August of 2017, it was a perfect 85-degree day. The dry California dessert glistening as the airplane landed in Ontario. A student struggles with their oversized luggage into a car with destination Claremont Mckenna College in mind. This student was initially fearful of the big upperclassmen, but cautiously excited for what lied ahead of them in their mid-quad double. Would their roommate be nice? Messy? Early sleeper? Party animal? As Mom walked out of their roughly decorated room that day, they were comforted by the fact that they were wearing their very nicest and newest outfit –shorts from Nordstrom and new Adidas shoes.
Walking out of their room, they heard a loud: “WELCOME TO CMC!!!!” It was time to join their WOA trip and to meet some other new faces. The new student wondered: “Where am I? How did I end up here? Maybe I should have committed to USC. People seem WAY too happy here.” As they got on the bus to attend their rafting trip, listened to stories of Russian National anthems, crazy high school party experiences, and played lots of mafia games. They heard endless stories of Pirate Party and FYGs who woke up in bushes – do people even study here?
Upon getting back on campus, this first year saw more upperclassmen on campus, moving in big couches and massive speakers into their North Quad rooms. It was unbelievable. Their rooms seemed so fun. When class registration arrived, every class was full, except for the 8:15AM FHS class. “Whatever, I had to get up at 6:30 in high school anyways.” (BIG mistake). This student’s FYG had to calm them down – “Don’t worry, just PERM your way in. Don’t worry about it!”
6:01 hit. Wearing a swimsuit in broad daylight, a slip-n-slide, champagne bottles, and great EDM music? The first year’s FYGs were not just amazing during WOA, They knew how to get their FYGlets in order. It was time to dance and meet other first years!
Club interviews began to start. Rose, SOURCE, CCG, SIF. SO MANY ACRONYMS. There was no time to prepare. It was application after application. All the club leaders seemed so friendly, but the clubs were so intimidating. Interview after interview, they finally got into SIF after zero investment experience.
Midterms happened… Best erased from memory. Scripps steak and salmon night was non-negotiable. Mudd burritos were even better. Poppa was a little intimidating, since all the seniors hung out there. Marks lounge seemed like a safer bet. Getting a skateboard seemed like the right move. “Let’s get a meal some time!” was said too many times. Roberts was going to be a daily activity (lol).
Upon the last week of the first year, this once young student had grown up a bit. There was so much time left, though! Next year, they wanted to join ballroom dance. They wanted to have a room where everyone stopped by to say hi. They wanted to read more on the weekends outside on Green Beach and actually follow up on their dinner plans. They wanted to make it to Frank breakfast and spend more time at the Pitzer pool. Three more years! First year was a success, but for now, it was time to study for their three midterms.
Two years later, this once young student had somehow grown up. As they moved in their massive speaker and couch into their North Quad dorm, they didn’t think twice. There was half of college left to enjoy! This year, they would take upper-level economics classes and start looking for a serious junior internship. It was time to take leadership positions in their clubs and attend the Ath talks. With many friends in their room after moving in that night, they knew that they never wanted to leave.
Fast forward to senior year, they realized… There was a final Scripps steak and salmon night. There was a final Roberts workout. A final SIF meeting. A last day with their roommate in North Quad. A final Frank Sunday morning brunch. A final Poppa study session. A final late-night talk with that special someone. A final in-person class with their favorite professor. A final Pirate Party. A final goodbye.
But in those three years, this student grew with their class and found their place on campus. Hit by a virus in the middle of their junior year, they were confused but still excited. “There’s always next month. We’ll be back on campus in no time. Goodbye isn’t forever. CMC will be back at the latest by our senior fall!”
As time away from campus extended, the student learned to Zoom through classes. They moved into a house with a few friends. Class group collaboration no longer meant meeting in the library. Instead, it was in a scheduled Zoom link.
This once young first year made the most of their college experience during the pandemic. They learned how to socially distance but remain social. They got vaccinated. They went to the beach and went on hikes. They went skiing. They road tripped to Joshua Tree. They learned to love boat rides. They met new friends. They became a quarantine chef. They watched all of Love Island. They helped out at home. They learned to hangout in Arrow Vista and College Park instead of North Quad.
This student found their place on campus over the course of four years. They gained and lost friends along the way. They networked and got internships. But most of all, they looked back and said that CMC was the best thing that ever happened to them.