College is the time to expect the unexpected

I came in last year with a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to major in and what I wanted to do. I had spent all four years of high school in a specialized biotechnology program, learning essential lab techniques and assays and the building blocks of manipulating biological organisms. Naturally, I drifted towards the biochemistry major at every university I applied to. It just seemed obvious to me – biochemistry and molecular biology were really all I knew, and therefore, I was most interested in this field. I had been set on majoring in biochemistry and going to medical school after undergrad since my junior year of high school, and since I was confident that I could maintain interest in it, the possibility of ever wanting to change my major didn’t even cross my mind.

I picked up an opportunity to shadow a gastroenterologist in my second semester of freshman year. During my first time in the office, I expected to learn a little bit about a medical specialty I knew little about, but instead I got a much greater insight into a different side of the medical field. After talking to the doctors in the office and taking notice of how things worked, I realized that treating patients and applying all of the organic chemistry, cell biology, and anatomy that we learned in classes is only half of what being a doctor is. The other half is about finances, healthcare laws, computers, etc. – things that most pre-med students don’t even give a second thought to when deciding to enter the medical field.

However, the most striking thing that I learned that day was something the doctors all told me: “If you want to make a difference in the medical field, don’t major in biochemistry.” You can probably imagine how panicked that statement made me. I had been set on biochemistry and going into the medical field, only to be told by medical professionals themselves to not major in biochemistry! However, by the end of the day, seeing how much economics and policy factored into the decisions made by physicians, I realized that they were right. If I wanted to be a physician who could implement effective changes for the bettering of the field and patient care, I needed to change my direction and refocus my goals. After a summer of reconsideration, I’ve decided to double major in Biological Sciences and Policy Studies with a focus in health management.

Now here is my biggest disclaimer: biochemistry is an absolutely fantastic field to go into. If you can really delve deep into studying this topic, you could reap infinite amounts of useful and applicable knowledge. And if you want to go into the medical field afterwards, there is absolutely nothing preventing you from doing so. You can do whatever you want! My main burden here, though, is that you can be plenty sure to expect the unexpected, especially at Rice where there are opportunities galore for us to explore deeper and experience afresh. This is what Rice is all about, so don’t be afraid to just go for it.

Painting a Picture: Spirit at Rice

“Okay, don’t move!” I urged the Rice student who stood stock-still before me. I drew the blue tipped brush in precise strokes along her face, trying to keep my hand from shaking. After a few more dips in paint and gentle, well-placed lines (I hope!), my canvas stepped away and examined her face in the reflection of her phone. “It’s beautiful! How did you do that?”

I smiled sheepishly and moved on to the next willing student, ready to paint another one of our iconic Old English ‘R’s’. The reason I was painting it all over the faces of students (along with owls and blue and gray stripes) was because we were having the first home football game of the season!

My best friend and I supporting our Rice Owls

My best friend and I supporting our Rice Owls

Only hours before, some of my fellow Hanszenites and I decided that we would bring paint and brushes outside and message our college about the opportunity to be painted up for the game. Vice President Joe Biden spoke that afternoon about the White House Cancer Moonshot Initiative, and while it was an amazing event, I wondered if students would be too tired afterwards to go to the game as well. Even so, my Spirit committee members and I set up outside and waited. For a while no one showed.

And then suddenly we had more people wanting to be painted than we had hands for!

As I moved from person to person applying paint, I was struck by how much spirit and a common goal brought people together. In those moments, we weren’t Hanszenites throwing an event; we were Rice students coming out to support the school we love. Even other colleges came to participate in the fun (shout out to McMurtry!). The students were so excited to display school pride, and I was glad to be a part of it. After everyone had the designs they wanted, we made our way to the stadium and the sense of community that I felt grew even more. I passed by people that I’d never spoken to or even seen before, but I’d notice that familiar Rice ‘R’ on their clothes or face and feel a connection that goes past just being students at the same school. That feeling is something I think is so integral and unique to Rice and part of the reason we’re such a happy student body.

Incidentally, this game had more fans than the largest turnout in the last ten years, and I’m not saying our paint-up event was wholly responsible, but…it couldn’t have hurt.

I got to breathe the same air as Joe Biden!

At Rice, you know something’s really big when you hear about it from not only all of your friends, but also secretaries, multiple Facebook pages, and a certifiable metric ton of emails.

Granted, Biden isn’t your average Joe.

As part of the Baker Institute’s Medicine, Research and Society Policy Issues series, the Vice President of the U.S. was invited to speak at Rice last Friday about the White House Cancer Moonshot Initiative. This once in a lifetime opportunity had me ready to get in line. The ticket prices did too: as a Rice student, I didn’t have to pay a thing to attend! In my book, free tickets to see the VPOTUS talk = win.

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Note the word free: every college student’s dream.

On the day of, I discovered that this equation seemed to hold true for the rest of Rice, too:

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Tudor Fieldhouse packed to the seams!

The line to get in to the Tudor Fieldhouse (a huge auditorium used for assemblies, the career fair, basketball games, and more) blocked up a good length of sidewalk along the inner loop, but somehow everyone managed to squeeze in like the family we are.

As Biden entered, we rose to the occasion by giving him a couple of standing ovations. Many rounds of applause followed as he related his own experiences with cancer (his son, Beau Biden, died just last year from cancer at 46) and his own vision for the initiative.

As a freshman, this talk brought me to a realization. Sharing “unconventional wisdom” is the norm at Rice. Whether it’s the talk of a single politician or the results of a flotilla of doctors and researchers, you have access to the pulse of the world. People of all sorts come to speak and interact with us: the next generation of movers, shakers, and world changers.

At the intersection of so many brilliant minds, what can’t we accomplish together?

Houston: A Collection of Culinary Delights

“What hashtag are you? #deepthoughts, #nom –“

Before I can even hear the other options on the Buzzfeed quiz that my suitemate is reading out loud, I immediately respond “#nom.” I happen to love food: eating it, talking about it, (attempting) to make it, watching others successfully cook it. Houston, Texas has more than readily gratified my love for food. I have spent nearly my entire life in Houston, and if there is one thing I absolutely and wholeheartedly love about this city, it’s the dining options.

With delicious year-round flavors and fun seasonal flavors, Fat Cat Creamery in the Heights has my go-to ice cream, with warm chocolate chip cookies and crisp brownie bites.

With delicious year-round flavors and fun seasonal flavors, Fat Cat Creamery in the Heights has my go-to ice cream, with warm chocolate chip cookies and crisp brownie bites.

Rice itself takes pride in its close proximity to various restaurants, many of which are located in nearby areas like West U, Montrose, and the Museum District. However, Houston has so much more to offer “beyond the hedges” (a term used at Rice to refer to what lies beyond the outer loop of the campus). There are constantly new restaurants opening up, beloved chains constructing new locations, and food trucks changing up their sites to meet customer demand. I have recently found myself following blogs and social media accounts dedicated solely to eating out in Houston, as I am always wanting to discover and try new places. I even have various restaurants, coffee shops, and bakeries saved on my Google Maps app. When you live in a city like Houston, there is always more to do, more to try, more to explore. Diverse dining options are definitely abundant and accessible (by car, Metro, Uber, etc.). And while it is easy to eat at the places I know and love and trust, I make it a point to try eating at new places as often as I can.

Tried and tested: tater tots, eggs, and tacos make for a marvelous combo at Velvet Taco on Washington Ave.

Tried and tested: tater tots, eggs, and tacos make for a marvelous combo at Velvet Taco on Washington Ave.

As a Rice student and a native Houstonian, I can’t imagine spending four years here without attempting to explore all of the city’s cool neighborhoods — and their respective dining options. Perhaps you did not consider location as an important factor in your decision to apply to Rice. But the university’s location in Houston is a big part of our college experience. And I can confidently say that the diversity and extent of eating options in Houston are on par with (if not better than) cities all over the world. This city has a variety of culinary delights, and they are all yours once you call Rice your home.

Don’t Be Afraid to Go Outside of your Comfort Zone

Rice has a bunch of students that all come from different places— from neighboring towns in Houston to foreign countries across the globe. Nevertheless, we all amalgamate together on campus and bring special diversity to the undergraduate student population. In my case, I hail from the state of New Jersey, just a meager 1,607 miles away from Rice. Whenever I mention that I’m from New Jersey, people never hesitate to ask the token follow-up question: “So why did you decide to come to Rice and live in Texas?” As much as I understand why they ask me, over time I’ve realized that the question implies that most people don’t choose to attend a university far away from home without an explicitly good reason.

My token answer to the token question? I wanted to go to Rice because of the amazing community they have with the residential colleges, its proximity to the largest medical center in the world, and its unique social and cultural environment. Additionally, Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the country, with a myriad of great opportunities (academic and non-academic) for college and beyond. I feel like that answer very much justifies itself, but many people still ask me why I wanted to move so far away. Yes, I don’t get to see my friends and family as often, but I do not regret exploring and going out of my comfort zone in a new environment. From my perspective, I’ve had some of the most unique experiences living in Houston, whether that be cultural experiences from living in Texas to academic experiences from interning at special organizations here. I’m someone who can struggle with change, but lately I’ve become more open to saying yes to new things because they are usually the most rewarding. And going to Rice is a prime example of its benefits.

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Houston has so many cool attractions to visit with friends! This is Discovery Green, and they had a cool interactive exhibit this past March.

I’m not saying that it’s better to go farther away from home, but you shouldn’t limit your options. There are many factors to consider (like finances and family), but I think that I made the right choice going to school here. At Rice, I’ve been exposed to such a unique culture within the diverse campus and beyond. Even though Texas is a new environment for me, Rice makes me feel like I very much belong here. Besides, I’m not the only New Jerseyian or Northeasterner here. I’ve befriended many other students who come from the same area as me. There are still internship and job opportunities connected to Rice that are located throughout the country (including where I’m from), so my college experience is not limited to Houston.

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The MFA (Museum of Fine Arts) is super close to Rice. And the best part is that Rice students get in for free!

To any student who lives far away from Texas and is considering Rice: keep in mind that going beyond what you’re comfortable with can yield some of the most worthwhile experiences. And the best part about living far away from school? The trip back home is 100 times more special.

Looking the part: Hairstyles

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O-Week Bonding! Best friends in the first week!

First day of school, freshman year. Fresh from back to school shopping, ready to reinvent yourself. Outfit looks great and your hair cut looks safe. Yes, you get to be whoever you want in college, and most people want that to be a person with friends. By society’s constraints, people come to Rice wanting to impress others, looking particularly plain and approachable. And we will be completely not-surprised to see that it works! All new students with any hair cuts will find friends.There is nothing wrong with this! Going off to college is scary, and it is so natural to want to fit in. Luckily, that basic period of time is something that Rice has come to minimize. Going through an entire week of orientation with people you will live with for the next 4 years makes people very comfortable, very quickly. The people you meet (roommates, o-week groups, etc.), are chosen, by hand, to be people you will like. And they will like you right back.

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A rockin’ hair cut to go with international travels! Study abroad!

Coming back from winter break, sophomore year. Settled in and doing things we enjoy (like your German Fairytales class).  Hair cut: fresh and free. Finally solved the riddle of how to find happiness: being yourself. Not only have your old friends decided that they like the real you (the you who has ventured into Acroyoga), but a ton of new people have realized how awesome you are as well. Your close community grows bigger so that your support system now stretches across the entire campus. Your hair cut reflects how you try new things (like becoming a site leader for an alternative spring break), and maybe you didn’t know how growing organic vegetables was going to turn out, but you made a commitment, and you are still living through it. Because you rock the most at being yourself.

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Why not try all of the colors at once? BEER BIKE

Beer Bike, junior year. Hair cut: TBD Stress, we all feel it. The academics are hard, you’ve picked a major that you aren’t really sure about, you’ve been through your first heartbreak, and the servery is having green beans and mashed potatoes, again. Good thing that we plan a week around being incredibly spontaneous and ridiculous. It’s great that you, as a typical Rice student, stay on top of your work, because you aren’t going to want to open a book this week. You don’t have to worry, because no one is worrying. Your hair has changed three times during the week: dyed, cut, and filled with Holi powder and mud. This is a great week of your life. You realize that your summer internship is going to be amazing, you are doing well in your classes, and you love green beans. Everything you’ve been doing the past 3 years has, and will be worth it. Relax! And breath in this beautiful weather Houston gives us around this time of the year.

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You’ve made it! Looking like the well put together adult you are. :)

Graduation, senior year. Hair cut: perfect. Not only are you finished, you are ready. You have become substantially more yourself at Rice. An incredibly smart, well spoken, and friend-having graduate. You’ve just finished an incredible senior thesis about the correlation between gender and drug prices, you’ve impacted an incredible amount of lives through your volunteer work in the Medical Center, and you realize how good you are at problem solving. The last four years seem like a blur, so it is a good thing everyone documents everything in this generation (specifically to remind you of the time you forgot you had a presentation so you improvised on the topic of “Theory of Business Principles in 1920’s Cinema”).With your job lined up and ready to go, and your cap and gown on point, all you have to do is walk out of the Sallyport.

But your legs want nothing more than to take another lap around the inner loop.