Farewell Freshman Year

By Sophia Augustine ‘23

It was that time of the week again: my beloved lunch at Claremont McKenna’s Collins Dining Hall (the third best dining hall in my opinion). Collins Dining Hall is nestled perfectly on the border of Pomona’s and Claremont McKenna’s campuses, providing the ideal place for my friends and I to indulge in a delectable lunch on Friday afternoons after an exhausting week of classes (absolutely love midterm season! :/ ).

I saunter around the dining hall, a broad smile cracking my face as I scoop my favorite dessert, banana pudding (a CMC classic) onto my plate and head back to the table to rejoin my friends in their laughter and strange conversation.

When suddenly, the email we have all been internally dreading, but never actually expecting to arrive, announces its presence in my inbox via a soft ping! We all look at each other, worry and fear swimming in our eyes. It can’t be. No way, Pomona would never send us home. Not a chance. COVID isn’t that bad … or is it?

I open the email, a large pit resting uncomfortably in the bottom of my full stomach, and read the email from our president, Gabrielle Starr. I knew what was coming. I only needed to read the heading of the email to see that my worst nightmare had indeed become a reality. Urgent Update:Pomona Shifting to Online Courses as Coronavirus Precaution.

Sophie and friend on beachInstantly all the amazing memories and incredible aspects about Pomona filled my head: there was no way I could go home now. I couldn’t leave all the invaluable friendships I had formed and put my life on hold. I was immediately grateful I had a loving family and strong home to go back to on the East Coast, and my heart ached for all those who were not as fortunate as I was. However, we were all going through our individual and communal moments of intense sadness and instantaneous abrupt upheaval. The future was completely unknown, utterly shielded by the mysteries of this strange and hated Coronavirus.

Sophie and friend at sand volleyball areaMy professors, friends, sponsors (shout-out to Amelia, Alan and Peter aka the best sponsors on campus) were forced to say our meaningful yet painfully quick goodbyes. It had been a long time, if ever, in my short life since I had felt such a strong mix of emotions, both joyful and sorrowful. I appreciated every single moment that I had spent on this astounding campus with such a diverse, intellectual and caring student body and faculty. I didn’t know how I was going to survive being away from my amazing newly constructed life here in Southern California, but my friends and I all knew this obviously wasn’t the end, but rather just the very beginning (lucky for us first-years). Our first years might’ve technically been over, but the memories, love and passion we had for Pomona would never die (and hopefully would continue in person this fall).

Sophie with friendsThrough this entire global pandemic, I think Pomona has truly taught me resilience, love and that relationships can truly keep you afloat, even in times as tragic, unprecedented, and heart-wrenching as these. I keep counting my blessings, grateful to have such an incredible school and, more importantly, such a passionate, loving and irreplaceable community to say goodbye to.