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Fall 2021 at Pomona: Semester in Review

Profile picture of Samson ZhangSamson Zhang
Dec 31, 2021Last updated Jan 2, 202229 min read

Classes

Math 60: Linear Algebra, Prof. Shahriar Shahriari

One-line summary: I learned to write proofs and got a taste of academic pure math in this class, which I don't plan to pursue further in the near future.

The most pure math-y math course I've taken, with a constant tendency towards abstraction -- to "look at many examples and glean what they have in common." The curriculum, contained in a textbook written by Prof. Shahriari, went from vector spaces (with reals and polynomials as motivating examples) to matrices to linear transformations, rather than starting with the concrete and going in reverse.

I learned to write proofs in this class. Not in formal style (mine was and still is sloppy) or technique (I never used anything more complicated than proof by contradiction), but by continuously applying an abstracting mindset, coming up with examples and looking for patterns to eventually identify the underlying hard logic.

A few fun concrete applications: there was a chapter on Markov chains, and abstract proofs usually built into the "long theorem," which eventually detailed two dozen related properties of matrices and linear transformations.

This felt like an appropriate first college math course: relatively rigorous and pure math-oriented, but not too demanding. Personally I enjoy less abstract math, or abstract math that's related more directly to concrete applications; I learned most of calculus through physics classes in high school and really enjoyed that, for example. I've been told that even higher level math electives are the ones that get really interesting. For now I don't see myself taking more math courses instead of physics or engineering ones, but maybe that will change in the future!

Physics 70: Big Ideas in Modern Physics, Prof. Dwight Whitaker and Prof. Elijah Quetin

One-line summary: I learned about new perspectives on physics in this class, along with new exposure to Special Relativity and Thermodynamics/Statistical Mechanics, and got to know Pomona's excellent Physics department.

Physics 70 is the entry course for the physics major, and also uses a textbook written by a Pomona professor: Six Ideas That Shaped Physics by Prof. Thomas Moore.

For me, the course breaks down into three parts: the course introduction, actual physics content, and lab/department work.

First, the introduction to the course, contained in the first chapter of Moore's textbook, that I loved so much I wrote a blog post raving about it. In the chapter Moore characterizes physics -- and science in general -- not as a process of passively discovering the true nature of the world, but rather of actively coming up with better and better stories to describe it. In this sense, doing science becomes an act of human creativity and curiosity, not unlike any other form of literature or development of a worldview. There are differentiating factors, of course: a common story format of mathematical models, a methodology for the creation of such stories based on replicable experimental data, and a community of storytellers confirming and furthering each others' stories, among other things. But to step back and see these characteristics as simply a particular variation of the more fundamental act of human storytelling provided new inspiration for learning about and perhaps eventually furthering science.

Moore then describes the present state of physics as the set of two main stories/theories: general relativity and the standard model. In practice, these are often split into five more simple theories: electromagnetic field theory, quantum mechanics, special relativity, statistical mechanics, and newtonian mechanics. Each has a corresponding chapter in Moore's textbook. The sixth (actually first) chapter describes the "symmetry principles", ex. conservation of energy or momentum, that are used in all these theories.

Physics 70 covered special relativity, quantum mechanics, and statistical mechanics, in that order -- that's what makes it a good intro course for more and less experienced physics students alike, as these are topics unlikely to have been rigorously covered prior to college. Newtonian mechanics and E&M are covered in the spring, though these classes can be tested out of.

I loved the special relativity and statistical mechanics units, especially the way Moore teaches them in his textbook. Sticking to the successive-stories description of physics, Lorentz transforms and dilation equations seemed to emerge naturally out of the principle of relativity and the constancy of the speed of light. With intuitive tools like spacetime diagrams, most of the complicated-looking equations could be fairly easily derived, and applications to theoretical fraction-of-lightspeed travel scenarios felt natural, if not easy. Though obviously the unit only scratched the surface of special relativity (with general relativity to follow) I felt like I got the big picture and was ready for deeper exploration if I desired.

Statistical mechanics was a similar story. From basic descriptions of micro and macrostates emerged a whole host of relations between energy, temperature, and entropy with applications to tons of real-world scenarios I previously never knew how to model (for example, how do heat-driven generators or refrigerators work?).

The quantum unit felt like a weak spot of the course. We skipped several chapters of the textbook for time's sake (replacing them with a condensed chapter also written by Moore); perhaps these would have filled in the necessary intuition. Or perhaps quantum physics simply isn't as conducive to intuitive understanding: as Feynman said, "If you think you understand quantum mechanics then you don't understand quantum mechanics." When I took quantum in the past, the most clarity came when I simply accepted mathematical models as the best explanation rather than any classical analogy: the description of entanglement as a matrix operation that resulted in a matrix that could not be factored back into smaller ones, for example, or the derivation of electron orbitals directly from the Schrodinger equation. Still, it was fascinating to learn about the separate experiments that established the wave- and particle-like properties of light separately, and eventually the wave-particle duality model that reconciled these results.

Finally, the class also included a mandatory three-hours-a-week lab. This lab wasn't so much a class lab as a completely separate lab class, with only coincidental overlap in content. The point of the lab was to teach general experimentation skills: coming up with data collection methodology, estimating error, and presenting results in a rigorous way. But the lab -- at least my section of it, taught by Prof. Quetin -- didn't include any lab reports or step-by-step handouts. Rather, emphasis, as in the main course, was on intuitive and practiced understanding. A good amount of guidance and pre-completed experimental design was necessary, but deliverables were often as simple as single graphs or slides, as long as experimental data and error were represented in a comprehensive manner.

The lab concluded with tours of various Pomona professors' lab spaces and introductions to their research. This component highlights the advantages of being at a small and ridiculously well-funded liberal arts school, I suppose: the abundance of resources, the accessibility of professors, and the spirit of student engagement at every turn.

All in all, this was a course that I really enjoyed. Along with exposure to new perspectives on and areas of physics, I got to know the physics department and fellow STEM kids through the course.

ID1: European Enlightenment, Gary Kates

One-line summary: I learned to write humanities papers in this class, and explored big ideas in recent history through assigned enlightenment texts as well as my own research, laying a solid foundation for future academic humanities work.

Now it's humanities time!

ID1s are required freshman seminars. Out of 30-something options, European Enlightenment was my top pick (Black Revolution, Russian Literature, and On Taste were also top choices) and it's the course I got.

I loved this class for two reasons.

First is the straightforward reason that I wanted to take the class: the literature of the enlightenment is hugely influential on modern society, a large chunk of canonical political and philosophical literature. Through Montesquieu's Persian Letters and Spirit of the Laws, Voltaire's Philosophical Letters and Candide, Diderot's The Nun, Rameau's Nephew, and Conversation with D'Alembert, Rousseau's Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, and a host of other writers and texts, the class offered a window into the collection of thoughts and thinkers that rejected traditional values and institutions in favor of the individual empiricism and rationality that is the foundation for all things intellectual today.

The second was less expected, and the reason why Gary is so beloved as a professor: the class taught me how to engage with humanities scholarship, and scholarship in general, in a way that no class has before. "Scholars talk with each other in terms of other scholarly sources," he said in one of our first classes. True to his word, each class started with a student presentation on a scholarly paper that they found about the assigned text. We were assigned four open-ended papers throughout the semester, the prompt being more or less "write a good scholarly paper with your classmates as the intended audience." Good papers weren't ones that followed a particular format or checked particular boxes: they were papers that were interesting and engaging to read, and furthered a novel and well-supported argument that was worth the reader's time. In particular, instead of placing our thesis in our introduction, Gary told us to rethink the introduction as a space to justify why the reader should read your paper, and to place your thesis wherever it'd be most impactful to state. The conclusion, in turn, should comment on the implications of your argument, further cementing, again, the meaning and significance of your argument rather than it being just a paper for paper's sake.

The approach I figured out by the second paper was to take a separate collection of scholarship and connect it to scholarship about the main text. It's a technique my STEM research friends have long used: some TKS friends read a paper about graphene production, then others about carbon capture, and combined the two into a novel carbon capture technique and business model, for example.

As a result, I learned as much from writing my four papers as I did from the class itself. Writing about Montesquieu's (lack of) feminism, I learned through older academic commentaries on Montesquieu about how conceptions for feminism changed over time, from the Cartesian feminism that Montesquieu approached (but still clearly fell short of compared to contemporaries like Graffigny, I argued) to more recent vocabulary centered around patriarchal structures and ideology that Montesquieu has nothing to do with. Writing about Voltaire's apparent endorsement of capitalist values in Philosophical Letters and Candide, I learned a bit about the historical circumstances in England that first gave rise to a capitalist society, and the lack of these conditions and corresponding values in Voltaire's native enlightenment France. For my third paper, I found out that Diderot was Marx's favorite author. The common link was the materialist philosophy that Diderot laid out, which became half of Marx's theory of dialectical materialism, the dialectical half coming from Hegel; in the course of researching for and writing this paper, the influential idea of dialectical materialism, which I've wanted to understand for forever, finally came into clarity. My final paper on Laclos' reactionary politics, seen through the lens of Rousseau's anti-amour-propre framework that he apparently emulates at first, allowed me to explore the "rich man" idea of the origin of law and government from Second Discourse that I had found so interesting on first read.

Reading-wise, the class was brutal, with an average of easily a hundred pages per class. Papers were brutal at first, as I wasn't used to academic research and writing after a gap year and largely STEM-centric high school course load. But the difficulty of the course always came with the right payoffs: exposure to a variety of canonical enlightenment literature and foundational confidence with humanities paper reading and writing.

MS49: Introduction to Media Studies, Prof. Oscar Moralde

One-line summary: I learned about the foundational media analysis frameworks of media studies and applied them to tech ideology in my final project, a subject I plan to continue diving into.

My final class is yet another major intro class, this time to media studies, which is my intended double major alongside physics.

What is media studies? The fundamental triangle of media studies is that of production-text-reception. Each is a subarea of analysis, intertwined with the other two. What is media? The best definition is perhaps the most expansive possible. One is "any meaningful communication." From a phone call to a blockbuster movie, there are countless sociological and culture factors to dive into. Under Derrida's post-structuralist doctrine that "there is nothing outside of text," every thought and interaction could perhaps be analyzed as media.

The best way for me to describe such a nebulous subject -- the class was nebulous too, with discussion material ranging from One Direction and the D'Amelios to the colonialist messages of historical Donald Duck comics -- is perhaps to highlight the readings and ideas that have stuck with me the most. There are three:

  1. Media production is best thought of not as the straightforward production of a text, but rather the production of meaning by both the direct producer and consumer of the text, for which the form of the text is only a vehicle. Stuart Hall, a founding scholar of British Cultural Studies, expresses this by outlining a framework where genre, ideology, and all other aspects of a piece of media can be analyzed through the "encoding" and "decoding" patterns it relies on. Paralleling Hall's framework and against Barthes' declaration that "the author is dead," Jonathan Gray asserts that a more useful conception of authorship is to think of a text as having multiple authors over time rather than only one at the time of creation.

  2. One level deeper than codifying the agents studied as part of media is to examine the standards and ideologies that these agents interact with media in relation with. In other words, how do we think about media "taste"? What is considered a "good" movie or an "insightful" book on one end of the spectrum, and a "cheap" and "meaningless" movie or comic book on the other? The key idea here is that taste is not fixed or objective, but rather is tied to larger power structures and changes over time. In "The Culture Industry", Adorno and Horkheimer present a dismal view of mass media being a tool for fascist capitalist elites to stifle revolutionary sentiment before it can even arise, the final step in man's conquest of nature: the conquest of human nature itself. Later theory pushed back against the representation of the public as a passive, oppressed group. Drawing on Bourdieu's ideas of cultural capital, Fiske frames fan production (fanart, fanfiction, fan social media accounts, fan conventions...) as a way for those who are culturally disenfranchised (think of stereotypical young fangirls or socially awkward nerds) to create their own system of cultural capital and gain self esteem and connection through it. Elana Levine and Michael Newman (and other scholars) identify the phenomena of "cultural legitimation" as a response to this, in which cultural authorities uplift "popular media" to "high art" as a means of preventing their authority from being lessened by the masses (think about "art films" giving critics leverage to dismiss blockbuster movies and prevent their creators from inserting thematic depth). There are countless more theories here, but the upshot is that taste, far from being objective or straightforwardly individually subjective, is a construct emerging from complex societal structures and power struggles.

  3. At a more meta level, how do we think about meaning and individual relations to it at all? Post-structuralism, pushing the media-analysis lens to the extreme per se, rejects the truth of individual experience altogether, insisting that our perceptions of reality only exist through the cultural and societal lenses we've learned over time. Phenomenology, on the other hand, takes the opposite stance, rejecting the externality of any other body or idea in the world and framing them all as entities in a "field of perception" that constitutes you and your experience of reality. (Existentialism often builds on top of this foundation.) In my favorite reading from the class, Jason Farman brings the two together with some cognitive science about consciousness in a theory of sensory-symbolic embodiment. Essentially, Farman models culture as informing individual experience subconsciously, i.e. filtering and informing how you perceive the world without your realizing it. He also models existing in digital spaces as a phenomenological embodiment just as real as embodiment in a physical space, drawing on cogsci research about attention being split between physical "reality" and another space created by a phone call. The coexistence of the unconscious cultural filter and the conscious process of embodiment is what constitutes Farman's model for how we experience reality, and one that connects analyses of cultural forces and media technology with phenomenological and Existentialist conceptions of the self.

The above points should make clear how theoretical of a class this was. There were countless opportunities to apply this theory, including weekly "blog posts" and three papers, but never in as scholarly or rigorous of a way as my European Enlightenment class, for example. On this note I suppose I can't blame the class: papers provided ample opportunity for me to hold myself to a higher bar of writing quality, while the class itself prioritized the content it was pushing out.

Nevertheless the consequence was that I didn't push myself as hard and I wasn't as happy with the writing I put out. I found myself so excited by some readings that I wrote blog posts summarizing them, but for papers I found myself sloppily applying ideas from readings to media I had consumed -- encoding and decoding patterns in the Marvel movie Shang-Chi, Bourdieu's "symbolic power" in the essay collection Letters to a Young Technologist -- without having a clear argument.

The one exception is my final project, surrounding a questions I've been deeply personally interested in since I came across its subject matter: why have journalists had such a strong reaction to Substack? And why have some tech-aligned writers on Substack viewed it as such an important ideological weapon? Why are Silicon Valley intellectuals so angry, and who are they angry at?

I spent days and days reading charged commentaries from both sides -- for, a few readings in, two sides distinctly emerged. These were the sides of the tech "culture war". Tech intellectualism mainstay Scott Alexander all but called it a class struggle in a newsletter post: not of economic class, which Alexander (and many others in tech I've come across) viewed as an increasingly unimportant distinction, but of those with lots of education and cultural status, regardless of income, against those with less education. This kind of thinking was rampant from tech- and Substack-aligned perspectives, but almost entirely ignored by more established critics and institutions.

Fiske's theory of the culturally disenfranchised creating their own system of cultural production as a means of challenging the power of cultural elites, and Bourdieu's broader theory of cultural capital, perfectly describe this ideological conflict, in just about the same language as Scott Alexander put it himself. Cultural legitimation in turn describes the encroachment of prestigious CS programs and school venture capitalists on the gaining power of the Silicon Valley "underclass"; resistance to this legitimation in a positive light is what Jasmine Sun, the founder of Reboot, terms "techno-optimism."

The larger questions being asked, of course, are: "how do 'technologists' interact with society at large, culturally and politically, beyond the direct impact of their products themselves?" As someone who ran a startup and an entire hacker house for other techies and founders in San Francisco, what larger cultural forces and ideologies was I identifying with?

These are the questions I feel are dangerously under-explored in general, though communities like Reboot are changing that. It's a change that I want to be a part of, and media studies gives me the theoretical tools to do so. My final project has already allowed me to make major strides in this exploration, though on a somewhat shaky foundation; I'm excited to see what insights a major-track of further electives and projects will bring!

Not Classes

"There's a great performance going on right now. Why are you all here?" Prof. Shahriari asked at the beginning of class one day. "Don't let your classes get in the way of your education."

The second half of my semester review accounts for all my learning from speakers, clubs, conversations, and other experiences outside of classes.

Mohammed El-Kurd and Angela Davis taught me the power of ideological change...and joy

Mohammed-El Kurd is a Palestinian poet and activist, named by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of 2021 for “helping to prompt an international shift in rhetoric in regard to Israel and Palestine.” The Claremont SJP chapter hosted him on campus this fall, an event I jumped to cover for TSL.

Angela Davis is one of the most influential prison abolition activists and scholars of the past few decades. I got to hear her speak at Andover two years ago. This year, she visited Pomona as a lecturer hosted by the History department.

Two common threads emerged from what they shared that stuck with me.

One is the importance of ideology as the grounds for change. Not ideology on an academic, theoretical level, outlined and debated in papers and blog post. Rather, what are people's "common sense" opinions or viewpoints on things? It appears to be common sense that police are public protectors; but from the perspective of those who are most affected by policing and incarceration, the common sense reality is one of systemic abuse and disenfranchisement, and the common sense solution is composed of radically different forms of community engagement rather than bits of police reform. The violent, state-backed Israeli encroachment of Palestinian homes and neighborhoods is clearly a process of racially-motivated colonialism on the ground, but a rhetoric describing protests against settlement as a matter of "real estate disputes" within the "Israel-Palestine conflict" creates false complication that pushes accountability. Theoretical tools are useful, but only if they can push beyond the walls of scholarship and into the realm of individual and popular "common sense."

Two is the centering of joy amidst existential struggle. "I get most inspired by [my family] because they are faced with such detrimental challenges to say the least and they are able to face those challenges with satire, with laughter...Laughter is the thing that has most often inspired me these past few years," El-Kurd said in his visit. Davis shared a story from her childhood of making a game out of running up to white families' homes, ringing the doorbell, then running back across the street to safety -- in a time when Birmingham was nicknamed "Bombingham" for the frequent terrorist attacks against Black residents. "We made joy out of struggle and revolution," she reflected. Against backdrops of never-ending violence and forceful stifling of all efforts for self-determinism, the most revolutionary action you can take is to center the joy of yourself and those you care about.

"The more existential your depression, the more revolutionary your joy," a friend put it in a conversation from more than a year ago.

Michelle taught me to work hard

The Updately post linked in the heading explains this one better than I could summarize here. tl;dr: I've always had a just-scraping-by mindset. I was usually good enough at whatever I was doing that it worked. This summer, I discovered the joy of actually working hard 9-5, being ahead on work, and spending time intentionally relaxing. This fall, a friend who is always about a week ahead on work inspired me to build similar habits, which I more or less maintained for the last 2-3 weeks of the semester. It was glorious. The tradeoff is that this is an entire mindset change: when I'm thinking about checking off boxes, it becomes nearly impossible to summon the motivation to do any non-instrumental personal or creative work. But balanced right, I suppose this mindset clears up time to do the non-instrumental things I want to.

Mock trial taught me a new kind of perseverance

Following a friend's example, I auditioned for and joined Pomona's mock trial team this fall. The fall sub-team I was on, with a mix of new and old members, did so well that we nearly won an invitational. I won a witness award.

But in the last round of the tournament we had a judge who recognized our captain and hated our team due to some history. When I slipped up during an objection battle, the judge cracked down and, not knowing the rules of evidence as well as I should have, I completely fell apart.

We righteously raged against the judge and some of his ridiculous rulings as a team afterwards, but I carried the unavoidable burden of knowing that I was ultimately the one who cracked under the circumstances, and could have done so much more and better. I reflected that I've been part of team efforts before, and certainly let them down in many cases and bounced back, but the scores and victories and defeats of competition lent failure a new clarity and weight.

I began to feel dread and anxiety whenever thinking about mock trial. A friend, a high school debate veteran, recognized this as a familiar stress. The solution is to persevere, find new joy and confidence, and keep going, of course. Other than the last round I performed so well in the fall that I was stacked, with only one other new member, on the club's A team for the spring season.

Building this new kind of perseverance, I was reminded of an idea I had heard from an investor earlier in the year: "Building a successful company is the ultimate team sport." Team sports "[show] you how to work with others, how to be mentally tough," the investor said, forcing you to develop a deep feeling of why you're doing what you're doing and the ability to instill this feeling in the teammates around you.

I wonder if this specific kind of mental toughness is something I've been lacking, having been a fairly competitive athlete but only in individualistic sports when younger (running, cycling, cross-country skiing). I hesitate to assign too much weight to specific experiences or categories of experiences, but I'll certainly take the competitive mock trial season and perhaps future seasons as an opportunity to grow as a person in new ways!

My friend group, The Yappie, Amazin LeThi, and Milly Chi taught me to embrace my identity

My friend group at Pomona at the moment is all POC and predominantly Chinese and Korean.

In the past this is something I might have felt guilty about, like I was committing a social taboo or missing out on the fullness of social life for having an overly homogeneous friend group. These are valid considerations, but I've also found power in embracing the centering of my own identity in my social life and not feeling like I'm lacking anything.

Interestingly, many of my Asian friends from California grew up in majority-Asian neighborhoods and went to majority-Asian schools, so this was never a question in the way that it was for me, or one that was resolved much earlier.

To center your identity -- in your social life, your politics, your thinking -- doesn't mean excluding consideration for others. Rather, it should provide a deeper foundation for solidarity than more surface-level support, and allow you to better tap into the kind of joy that El-Kurd and Davis described as energy for struggle. "Your positionality, experiences, and worldview limit the change you can cause. You always need to start there," Pitzer senior Milly Chi told me in a conversation early in the semester.

This is what I'll keep in mind when writing for The Yappie and TSL and being a part of activist groups on campus. I'm reminded of Amazin LeThi, an activist I interviewed for a Yappie profile. The piece ended with the quote: "I’m so much more successful being my authentic self, being an unapologetic Asian proud queer woman who just shows up as myself."

Smaller things

Being a staff writer for The Student Life taught me how to be a confident news writer: how to WWWWWH a story, come up with a snappy lede, and concisely jump from point to point until the end. You'd think that I'd have known this by now, but nothing beats the practical experience of simply churning out stories on tight deadlines week after week.

It also gave me the opportunity to work on my first real data journalism projects -- a COVID dashboard simply using React and a Pomona admissions data visualization using Idyll, React, and d3.

In an "intro to the weight room" class I took, which amounted to twice-weekly reserved times at Pomona's temporary gym for those in the class to do their own workout with optional guidance from an instructor, I learned how to do basic lifting exercises and to not look a like a complete fool in the gym. It was a nice, convenient way to build this comfort up.

A 5C Halloween party gave me a chance to finally crossdress/do drag, with a friend who was also doing drag helping with makeup. Something else that would have been more intimidating to start doing elsewhere!

Vivien rekindled my love of writing in the bastardized and occasionally meaningful way that I do it, and shared with me one of the favorite books I've read this year, Jenny Odell's How to do Nothing.

Vivien, Saya, Angie, David, Ally, and so many others breathed new life into Updately and kept me building.

Conclusion

If you told me a year ago that I would now be wrapping up my first semester at a liberal arts college in SoCal, I would have been surprised.

Having thoroughly lost my way at the end of three years at Andover, I found myself committed to a massive engineering school without a semblance of an idea of what I wanted to learn or who I wanted to become there. I took a gap year and started to write code. I re-applied as an Ethnic Studies major to UChicago. I was rejected. I decided not to apply anywhere RD and make the most of the trajectory I was on. I moved to a hacker house in Utah with a bunch of other founders and dropouts; by the summer I was in SF.

At the last minute, a friend convinced me to apply to a few schools with later deadlines. Without telling my mom, I shot off apps to Brown and Cornell. The former was my dream school more than ever. The latter's entrepreneurship center director I had worked directly under for several months and had a letter of recommendation from. I got rejected from both schools.

A third school, a small LAC I knew the name of but not much about, also snuck its way on to my post-January 1st list. An Andover alum I barely knew happened to go there, and a friend of mine happened to have his phone number. I called him at 11 AM on the day that the application was due, scratched out my supps in about an hour (the typos in the actual submission reflect this), and hit submit.

That school was Pomona, of course. I was surprised, elated, and confused when I got in. Pomona offered exactly what I was seeking in terms of a humanities-oriented academic environment and peer group, but I worried that it would slow me down or sidetrack me. "You're not going to do anything once you're on a pretty campus in the warm LA sun," Ben Laufer told me, betting that I would impatiently drop out before finishing four years there.

"I remember you being very skeptical about college," a Berkeley friend who I had lived with in San Francisco over the summer brought up when I visited her over Thanksgiving break. I replied something about how that was a tech-crowd sentiment that I was working on developing my own relation to. But on further reflection I stand by my earlier skepticism: it was grounded in my own perspective then as it is now. So far Pomona has failed to instill the kind of open purpose, curiosity, and confidence that Edyfi did infectiously in less time.

But in its place has been access to so many other resources, ideas, communities, and learning experiences outside the tech-worldview spectrum of "impactful" vs not. Compared to other schools, Pomona feels lighter on the aggressive pre-professionalism that dominates so many other elite colleges, with much more room to explore built into its culture and structure. The 5Cs, on the other hand, provide a seemingly never-ending depth of classes, faculty, peers, facilities, and so on to dive into.

This first semester at Pomona has been an amazing experience, broadening my worldview and deepening my understanding of myself at a pace certainly not slower than before, filling the present with joyful fulfillment while laying foundations for promising future exploration.

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