Reflect on 2015 with me!

  • What are some personal strengths you’ve discovered / cultivated this year?
  • What can you do today that you were not capable of a year ago?
  • What aspects of your current self would your 01/01/2015 self be proud of?
  • What kinds of conversation topics / interactions did you find the most life-giving and engaging?
  • What are some goals that you made at the beginning of the year that you stuck with throughout the year?
  • What are some good habits you’ve picked up this year?
  • How did you decide what you wanted to prioritize this year? Are you satisfied with what you ultimately prioritized?
  • What is the best/most meaningful/noteworthy/significant/memorable compliment you received this past year?
  • What was the last time you did something for the first time? What are you not afraid to try? What are you afraid to try?
  • What was a night when you were so excited for the next day that you couldn’t fall asleep? What were you excited for?
  • When was a time when you wanted to give up, but because you tried one more time, you succeeded?
  • What was the most intolerable challenge you had to endure this year? What did that experience teach you about facing future challenges?
  • What are some worries you had at the throughout the year that are no longer worth worrying about?
  • What are you most grateful for this year?
  • What is a really memorable act of kindness you were shown this year?
  • What has been the most meaningful friendship you’ve built this year? What are some friendships that you were very happy you continued to invest in? How did you make time for maintaining these friendships?
  • What were some things you did this year that you will remember 5 years from now?
Reflect on 2015 with me!


two inspirations for finally fleshing out this post:

“If we pay 40k for college a year, and take an average of 8 classes, that’s 5k per class. How can the value of our education be quantified? It’s wrong to think about our college education in this way, but isn’t this interesting to think about?” – mchow

“I think the best part of having my writing classes is that they’ve forced me to delve deeper into topics that i’ve been interested in and yet did not have the capacity to develop my thoughts in” -daeunk

High school education is often so standard, and as “stressful” as course selection may be, the variance among students’ academic trajectories is never that great if they attend the same high school.

However, given the wealth of opportunities at college (social, extracurricular, intellectual, etc.), I find myself constantly revisiting this question: “How do I make the most of my time at college?” Throughout my first three semesters at Pomona, I have watched my answer, and subsequent decisions, evolve. This constant shifting and revising makes it especially difficult for me to pin down goals that I confidently commit myself to sticking to, and I often feel like I concentrate intently on a few goals at once only to find myself questioning their validity a few months later.

I think college offers two broad types of capital: physical capital and social capital.

Glossy college brochures always brag about their labs and research facilities and that’s an undeniable advantage of being a college student. I know that at Pomona, I can just swipe into the art building and access really fine design software and printers, and that I don’t have to worry about assembling my own lab equipment if I were to take a science course.

Glossy college brochures also tout the opportunities for students to learn “outside of the classroom” and “beyond the textbook” and “through scintillating discussions with peers and faculty.” However, what does this mean for me? After having not taken any seriously rigorous humanities courses in the past few semesters, I finally decided to take one of Tannenbaum’s philosophy courses. I think that one can easily read the books that a class requires, and one can easily listen to online lectures, but what is truly invaluable about the classroom experience of studying something like history or philosophy or english is if the professor can brilliantly moderate discussion and curate content for the course in a way that helps you make the most of the thoughts of the authors and your peers and how your ideas interact with theirs. The curation of content means that someone else has sifted through a massive amount of content to handpick highlights that speak to the course, something that I could not do on my own. And the experience of having a brilliant moderator of discussion means that your professor can help you get the most of that experience of learning “beyond the textbook” and through “scintialating discussions.”

My first interaction with Tannenbaum was during the first-year book discussion. She went around the room and asked each of us for our thoughts on certain passages of the book, and she wrote our ideas on the board. With every subsequent comment or connection drew lines from one idea node to the next, pulling out shades of connections I could have never thought of on my own, and the visual representation of the connections between the ideas was such an effective way to lead this discussion. I then bumped into her during the Sotomayor talk, and the following email describes what happened :

Dear Professor Tannenbaum,

Thank you for encouraging me to ask my question at the first-year book discussion today. I’ve always felt too insecure to ask my burning questions for fear that it would be one that the general audience wouldn’t be interested in. Your encouragement meant so much to me!

Here is the question I ended up asking Professor Hollis-Brusky:

“In light of your thoughtful reflection on Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir, how do you identify talent and potential among students with varying degrees of opportunity and preparation? And how does that inform the way you (and how you may hope your fellow faculty) proceed to help your students?”

I think that if I actually had the time to sit down with her over a meal, she could have provided a more specific answer. But the act of asking made me very curious as to how other professors would respond. I am sending this email to you out of a curious energy, and really haven’t thought through how I’d like to go about starting these sorts of conversations with other professors. I have become very curious about affirmative action from the perspective of students’ experiences once they are enrolled in a school, and professors’ treatment of them definitely plays a huge role of their experience.

On a different vein, what do you think is “fair diversity”? Pomona prides itself in being more and more “diverse” every year, but I don’t see that as necessarily positive because I wonder if it makes us overlook certain less visible “diversities” and I wonder what kinds of students are no longer gaining admission to Pomona as a result of our movement towards “diversity.”

Also, I would love to meet with you over a lunch sometime, if your schedule allows for that!

Thank you for inspiring me from my very first faculty-lead discussion at Pomona until now.

Her response:

Hi Sophia, it was nice to see you again!

“Thank you for encouraging me to ask my question at the first-year book discussion today. I’ve always felt too insecure to ask my burning questions for fear that it would be one that the general audience wouldn’t be interested in.”

Did you notice that many people clapped after you asked your question?!

“I think that if I actually had the time to sit down with her over a meal, she could have provided a more specific answer.”

Maybe you should think about asking her to lunch. In any case, how about you and I have lunch and talk about it and the other questions you raised in your e-mail? Are you free for lunch on Friday 9/4 at 11:45am? We could meet at my office and then head to the dinning hall. J.T.

Our lunchtime conversation was the hardest thing my brain has ever had to work for. She broke down each of my comments and asked what I really meant to say, and we had the most honest and insightful conversation about Pomona College “PC” culture, in light of this The Atlantic article.

goals for spring 2015:

– cut down on solo piano; do a lot of preparation work

– daily habits: wake up at 7, eat breakfast and eat well, schedule at least 1 meal with someone a day

– speech and debate?

– plan out a cappella rehearsal and concert schedule

– attend J’s bible study

– cs52; last req in the sequence. study before class and review, know your profs and just get yourself to office hours please

– discrete math & econ stats; again, study before and after class

– philosophy; this is going to be a super hard class so make sure to do revisions early and get comfortable meeting with prof all the time

– politics; figure out if you like politics hahahaah

– go out to eat on weekends, save the homewor you can save for later at night and just go out and do stuff

– go to at least one 47 things trip


Not for you

Please take the time to watch this.

It isn’t exactly finals week anymore (it’s actually just a few days before Christmas), but that doesn’t mean lessons from finals week aren’t applicable anymore. I was deeply moved and ashamed of myself when I watched the video. Human nature is a funny thing; we are able to be moved so easily in the moment, but once days, weeks, months pass by us, we often forget the original intent of our musings and experiences. I certainly have.

A little over four months ago, I attended the Jubilee Conference in LA. I proclaimed it to be THE turning point in my life. I still wear the bracelet to this day as a constant reminder, and I’m proud that I can blatantly see that I need to be “daring” as my wrist urges… So why is it that after just going back through and reading my own blog post from the immediate aftermath of the conference, I feel like I had forgotten so much? I only bothered to read it because amidst studying for GREs, my mind was in such a jumble and I found myself blindly clawing for a goal in my life… because I have lost sight of a goal that is greater than myself.

The commonality between the video and the conference is that I’ve been deeply moved and it is upon the basis of God. As the video states, my degree should be to help those who are hurting. As the conference states, pain is the most powerful platform for power. I have so many inspirations around me, so why is it that once school starts back up, I get so knee-deep in my qualms and I worry so much about what is best for ME and not what HE wants me to do?

I admit. I’m ashamed. I have lost sight of Him, and I thought it was okay for me to be lost because my friends are just as lost. I have been providing lip service, discussing with people what Christianity is to me, yet I would never let it be a pillar in my decisions and my choices. But maybe that is the beauty of having this blog; I am able to keep personal records and have readers and friends hold me accountable for what I say I will do. Procrastination is the devil, and I’ve really had enough of pushing Him down the priority list; it’s gotten me nowhere. From now on throughout winter quarter, I plan on seeking His presence, searching for the right answers, and diving into the Word.

Thank you.

Not for you

Get Out of That Comfort Zone.

Fall has come and gone, and it’s almost the holidays! And here comes the generic time to sit back and reflect upon what has happened in the flurry of activity the past three months and to re-evaluate how I want to move forward into the winter.

Fall was probably the most academically rigorous quarter I have had up to date. As the most challenging yet, I’ve had so many unexpected twists and turns; some of these turned into the biggest disappointments, and others turned into the greatest blessings yet 🙂 I think it’s always a good reminder to be grateful for where you are right now, don’t take anything for granted, and to make the most of what you have! 

So what’s up with the title of this post, you say? Two parallels converge on this.

Now that it’s winter break, I’m reminded of where I was a year ago: on my way to study abroad in Berlin. When people ask me in passing if I would recommend studying abroad, I go “HECK YEAH.” But it’s probably not for the reasons you expect. Truth is, the first five or so weeks of being abroad, I absolutely hated it. I did not understand what the hype was when I was so lonely in a foreign country, losing so much motivation to go out and explore. My idea of fun was oh so different from the typical college student’s idea of fun, so who do I have fun with? But I ended up loving the experience. Why? Because I eventually got out of my sorrows, I overcame these obstacles. I was able to find my independence and venture out onto the streets of Tiergarten and Alexanderplatz. I booked my own plane tickets to places like Istanbul and Madrid. I found peace and happiness being alone, and I still made new friends along the way. Would I have been able to grow up so much and become so strong had I not put myself outside of my comfort zone?

Back in the present, I’m grappling with another issue: jobs. Now first off, I need to remind myself of how grateful I am to even have any of the opportunities that I have; because even if I earned them, there is always an element of luck, you have to be in the right place at the right time. Software engineering at company A, or product management at company B? Which one is the riskier option? Which one is more favorable? I’m very much in a rut as of right now, and people ask me where would I learn most? I think I would learn most by putting myself outside of my comfort zone. But what is considered outside that zone? The lines are quite fuzzy…

As I strive to come to a decision and winter quarter comes closer, I (again) will work towards becoming a better individual, a better child of God, by opening my horizon to even more new perspectives and more opportunities to make myself uncomfortable. To learn. To grow.

Get Out of That Comfort Zone.