First-Years Discuss Pomona Transition

Pomona College’s head sponsors and the First-Year Class Committee hosted a heart-to-heart discussion about the
first-year experience Oct. 29. The event, which took place in the cozy Lyon lounge, aimed to open up a
judgment-free space to share thoughts and feelings about the transition into
life at Pomona.

Carina Fushimi PO ’17 organized the first heart-to-heart
last year as a means of reaching out to those who, like herself, wanted to talk
about the challenges of the first year of college. While it’s common for older students to share success
stories of how they transcended barriers as first-years, it’s much more difficult
to have conversations about struggles that have yet to be conquered. 

“I wanted
to hear and share what it’s like to be uncertain, to be overcoming obstacles in
the moment,” Fushimi said.

Last year’s discussion incited dialogue across Pomona’s
campus about the importance of communication surrounding the stresses of
freshman year. Participants reminded other students throughout the event that there is never a wrong way to feel. Informing first-years about the difficulties they may
encounter and the support that would be available to them was a priority for
this year’s Orientation Committee. 

“’It’s okay to not be okay’ ended up being a constant message during this year’s orientation,” Fushimi said. 

Wednesday’s discussion, which was attended by students of
all years, proved to be a success as well. 

“I’m really happy with how it turned
out,” said Chloe An PO ’18, who led this year’s talk along with Fushimi. “I
think it’s really awesome that people were able to come here and feel
comfortable and have the safe space to talk about their experiences.”

The talk was loosely organized, with three designated speakers
to begin the conversation. Students were then encouraged to share their own
stories or simply listen to others. Fuzzy blankets, mugs of hot chocolate and
bowls of popcorn contributed to a warm and comfortable vibe.

Topics ranged from the challenges of leaving home and the
difficulties of forming meaningful relationships with classmates to struggles
with time management. An emphasis on listening to understand, rather than to
debate, cultivated a free and considerate atmosphere.

“I hope that others will feel a little lighter [now] that they
were able to share and be listened to,” Fushimi said.

Now, the goal is to push the discussion even further by
fostering a campus environment in which students feel comfortable opening up
about struggle. 

“It’s important not to bottle things up,” Fushimi said. 

Fushimi hopes to eliminate the fear of being honest about our emotions, and leadership among students is key in doing so. 

“Having people who can
take charge and really initiate these conversations is important because once
someone sees someone else opening up, they’re more likely to put themselves out
there,” An said

While first year orientation leaders and administrations across the 5Cs work to make the transition as ceaseless as possible, initiating discussion on certain aspects of the beginning of college are often difficult to bring up. 

“I think that Pomona does a good job of creating safe
spaces, but really initiating those talks is sometimes hard for people to do. It’s hard to say ‘this is something I want to talk about.’ I’m hoping
that these kinds of discussions can continue outside of just this event, and
this can start that in motion.” 

Though first year backgrounds and experiences differ greatly, the event’s leaders hope that discussions create connections between the common feelings that college newcomers do have in common. 

“I hope people will realize from this event that their experiences
and challenges are valid,” Fushimi said. “We all come from such different places,
and our background colors our view and the challenges we face. Despite that,
there are common threads that connect our experiences, and I hope others will
find that, like I did.”

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