A Pomona Student’s View from Europe

I have always loved being at Pomona. I love the weather, the classes, the parties. But most of all, I love the people. So when the day came to turn in my study abroad contract, I was still sitting at my desk, staring at the Cambridge forms in front of me while 5 p.m. crept closer and closer.

Arriving at the study abroad office five minutes before closing, I turned in the required paperwork with a reluctant hand and a churning stomach. And as it slipped out of my hands and into the receptionist’s, I suddenly couldn’t remember any of the reasons I wanted to go to England in the first place. Why should I give up a semester at the place that I have come to feel most at home in the world—why should I give up any of the limited time I have left to enjoy February by the pool, Smiley ‘80s, and all the people I love most? And to go to Cambridge, where the weather was always cold and rainy and the people, I assumed, cold and snobby. Was I doing what was right for me, or merely giving into the pressure that many juniors feel to get the “study abroad experience”?

Months have passed since that day, but it has only been recently that I’ve been able to answer these questions. This morning, wasting a few rainy hours in the lobby of my uptown Barcelona hostel, my thoughts wandered back through the months that have passed since I left home for Cambridge, and since I left Cambridge to spend term break on the continent. Thumbing through images in my mind, I discovered that dozens and dozens of them—memories of people, places, nights past—were things I could never have imagined experiencing when I left Pomona.

I left Cambridge some time ago to spend a prolonged spring break traveling around continental Europe before returning for the second half of the program. Three weeks and five countries later, the ten days and three countries that still remain before I return to my dorm room in Cambridge seem to stretch on interminably into the future. And it’s funny how easily, how suddenly, the word “home” slips off my tongue when I speak about the winding cobblestone streets and the gardens upon gardens of daffodils that are blooming in Cambridge as I write.

Cambridge has become a part of who I am—more than that, a part of who I want to be. I have met people and had experiences here that will stay with me for years to come.

But even as I smile thinking about unpacking my suitcase and reuniting with the friends I’ve made in Cambridge, it wouldn’t mean anywhere near as much if I weren’t the person Pomona has made me into, and if I didn’t have Pomona to return to when I get home. It’s been three months since I left the States, and I have managed to keep in touch with almost everyone at home I care about. More than that, throughout my travels, I’ve stayed with various other Pomona students along the way who have never failed to surprise me with their hospitality—even those who I’d never met at Pomona.

Traveling has made me realize that the best parts of Pomona aren’t the ones I’ve left behind. They’re the ones that I keep with me no matter where I am: the curiosity it has given me to explore the world around me, and the ability it has given me to understand and appreciate the world and its people. The community that extends globally, and the friends who remain friends no matter how many time zones separate us. The knowledge that I will always return to them, and they to me.

Thankfully, the sun has come out, and, though it is not the 80 degrees it’s going to be in Claremont today, spring in Barcelona calls. I can answer it with an easy mind, just like I can enjoy everything here, with the knowledge that all too soon I will find myself back in the suffocating heat of August in Claremont. With the knowledge that—though my stuffed Cecil was lost weeks ago somewhere between Prague and Budapest—a bit of Pomona stays with me wherever I go, and always will.

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