Breaking Out of the Claremont Bubble

By Sonam Rikha ‘24

Hollywood sign framed by palm treesFrom snazzy pop songs about the city to Disney channel movies set in the area, a glamorous image of Los Angeles has always been ingrained in my head. So when my friends asked me if I wanted to go to downtown L.A., I responded with childlike joy. Despite the warnings from peers to lower my expectations, I couldn’t erase the delicate images and stories of L.A. constructed by the media. I naively wondered if we’d stumble across some big-shot celebrity or semi-famous TikTok influencer.

model of a city
A model of LA at the Natural History Museum

Since my friends didn’t have a car and weren’t willing to fork over for an overpriced Uber, we decided to take on the L.A. transportation system. Luckily for Pomona students, the Claremont Metro station is only a couple of minutes walk from South Campus. With a round-trip ticket from L.A. to Claremont being roughly $10 and bus stops easy to find near campus, getting out of Claremont is fairly easy and affordable. Plus, sometimes students receive two free round-trip tickets from the metro station, so with careful planning, a trip out of Claremont can work with even a broke college student’s budget. As a long-time user of Chicago public transportation, I thought the commute to downtown L.A. would be a breeze. Boy, was I wrong. If it weren’t for one of my friends, who was familiar with the L.A. transit system, I would’ve been completely lost.

grass path with roses on each side, leading to a Greek-style building
Rose Garden at Exposition Park

From Claremont, my friends and I got off at Union Station, which is the end of the line in downtown L.A. Then we made a series of transfers to the subway and bus until we finally reached our destination: the Exposition Park Rose Garden and the Natural History Museum of L.A. County, which are near USC’s campus. Although we came to some of the most touristy spots of the city, I couldn’t help but notice the drastic differences between suburban Claremont and L.A. Walking around downtown L.A., there were the obvious American big-city attributes: tall skyscrapers, high prices, and homelessness. Riding public transportation and witnessing the resource disparities in the L.A. neighborhoods we passed was a jolting reminder of the bubble Claremont provides Pomona students.

Although my friends and I only saw a small part of L.A. on our adventure, I recommend every Pomona student step out of Claremont and explore different parts of L.A. Whether it be passing by a large group of nude bicyclists, learning about the history of the city, or intruding in a marriage proposal at the Rose Garden, my experience in L.A. has been unforgettable.