Awkward Beginnings

By Sophia Augustine ‘23

Sophia's sponsor groupWhen people back home ask me questions like “How was your first-year at college?” or “what are some words you would use to describe the college experience at Ponoma… Pamona…oh-oh POMONA, sorry about that…” I never really know what to say exactly because my answer differs every time. I do find myself always repeating the phrase “I absolutely loved it” with genuine pride and enthusiasm as I describe the hidden gem that is Pomona College to the curious inquirers back home. I know people talk about college using phrases such as “the best 4 years of your ENTIRE life” or “the greatest experience ever where you meet your besties for life,” and I unquestionably agree with these statements after completing my first year. However, I don’t think people talk about the tough times of the college experience enough. I’m not talking about the heavier course load than high school or anything like that but rather the very initial transition from home and high school life to college life–in other words, the awkward beginnings.

Sophia with 3 friendsAlthough I mention my sponsor group in many of my blog posts because it was a big part of my first-year experience and my growth as a college student and person overall, at the very beginning (I mean the first month or so) we were not close at all and in fact did not even try to interact or become friendly with one another. As a relatively extroverted individual who loves to be around people, I was really psyched to make new friends and create these “besties for life” I had heard about at college, so I was definitely very nervous but just as excited to meet my sponsor group. During OA (Orientation Adventure), I made some incredible friends and had a remarkable time at Yosemite, but when I returned to campus and classes began I started to feel more and more out of place. The college routine was really tough for me to get used to. Structuring my own time and daily activities was also more difficult because in high school everything was so meticulously planned from the classes you took, to the time you ate lunch, to the sports/extracurriculars after school. Having lived in the same town in northern New Jersey for about 95% of my lifetime, I was used to that lifestyle and the friends I had for the majority of my life. Coming back to campus after OA, I began to notice that students in my year had begun to form “cliques” and “friend groups” already, and everybody just seemed to vibe and click with one another so well. I vividly remember floating in the pool with my sponsors and a couple of my spiblings (we were not close yet at all), seeing all these other first-years laughing in their new groups, throwing their heads back and cracking jokes as if they’d been friends all their lives. I couldn’t help but think HOW on earth do people already have their “besties for life” all figured out and their friend groups already formed…we literally just got here…

 I was very worried and nervous because I felt like I hadn’t made these strong friendships yet which, looking back after finishing my first-year, was absolutely ridiculous to think and just me being a paranoid, anxious first-year. I remember talking to my sponsor Peter about halfway through the year and telling him about these feelings I had at the very beginning. He chuckled and assured me that EVERYBODY has these thoughts and, as you continue on through college, you realize that nobody has their “besties” the second day of college–it’s just not possible.

Sophia with friend, holding pumpkinsI feel like I’ve grown and matured a lot since those first couple months of my first year, which says a lot about my time at Pomona and how it has shaped me as an individual. I am MUCH more independent and free-spirited while at the same time more organized and in control of myself and my own time (a concept that I really had to get used to in college with much more free time and control over my schedule). My awkward beginnings, as I’m sure many people have at the start of college or any new lifestyle change, is just another aspect of my college experience that I loved so much because, although there were countless amazing times, there were many tough times both mentally and emotionally that brought me closer to my peers who I call some of my best friends today.