First-Year Column: The Friends You Will Want to Meet in College

Thank whatever deity or anti-deity you believe in that Pomona College is not a hen-eat-hen world. We first-years do not get gobbled up in ravenous competition with our fellow classmates, and we certainly receive help along our way when it comes to the various aspects of college culture. Yet in the brief time I’ve been here at Pomona, I’ve noticed that a few friends in particular can be especially helpful. Below, I provide a list of just some of those friends you’ll want to meet.  

The One With the Car  

Recommended for: non-locals, cheap college students, or that rare specimen who, like me, does not yet have a license. A car, as I’ve begun to learn, is that magical invention that can take you to get everything you need, from scooters and Band-Aids and mom-and-pop bargains to candy and clothes and Trader Joe’s ramen (and to all the rest of Julie Andrews’s favorite things). This is the friend who can take you out of the Claremont bubble, where you will begin to realize that there are people out there living their lives.  

The One Who Knows the Classes  

Signing up for classes is different for first-years than for practically everybody else on campus. When we pick a class, the professor is just a name until the first day is over. We’re also not sure what exactly we’re getting into until the first week is over. But the friend who knows the classes can help. Further, the reliable friend—the one who can recommend a class because it’s challenging and engaging, not just because it’s fun and easy—can help. This friend is the knowledge base, the one who outputs yes, no, maybe, difficult, enjoyable, or fun when all you input is a name or a class title or even the course code. Because even the course codes can be a stupefying puzzle: 101 isn’t the intro class? 110 follows 1A? Finding this friend will be a tremendous help.  

The One Who Knows the Dining Halls

What more can I say than food? That’s simply what we college students—nutrient-craving beasts of the evolutionary wild—want. And with seven dining halls, there is nothing more that we could ask for. Except, perhaps, for a more experienced friend who knows the ropes around Taco Tuesday as well as how to avoid the impending lunchtime crowds. Almost everyone has ranked all seven options with unbending conviction, usually with the closest to your dorm near the bottom (I’m looking at you, Oldenborg). But the one who knows the dining halls has the best list, the list, the crème de la crème of lists (also available at select dining halls). If you find this person, it seems like you could not live without them. Food never had tasted so good until you met them.

The One from Back Home 

I hail from Connecticut. I can say firsthand that Pomona College is not made for New Englanders. Never mind the deciduous trees, the dining hall’s clam chowder, and the “college of the New England type.” What northeasterners really need is some changing weather for conversation fodder and an aloof stranger to say hello to. I haven’t seen much of either in the few weeks I’ve been in changeless Southern California. But when you do find that person from where you are—who knows that downtown or that school or that building—you don’t want to leave them. Like Thelma and Louise, you grab hands and drive through college together and don’t let go until you both drive off that cliff into the real world (although I hope the transition in four years is much less jumpy). 

I didn’t actually seek out these friends exclusively because they have a car or because they know the classes. I sought out a group of friends who would be helpful, kind, and caring. How lucky I was that some of these wonderful people also happened to have a hunk of metal on four wheels and to know where my hometown is. Truly, this is what we first-years should be searching for: not just the kinds of good friends who can help us, but some good friends in the first place.

Michael Clausen is a first-year at Pomona College from Coventry, Conn., who plans to study mathematics. He likes Pomona’s Stover Walk and biking down Bonita Avenue because it reminds him of New England.

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