likewise, I have dedicated a blog post on a major change in my lifestyle this semester => taking three PE classes! It was satisfying to pocket a peer-designed Playground Games 2016 T-shirt, a “table tennis star” medal, and the feelings of soreness from all of those Zumba and Zumba steps (+ spinning on two occasions) sessions. In addition to that, I also had to run between my classical political theory class at Carnegie Hall and Harvey Mudd College for my biology class on science vs. pseudoscience within 10 minutes twice a week. Music helped! Commuting continued frequently, especially on Wednesdays, when I have five full-credit classes, commuting between Pomona, HMC and CMC from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM. My CMC Spanish class is on contemporary Spain, the centre vs. the periphery, while my government class is on statesmanship and leadership (a 6-people seminar). This semester, I’ve also tried other social sports like tennis and hiking (a grand finale celebration of my finals’ week — that Friday, with only around 4 hours of sleep before submitting my last final paper for the semester a few minutes before we left campus for Mount Baldy, I was delighted to share some quality bonding time with some friends). Felt awesome! Currently thinking about trying something new by taking Turbo Kickboxing or joining the Claremont Colleges Equestrian Team next semester!
6. Growing to love outlines more and more — handwritten or typed alike. This semester was characterized by the constant workflow of finishing one paper and almost immediately proceeding to the next one. Finals’ week was surely a finale, when I completed five papers (lengths in pages, double spaced = 4, 7, 15, 21, and 23) and two final exams (which were also writing intensive) within a span of around two weeks. Well, life is good. At this phase of my academic career, I am not particularly fond of multi-tasking with papers and prefer focusing on one paper at a time. The process generally goes: determine topic based on class content/office hours conversations/readings done outside of class => read lots, research: physical books (recall that cathartic feeling of bringing 11 books from the library back to Oldenborg and returning them to the library a few hours before the library closes for the winter break), JStor, etc. => outline (something that I really hated in high school but have grown to find extremely helpful ever since my first semester of college) => execute (the first 300+ words can be difficult as it’s sometimes hard to write a solid introduction without executing the rest of the paper, but once the stalemate is broken, the grass will be a lot greener) => proofread => more proofreading: haha, I’m such a control freak after all => submit! (usually would email my professor, or sometimes upload the paper on Sakai, our online system) => even more proofreading: nerd at heart who cannot stop thinking about a paper even after it’s officially submitted
7. Reading voraciously in different corners of my Oldenborg room with a purple or pink highlighter and a pen — the tradition has been going to the various course syllabi on Friday afternoons, finding the books that I would be reading for the coming week from my bookshelves, and furiously bookmarking all the assigned pages with post-it notes.
8. I’ve gone on off-campus trips more frequently than in previous semesters. Some highlights were definitely Rowland Heights (for spicy Sichuan hotpot), Little Tokyo (well, twice — got a fever the first time while there), and Orange County (for a Berlin Phil concert).

Berlin Phil!
Berlin Phil!

9. Oldenborg: the residence hall where I’ve chosen to live for a second year in the same room. A highlight was definitely that one time when I got to speak six languages — modern Greek, Japanese, English, Mandarin Chinese, French, and Spanish — (just a few sentences in some of these languages, and some more prolonged conversations in others) within 50 minutes! Also as part of Oldenborg, the “interview room” (where I co-conducted some interviews for law journal applicants for two rounds of recruiting this semester)/Glass Conference Room/my self study room continues to be particularly memorable.
10. Law Journal: It goes without saying that a large portion of my extracurricular life is dedicated to the Claremont Journal of Law and Public Policy (CJLPP). Almost daily group chat messages with other members of the executive board and our partners, the process of writing each week’s meeting agenda on our shared Google drive, the monthly dinner get-togethers and end of semester celebrations with two beautiful cakes (pink champagne + chocolate) from Some Crust, the local bakery, and donuts continue to make my day. It has been an immense honor to serve as Chief Operating Officer this semester and to be elected as Editor-in-Chief. For details, refer to my previous reflections on the CJLPP.

Law journal cake celebration
Law journal cake celebration