A Breadth of Fresh Air

By Leslie Paz ’24

Enrolling at Pomona comes with a breath of fresh air. The lenient general education requirements and the vast array of courses mean that students are free to explore to their heart’s content. As an undecided first year this past fall, I want to share how these two factors helped guide me to my current interests.

It was 2:27 p.m. on August 12th, 2020, and I was nervous about registering for classes. Within the next 3 minutes, I would be choosing my first college schedule. When the time arrived, I was a nervous wreck. Going in, I had a plan. . . well kinda. I made a list of potential courses I was interested in. Unfortunately, I never would have guessed just how quickly my top picks would fill up. If my ideal schedule was Plan A, then my final schedule turned out to be my Plan G. My finalized schedule consisted of the following: “Iconic Iconoclasts” (my ID1, or Critical Inquiry seminar), “Introduction to Sociology,” “Achilles to Alexander,” “Calculus 1,” and “Walking: Getting Your Steps In.”

Image of Leslie's schedule
My chart of potential courses

Between my registration date and the first day of classes, I was terrified that I had picked the “wrong” courses. I was so used to the high school schedule of math, English, and science that I felt overwhelmed with all the potential courses. Somehow, I managed to develop FOMO over my schedule! It felt as though there was a right set of classes to sign up for, and I had taken the wrong way. However, as the semester went on, I discovered that I had unintentionally created a perfect concoction of courses. Surprisingly, one particular course would set off a spark inside of me.

When I first arrived (virtually) at Pomona, I was undecided and had no future pursuits. However, enrolling in “Achilles to Alexander” sent me down a rabbit hole of ancient history. Through fruitful conversations with peers and hours of reading primary documents, that course single-handedly changed my path in college. (In fact, I think even my dog approved, as she would spend her days cuddling with me as I read.)

Leslie's small dog cuddling a copy of Hesiod
My dog cuddling with my copy of Hesiod

When scheduling my courses for my second semester, I was ecstatic to pursue my studies in ancient history. I enrolled in “Greek and Roman Classics” and, upon my professor’s recommendation, enrolled in “Medieval Mediterranean.” Those additional courses would cement my current position as a potential Classics or LAMS (Late Antique-Medieval Studies) major.

notes for Leslie's classes
Taking notes for “Greek and Roman Classics” and “Medieval Mediterranean”

What do I hope to accomplish by recounting my accidental run-in with “Achilles to Alexander”? Well, I think it is important to recognize that class registration at Pomona works in mysterious ways. By fulfilling the Breadth of Study requirements, I found an academic topic that excited me. In my first semester alone, I took a math class, a history/classics course, and a sociology course. Despite some of them not being my top choices, every single one exposed me to a new department. For this reason, if you take away anything from my spiel, it’s that exploration is key.

Looking back, I find humor in my first registration, where I was terrified of enrolling in a “wrong course.” There’s not even a singular “right” class. Part of the fun of being a Pomona student is how each course has the potential to lead you down a massive rabbit hole. With so many unique and interesting class choices, it is 99.47% guaranteed that there will always be an appealing class to take.

Even if you have a major in mind, it never hurts to branch off and explore new disciplines. One of the strengths of the liberal arts curriculum is that it endorses an interdisciplinary approach to education. If you are undecided, then “in the Breadth of Study requirements we trust.” Never be afraid to explore and experiment! From my experience, the most random classes can be the most surprising. So to any potential first year, do not freak out about class registration. It all works out in the end!