Back from a two-year break, Pomona’s Orientation Adventure lets students bond, create memories

Pomona College offered eight different Orientation Adventure experiences for first-year students during orientation week. (Siena Swift • The Student Life)

After a two-year hiatus, students were back to swimming, making friends and spending time in  nature during Pomona College’s annual Orientation Adventure for first-year students’ first week at college. 

With OA trips kicking off Aug. 22, the three-day excursions included day -trips to the beach alongside longer ventures to campgrounds across Southern California. 

This year, on-campus trips were offered for the first time; in previous years, trips were a day longer and took place exclusively off-campus. 

About half of the students participated in one of eight on-campus orientation trips offered this year, which all included on-campus nighttime activities and culminated in a day at the beach. 

The other half participated in one of seven off-campus orientation trips, which, except for the YMCA: Camp Arbolado trip, provided tents for students to sleep in. Students at YMCA: Camp Arbolado stayed in cabins and shared the campground with Pitzer College students. 

This year’s OA trips marked a return to the first- year rite of passage — a staple in Pomona’s orientation week — as the program wasn’t offered the past two prior years due to COVID-19. 

Simran Saini PO ’26 participated in one of the near-campus trips, which she said was “really fun.” A visit to the 5Cs’ student-led radio station KSPC preceded a trip to Newport Beach as well as Spotify’s Los Angeles headquarters.

“I didn’t expect it, really,” Saini said. “KSPC wasn’t my first choice for OA, but I was pleasantly surprised with all the stuff I learned.”

Another first-year, Frankie Komar PO ’26, spent her trip at Malibu Creek’s campground. She also thought her trip was “a wonderful experience.” 

“We spent a lot of time playing group games and hiking,” Komar said. “We also swam in some cool spots and cooked together. It was a great way for me to make friends and decompress before the beginning of classes.” 

Like Komar, Jazelle Saligumba PO ’26 got to stay in the wilderness on her off-campus OA trip to Dogwood campground. She enjoyed her experience, especially because of her OA leaders.

“My OA leaders were … the best people ever,” Saligumba said. “Kabir [Kothari] said that on his gap semester, he hiked Mount Kilimanjaro, and that was when I knew, ‘OK, I’m in good hands.’” 

OA leader Kabir Kothari PO ’24 did not get to participate in an OA trip of his own because his first year was completely remote due to COVID-19. Not wanting to miss out, he signed up to be a leader as a way to experience OA in some form. After getting to spend time at Dogwood, though, he thinks it was more enjoyable than it would have been if he had been a first-year. 

“If you’re a [first-year], you’re kind of scared and nervous about making friends, and this [trip] is just two days into orientation,” Kothari said. “But, I think it was cool to have it from the other side where you’re the one showing them, and it’s a really different experience. I’m already comfortable in my Pomona life, and it was nice to show them.” 

Before going on his trip, he learned about the food his group would cook and where he would take the students. He also participated in CPR training, first aid training and Title IX training. 

Kothari enjoyed being a leader in his group, specifically because it allowed him to arrive on-campus early and “orient [students] on a personal level.”

“I really enjoyed actually being here two weeks early and being able to help out,” he said. “It kind of felt like I was a part of Pomona [and] helping people get to know it. They would always ask us about classes, and what the social scene is like, whether there’s any social pressure and things like that.” 

Kothari’s favorite memory from leading OA was visiting an inflatable obstacle course on the lake during the second day of his trip. 

“All of us were just on the obstacle course playing tag with a bunch of 8-year-olds, and the groups were intermingling and already with the kids, and none of us really wanted to go on the hike anymore,” Kothari said. “So, all the leaders just made a call to just let them stay at the lake. It was just so much fun all day.” 

Saligumba’s time at the inflatable obstacle course was also her favorite part of the trip. 

“Everyone was screaming as if we were reliving our childhood,” Saligumba said. ”And seeing people that I’ve only met for 24 hours pushing each other off [the obstacle course], and treating each other as if we were childhood best friends was really refreshing after coming to Pomona.”

Saini, on the other hand, had her fondest memory of the trip at KSPC’s radio headquarters, where she got to meet the staff. 

“Most of them are students, and they’re really dedicated to the organization, which I thought was really interesting,” Saini said. 

Saini, Saligumba and Komar all are happy about the OA trips they chose, mainly because of the friends they made. Kothari also noticed that this year’s OA trips were “effective” at creating interpersonal connections. 

“Camping and [the] outdoors especially makes it a lot of fun … because you’re forced to stay in the same place, and you don’t really have anywhere else to go,” Kothari said. “You have to interact with each other, and you have to become friends. We had a few people who were initially hesitant, but then, towards the end, everyone started getting along really well, and it was good to see.”

India Claudy contributed to reporting.

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