“You Skipped a Semester of College… To Work?!”, by Alec Koh

A few weeks ago, one of my close family friends called me on the phone. The conversation started how it always does; How is college? What do you want to do after you graduate? Make sure you come visit soon! As I explained to him that I am in San Francisco participating in the Silicon Valley Program, his initial response was excitement. He thinks it is a great opportunity, and he wishes he could have done something similar when we was younger. As I explained what I do at work to him, he interrupted me and said, “Wait a minute, you chose to skip a full semester of college to work full time?”.

This isn’t the first time I have been asked this, as many alumni, mentors, and friends have questioned my decision to do this program. While they all think SVP is awesome, they soon realize how much they miss college and what I am giving up by being here. Whenever I get asked the question, I remember how much I miss Claremont and all my friends, and the internal struggle of justifying my decision to leave campus begins.

Alec Koh, Phil Tseng and Bill Mirbach While many see skipping out on a valuable semester of college to be horrific, I believe this is one of the most valuable experiences you can possibly have in college. Not only did I learn more than I ever have in a semester, but I made new friends that I probably never would have even known if not for SVP. I now also have a lot of connections in the Bay Area, which will make coming back here to work much easier. However, I am missing out on a semester with my close friends, classes from my favorite professors, and ultimately the opportunity to live life like a college kid. While those benefits aren’t the most practical ones, they still mean just as much to me as the experience provided here. I have been lucky enough to visit Claremont twice, and seeing my close friends both weekends were two of the happiest moments of the semester.

I miss my friends so much, but the experience from the last 4 months has been awesome. I also had the opportunity to begin building a social enterprise with Nina Kamath in SVP, as well as two other students back on campus while still participating in everything this program has to offer. The innovation and culture of the Silicon Valley influenced our idea and allowed us to create a great business model, and we plan to continue building out our enterprise. I know that there are mixed feelings about the Silicon Valley Program, both from students on campus and students here, but I don’t think I could have had a better semester off campus experience.

So when I am asked why I skipped a semester of college to work, what is my answer? I did, and I couldn’t be happier with the experience I had.

Alec Koh ’16
Claremont McKenna College Intern, Hewlett‐Packard