By Chloe Mandel ’23
In my suburban Connecticut hometown, I fully depended on the use of a car to get around. Since the day I got my license in my junior year of high school, I’ve embraced the opportunity to drive my parents’ slightly worn-out Chevy Equinox everywhere I’ve needed to go. Granted, my daily drives to school were often full of frustration as I waited in a long line of cars to reach the senior parking lot, joined by many peers who, like me, routinely left their homes with just enough time to make first period. But there was no greater feeling of freedom than cruising to neighboring towns on the weekends with my favorite music playing.
Though I knew that at Pomona I’d have access to LA by way of the Metrolink train stop in Claremont, the idea of not being able to drive at college felt strange. Not only are Pomona first-years not allowed to have a car on campus, but my parents would never have agreed to it anyway–not that I blame them. The Claremont Village has plenty of delicious restaurants and cute boutiques, but I wondered how I’d buy basics like groceries, shampoo, etc. I’d also gathered that LA is not exactly a walkable city–who hasn’t heard of the notorious LA traffic?
Luckily, orientation week included a Target Night when shuttles transported first-years to the store in neighboring Montclair to receive significant discounts on all items. During the shuttle ride, I saw how many conveniences like Target lay less than 15 minutes by car from Pomona’s campus. I also found out that students could get to these places for free with a Foothill Transit (aka bus) card provided by Pomona.
Discovering every possible essential could be easily found nearby relieved my anxiety about going carless, but a few weeks into my first semester I also realized I could do without most of the stores in Montclair. As long as I could take a leisurely walk to the Claremont Trader Joe’s on weekends (around a 30-minute walk), I was content. Similarly, during my first trip to LA at the beginning of the semester, I was pleasantly surprised to find Downtown LA quite walkable. Yes, I’d definitely need to take the Metro or rent a Zipcar to reach neighborhoods like Santa Monica and Venice, but I came across plenty of eateries, shops, bookstores and cultural attractions to keep me occupied within walking distance of Union Station, where the Metrolink stops.
In order to reach less accessible destinations like the Getty Museum and Melrose Avenue, I took advantage of Pomona’s 47 Things Trips, which allow Pomona students to visit some of Southern California’s most iconic attractions for free. Field trips for classes, retreats and conferences for many clubs and organizations, and outdoor excursions for members of Claremont’s On The Loose club also enable students to explore the surrounding area without personal transportation.
Though I missed the freedom and serenity of driving on my own, not having a car allowed me not only to fully take advantage of Pomona’s opportunities for students to get off-campus, but also to embrace everything happening in Claremont. The five Claremont College campuses offer so many nooks and crannies to explore and exciting events both during the week and on the weekends that I didn’t find myself feeling desperate to leave. While I’m going to try to convince my parents to take a cross-country road trip from New England to Claremont when we’re able to return to campus so I can drive around beautiful SoCal whenever I want to, being car-less in Claremont hardly affected my first-year experience.