Coming Back Home

Hayeon Lee ’23

Kayla with boarding school friends in winter
With friends at snowy boarding school

I am originally from Los Angeles but attended a boarding high school in Connecticut for four years. Although I enjoyed the four years that I spent on the east coast for high school, I had always known that I wanted to come back to Los Angeles for college and that I felt most at home on the West Coast.

However, after college decisions came out in March of my senior year of high school, I realized that I had big decisions to make as one of my east coast “Dream Schools”  (a college with a very selective admissions rate) had offered me admission. Suddenly, I wasn’t as sure about returning to California as before.

During college acceptance season at my boarding school, people believed in  “East Coast prestige”: a concept that the only colleges and universities that were considered prestigious and worthwhile attending were all located on the East Coast. Due to this opinion, each time I would bring up that I was thinking about schools back on the West Coast over the coveted East Coast schools, people always encouraged me to rethink my options.

The second fear was a more personal one: the concept that I had “failed” by returning closer to home for college. College is often perceived as a moment to leave the nest, so by wanting to go back home, I felt as though I wasn’t following the system and that I would lose something by having my parents nearby.

A friend performs in the Balinese Gamelan Ensemble

However, rather than listening to the myriad of opinions and holding myself to an invisible standard, I followed my gut feeling and chose Pomona College: one of the best decisions I have ever made.

There are many reasons why I know Pomona is right for me. From the small class sizes to the interdisciplinary nature of the liberal arts classes, many things are repeated continuously as Pomona’s benefits, even by people who don’t personally attend the college. However, one of the main reasons why I know Pomona feels like home is because of its passionate and diverse student body.

A trip to Little Tokyo, Los Angeles with my ID1 Class, Mirroring Japan/ese America
A trip to Little Tokyo, LA with my ID1 Class, Mirroring Japan/ese America

At my boarding high school, there wasn’t enough diversity in the student body, either economically or racially. As a first-gen, Korean American student, there were times where I felt alone and misunderstood. However, at one of the most diverse colleges in America (ranked number one on Niche for diversity), I can say that I have found my group and friends at Pomona. Although I am just a first year, I have met mentors and friends who continuously encourage me to take chances and take part in things that I wouldn’t usually see myself doing. (As an introverted person, I would have never seen myself running for class president, for example, but with the encouragement of my friends, I found myself on the podium!)

I was once looking at these blog posts when deciding whether or not Pomona was the right place for me. Deciding between colleges can be a hard choice when everyone wants to give their opinion! Choose what feels right, don’t be afraid to take risks, and realize that everyone will end up where they belong.