The Student Experience – Noemi Larrondo ’14

Noemi with BalloonsDuring her Pitzer tenure, Noemi Larrondo ’14, a Political Studies and Chicano/a Studies major, has spent the majority of her time volunteering at various organizations and getting involved with the Latino Student Union. She’s also an avid dancer and volleyball player. Now a senior, Noemi reflects on her Pitzer experience and offers sage advice for prospective students and their families!


You are about to graduate from Pitzer. As you look back on your time here, how would you describe your Pitzer experience?

Well, it has definitely gone by very fast! These four years have been very adventurous – I’m glad Pitzer gave me the opportunity to participate in programs I never would had heard of back home. Before I came to Pitzer, I was scared of the coursework. Everyone back home told me that I wouldn’t have time to do anything else. But even with the academics, I’ve been able to volunteer, hang out with friends and take advantage of the tourist-y things in California (I’m from Waukegan, IL). It’s been an unforgettable experience with lots of ups and downs, but I’ve grown a lot since I got here.


Tell me about your college search experience. How did you first learn about Pitzer, and what were your initial impressions of the College?

During high school, I was part of an organization called the Schuler Scholars Foundation, and during my junior year they took us to visit lots of colleges over the summer. All of the colleges I saw were average, with gray brick buildings and nothing that really stood out to me – nothing caught my eye. Initially I came to Claremont to visit Pomona, but my counselor told me to check out Pitzer. I liked the tour the most – our tour guide talked about Pitzer like it was paradise! I had never heard anyone express themselves about a college in that way before. I wanted my college experience to be the same. I really liked how the students had a voice, and you could create your own major, or start up a new club. Pitzer really takes the students into consideration. They actually make the students a part of the decision-making process, which I didn’t see at other colleges.


What convinced you to attend Pitzer?

The minute you step on to Pitzer’s campus, you just feel different. What I liked most about the campus was the fact that I could have a small school experience whenever I wanted, but if I wanted to be part of a larger university, I had the Consortium. I really liked the opportunities the Consortium afforded me and the other students on campus. And what’s not to like about California?


What was the transition like during your freshman year?

At first I was just excited to get out of the house and be independent. Once I got here, I was very homesick. I don’t have any family in California, and while a couple of students from my high school came to Pitzer, I still felt like I was on my own. The mixture of being homesick and adapting to the new college experience and social aspect was very tough. Before I came here, the area I lived in was predominantly Latino, and the College was the total opposite. That really hit me, but I focused on the main reason I came here – my academics. Staying busy kept me from being homesick and thinking about other things. My classes, club meetings and my job kept my busy during the week, and on the weekends I could go to the Claremont Village or hang out on the Mounds. It was tough at first, but Pitzer is very good at helping students during their first year of college. I had lots of support from Chicano-Latino Student Affairs – we shared storied, which made me feel more comfortable. I wasn’t the only one who felt the way I did.


What has the experience been like with Chicano-Latino Student Affairs (CSLA)?

I joined CSLA during my freshman year and was assigned a sponsor, a sophomore who became my mentor. Before I even arrived at Pitzer, she would send me letters and e-mails. That was helpful, because I had lots of questions about college. I’m the first in my family to attend college, and sometimes students may not be completely honest about the experience. CLSA also did a camping retreat during the first week of school, where everyone got to share personal stories and get to know each other. I would also go to CLSA to study – the staff is very open and always willing to help. They provide space for students to do work, and they also host programs and events. Overall, it is a great resource for students, especially first-generation students who don’t have other support systems or people to go to.


Can you describe some meaningful interactions that you’ve had with faculty members?

I’ve taken classes with Dr. Adrian Pantoja since freshman year. His classes convinced me to switch majors from International Relations to Political Studies. The professors here build connections with you and take the time to learn about their students. Dr. Pantoja has always been accessible to me – I took many classes with him and even chose him as my thesis advisor. For students to succeed, they need that one professor to believe in them and help them out. My professors always encouraged me to do better, and they pushed me to my limit. Dr. Maria Soldatenko even invited me to her house for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. She was kind of like a mom! It was great that a professor welcomed me into her home – I never had that in high school! Dr. Suyapa Portillo Villeda has also been really great. She’ll text or call me, and we’ll get together for coffee or grab a bite to eat and talk about my thesis. She’s really a great person who’s made a large impact on my studies. Overall, the professors are great, and besides doing their jobs, they’re great at becoming friends with students and giving them a support system if they need it.


Is there one class that you’ve taken that stands out as being particularly memorable?

One class I still remember was Immigration and Transnational Policy, taught by Dr. Pantoja, which focused on immigration issues. The class had a wide variety of students from different backgrounds, and it not only educated me about immigration and history, it made my peers and I come together as one. Some students were aware of the issues, but others were oblivious to them. I was able to share my experiences coming from an immigrant family, and make them pay attention to the way they say things. Being in a discussion-based class, you’re able to express yourself and help others understand the topic. It was interesting to see how they reacted – I thought they would react a certain way, but they were very understanding of new ideas. You need to have a personal connection in order to help people understand the issues. Our discussions didn’t make anyone uncomfortable and different types of people came together around the issue.


What’s your favorite Pitzer memory?

That’s a hard one! I have two – the first is my experience working in the Office of Admission. That experience has really changed my perspective on education and the college experience, which I want to be part of in the future. The second are the late-night walks I took with my friends, walking over to Harvey Mudd in the middle of the night for a bite to eat. The friendships you establish during your freshman year are memorable, and mine have lasted a long time.


What are your plans for after graduation?

I plan on going to law school, but first I’m taking a year off to study for the LSATs and possibly teach in Chicago. I was accepted into Teach for America, which I’m still considering.


What advice would you give to prospective students?

Pitzer is not for everyone – it takes a particular student to be happy here and succeed. You need to consider what you want to do. If a college has everything you want, go for it. Prospective students also need to stay on campus. Pitzer’s campus will work its magic – that’s what happened to me! Once I came to the campus, I felt a different vibe – I felt comfortable, at home, something I didn’t feel at other colleges. I think Pitzer defines who I am, and everything I believe in is found within the College. Staying on campus is one thing that will change a student’s decision immediately.


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