It’s the Culture for Me

By Sonam Rikha ’24

Ever since I was a little kid, I dreamed of going to Los Angeles and walking down Hollywood Boulevard. When, as a high school senior, I stepped out of the LAX airport, I was greeted by California palm trees and the L.A. heat. Even though Pomona is in Claremont, 35 miles from the glamorized city of Los Angeles, the laid back and sunny environment in Claremont is definitely more favorable than the cold Chicago winters.

Through Pomona’s diversity fly-in program, Perspectives on Pomona (POP), I was able to visit California for the first time, and explore Pomona’s campus as a high school senior. I remember binge-watching Pomona’s YouTube channel videos and looking through the college’s website to get a glimpse of what the campus would be like. When I actually reached Pomona, I was shocked to see that the campus looked even better in person. It felt as if I was watching a movie. I saw college students walking, biking, skating, and even SCOOTING to class. I never thought that I’d see 18-22-year-old students riding scooters so passionately.

Spring POP students in shuttle vanDuring Perspectives on Pomona, students are bombarded with a bunch of fun activities and programs to get to know both Pomona and the other students in the program better. Who would’ve known that in one moment I would be making organic pizza with other POP students at the Pomona farm and in the next moment I would be in a sociology class discussing the relationship between gender and body language? Out of all of the fly-in programs I’ve participated in and the college campuses I’ve visited, Pomona was definitely my favorite.  And it wasn’t because of the amazing dining hall food (we have access to 7 dining halls!), Pomona’s proximity to Los Angeles, the Claremont Consortium, or the small class sizes with renowned professors–although all those things definitely made my college choice a lot easier. The reason? It was the culture for me.

Coming from a competitive and cutthroat high school in the Midwest, visiting Pomona was like a breath of fresh air. If I could summarize my three-day experience at Pomona in two words it would be “warm hug.” The people at Pomona are genuinely nice and willing to help. As a prospective student and a person who gets lost easily, I would often go up to random students and ask for help. Instead of an exasperated sigh from a sleep-deprived college student, I was greeted with excitement and enthusiasm. All of the Pomona students who helped me navigate campus were all kind and eager to help me.

Gates to the Pomona Farm
Gates to the Pomona Farm

I remember walking with another POP student, both of us wearing our POP lanyards, when we were all of a sudden approached by Pomona students welcoming us to campus. I could not keep track of the number of times a random Pomona student came up to me or greeted me just because I was a “prospie” (prospective student). When I was eating at the dining halls with my friends, Pomona students would randomly join us and start a conversation. While I was shadowing classes, I was shocked by the amount of collaboration between students and how easygoing the professors were.

When I met my POP host, I was very touched by all of the efforts she made to make my POP experience amazing. She made time out of her busy day of classes and work to give me a personal tour of the Claremont Colleges and even took me into the Claremont Village (downtown area) to get some bubble tea. When I told my POP host that I was applying to POSSE, she immediately told her roommates who then introduced me to a bunch of POSSE Pomona Scholars, who were all really excited that I was applying and gave me a bunch of tips on how to do well in the third-round interview for POSSE.

Even the admissions officers at Pomona made me feel like I belonged here. Just a day into the program and it seemed as if the admission officers who ran POP had already memorized my name. The collaborative and welcoming environment at Pomona is unmatched at any other institution. Maybe it’s the many days of sunshine that make Pomona students and faculty so wholesome and sweet. Or maybe it’s just Pomona.