Ever wonder what Caltech is like? Our Caltech interviewee says aspects are comparable to Hogwarts.
We had the opportunity of interviewing Mojo Joshua Sonola, an alum of California Institute of Technology, about: Life at Caltech
Mojo is a graduate of Caltech with a degree in degree in chemical engineering and a minor in computer science. In high school, he attended the Wheeler High School magnet program while dual enrolled at the Georgia Academy of Mathematics Engineering and Science. Throughout his life, Mojo has been involved in different extracurricular activities, revolving around music, sports, and leadership organizations. Mojo is currently an associate at Goldman Sachs.
Q: What is the campus culture of Caltech like?
A: To me, the most attractive part of Caltech’s campus culture was Caltech’s house system. The best way to describe this is that it’s like the Hogwarts’s houses; each house has a different personality and students are sorted into houses a few weeks after arriving on campus. Undergraduates typically live in this house through the end of their senior year and grow to become close friends with the people in their house. The culture is very collaborative and most of the learning actually occurs in the dorms late at night when everyone is working on problem sets together. Because of the small student population, there is a strong sense of community and everyone knows everyone.
Q: What are some unique opportunities that Caltech offers?
A: One of the most well-utilized opportunities that Caltech offers is the Summer Undergraduate Research Foundation (SURF). This program pays students to conduct research for a world-renowned Caltech professor for 10 weeks. Also, because of Caltech’s small size, becoming close with professors is very easy.
Q: What is something that students should know before they apply to Caltech?
A: Caltech is a very small private school with only about 950 undergraduates. This makes Caltech a very different school from larger public schools and can lead to a very different social life. That being said, the community at Caltech is very strong and having a smaller student body comes with many benefits. While the work was very hard and challenging, the people I lived and worked with and the extracurriculars I did made everything worth it. I would highly recommend visiting Caltech before applying to get a sense of what Caltech’s culture is like.
Q: We noticed that you interned in the summers of 2015 and 2016 while in college. Why is interning important?
A: Interning is very important for gaining experience and helping decide plans after college. Given there are many different things you can do after graduating college, interning gives you a glimpse into working at a specific industry. Besides the exposure, interning helps give you valuable work experience. Companies invest a lot of time and money into their interns as they hope that these interns will return full-time. The internship right before senior year is the most important in order to obtain a full-time job after college.
Q: Could you describe a day or week in an internship?
A: During my final internship, I was given a project to work on and present to my desk at the end of the internship. In order to complete this project, I needed to talk to members of the team to gain a better sense of the intuition behind my project. When I wasn’t working on this, I had many networking events to go to where I would meet other interns and professionals at the company.
Q: You were awarded the Dean’s Cup Award, for “undergraduates whose concern for their fellow students has been demonstrated by their persistent efforts to improve the quality of undergraduate life and by effective communication with members of the faculty and administration”. How do you think you showed effort to improve campus life?
A: I’ve always appreciated the value of a strong community and support system, so I spent my years at Caltech making sure this was available to everyone. I held a variety of different positions while in college that all helped strengthen a sense of community and improve campus life. Last year, I was president of one of the undergraduate dorms. While president, I worked with members of my house and administrators to improve our living experience. I had the pleasure of being a student representative at board of trustee meetings where we discussed the student experience at Caltech. I was also one of the leaders of Caltech’s late night coffee shop, which was frequently visited by members of the community at late hours while homework was being finished. By holding different positions around campus, I was able to actively spend my time working to improve campus life.
Q: What were your priorities in college?
A: My first priority in college was to graduate. I knew that getting a diploma from Caltech would open up many possibilities for me, and I’m currently enjoying the benefits from this. My second priority was to form long-lasting friendships and expand my network. To this day, my best friends are people I went to college with, who happen to have great jobs across many different industries. If I ever wanted an introduction to a different industry, I know that someone in my network could help me make that introduction. Most importantly, I wanted to have as much fun as I could while still accomplishing these other priorities. I actively looked for things I could do to improve my quality of life, like taking as many trips as I could with my friends and exploring areas around Caltech.
Q: Do you have anything else you would like to add? Any final words of wisdom?
A: Life isn’t always easy and you will learn a lot about yourself on your harder days. First, be rooted in your morals as this will take you far in life and help you make sound decisions. Second, learn the value of relationships and friendships. Working hard means nothing if you have no one to enjoy yourself with. Additionally, life is short and tomorrow is never promised so make sure you routinely check in on the people who you care about. Next, embrace failure and don’t run away from it. At some point in your life, you will invariably fail at something. Pick yourself up and learn from this failure. Last, find your true motivation and hold onto this motivation on your hard days and use it to push you through life.
Want to learn more about Mojo? Check out his LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joshua-sonola
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