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On-the-Job Training: Students Ride the Metrolink to L.A. Internships

Noor and Tulika ride the train to LA

Noor Dhingra ’20 likes to start her Fridays with a cup of coffee in the Claremont Village before wandering over to Claremont Depot, the gorgeous 1927 Spanish Colonial Revival train station where she catches the 8:42 Metrolink to Los Angeles. 

Her roommate, Tulika Mohan ’20 takes a different approach. 

“I should be getting up at 7:45. I don’t,” Mohan says with a laugh. “I usually end up getting up at 8:10, and then I run.”

Dhingra confirms Mohan’s mad dash from their nearby South Campus dorm.

“Tulika sprints to the station, but I know she’s going to be there,” Dhingra says. “She always makes it, so that’s what counts.”

Together, with headphones on or book in hand, they ride to one-day-a-week internships in L.A. that are subsidized by the Pomona College Internship Program, or PCIP, a program students can apply for that provides a stipend that turns an unpaid internship into a paid one, and offers a transportation allowance as well – in this case, one that covers train tickets for Dhingra and Mohan.

Pomona College Internship Funding

In addition to the PCIP Semester Program during the academic year, the Career Development Office offers the PCIP Summer Experience, which gives students the chance to apply for funding for otherwise unpaid or low-paid summer internships or other experiential learning opportunities, both domestic and  international.

Some 420 students’ work has been funded since the program began in 2011, and it can now support as many as 100 students each summer. Last year, 101 students applied for international funding and 205 for domestic. After interviewing approximately 120 students, PCIP offered grants to 98.

Taking the train to L.A. for an internship during the school year takes time – students often start work at 10 to allow for the commute – but many say the train beats fighting traffic even if someone has access to a car. (And the extension of the Foothill Gold Line to Claremont in 2027 will bring more transit options for reaching L.A., following a different route, through Pasadena. Officials recently decided Metrolink service would continue as well.)

“I just find it fun. You don’t feel like a student when you’re on the train, which is a really good feeling to have once a week,” Dhingra says. “You’re so used to seeing professors or students on campus, so it’s just nice being with people of different ages. I always hear conversations, and sometimes it turns into a story I write.”

An English major, Dhingra is interning at the Los Angeles Review of Books, where she performs such tasks as proofreading copy or writing author bios. The office is in Hollywood, so after arriving at L.A.’s Union Station from Claremont she takes the Metro Red Line subway to the Hollywood/Highland stop near the famous Dolby Theatre, home of the Academy Awards.

“There’s always something happening. It’s very touristy, though, and I keep getting asked if I want to do tours,” she says with a laugh.

Mohan works at Break the Cycle, a nonprofit that deals with awareness and prevention of teen dating violence. Her office is in a contemporary workspace in the historic Fine Arts Building in booming Downtown Los Angeles, often referred to as DTLA, a short walk from the 7th/Metro Center stop on the Red Line, three stops from Union Station.

An economics major, Mohan’s work for the nonprofit has included researching potential donors, writing grant proposals and working on a campaign for Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.

“Especially with the grant writing, which is a very useful skill, I’m learning a lot,” she says.

Location and Timing Matter

Students caution that interns should consider what part of L.A. the work is in when choosing an internship. A job on the Westside such as in Santa Monica or the so-called Silicon Beach area is a difficult commute by public transit and by car as well.

Yilin Linda Wen ’20 nonetheless worked in Culver City during the fall semester, interning at a technology consulting firm called Sidebench that was cofounded by Pomona alumni Kevin Yamazaki ’10 and Nate Schier ’10.

With a longer commute, Wen took the 7:41 a.m. Metrolink and often took an Uber Pool for the last leg of her commute at personal expense to shorten her trip, arriving at work before 10.

“One thing I figured out, the earlier I get there, the more freedom I have when I choose missions and jobs to do,” the international relations major says. “A lot of meetings, especially the meetings with clients, happen early in the morning.”

Tania Gray ’19, a public policy analysis major, has taken advantage of PCIP opportunities twice, doing a summer internship last year in New York with Emma’s Torch, a nonprofit that supports refugees through culinary training, and last fall in L.A.’s Arts District at the Network for Global Innovation, a branch of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, a nonprofit that helps startups related to the green economy.

With her hours usually starting at 9 a.m. on Tuesdays, Gray sometimes took a train about 7 a.m.

“Even though the commute was grueling, it was 100 percent worth it. I would do it again in a heartbeat,” she says, adding she loved her internship and is considering another in L.A. next fall.

When the Sun Goes Down

After work, interns often take advantage of being in L.A. to go shopping or out to eat.

“I grabbed dinner with my coworkers after work a couple of times, went to the City Hall Observation Deck and even stumbled upon a dance performance with food trucks at Grand Park,” Gray says.

Mohan says there are always options.

“I almost inevitably choose the Grand Central Market because it’s so fun, or Figat7th,” a nearby shopping and restaurant center.

Dhingra sometimes visits with a friend who goes to UCLA or hangs out with other Pomona students.

“Friday is a popular interning day because a lot of people don’t have class, so we try to get dinner or explore different parts of L.A. We went to Little Tokyo last week, which was fun,” Dhingra says.

Instead of facing rush hour after work, Wen would often wait out traffic.

“Sometimes I’d go to Santa Monica, just chill on the beach and walk on the Third Street Promenade until like 8 or 9 when the Uber Pool price drops and the traffic is so much better,” Wen says. “I have other friends who interned in L.A. as well, so we’d also have friends come to L.A. after their classes on Friday and we’d just meet up in K-town [Koreatown] or Santa Monica, a lot of different places in L.A. For me, right after work is my weekend mode, so I can do a lot of fun stuff.”

Early mornings on the train can be painful, but they have their rewards.

“Sometimes when I’m on the train at 7:40, I’m like, oh my gosh, I hate it,” Wen says. “But when I get to Sidebench, I’m like wow, this is amazing. I love it.”