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.

At Rice You Can

Chances are, you’ve heard the phrase “you can do anything you set your mind to.” For many of us, it’s something we’ve heard since we were young, and even though we believe it on some level, we sometimes forget how true it can be. We get so caught up with the things that we can’t accomplish that we don’t appreciate the many things we can do. More than anything, Rice University has reminded me of the inherent power in setting your mind to something and seeing it through. At Rice, the entire adult team (deans, advisors, masters, associates, professors, etc.) are there for your benefit, and they have incredible resources at their disposal. Taking advantage of opportunities at Rice can seem daunting at first, but once you do, so many doors open up, and you’ll be surprised by what you can do with just a little initiative and forethought.

Hungry Hanszenites enjoying food at a student run event

Hungry Hanszenites enjoying food at a student run event

Rice students enjoy quite a bit of autonomy, and I have a feeling that this contributes to our ranking as some of the happiest students in the nation. We are free to think and learn in our own unique ways, and we are celebrated for our differences. This kind of freedom is what makes Rice an amazing and empowering place to be. In high school, I never considered coordinating my own events because that was something adults did. I assumed they were in charge of creating clubs, planning events, and leading meetings because they knew best, and I was not qualified to do any of those things. When I think about it now, one thought comes to mind: why not? The answer is more than just because I was young and inexperienced; it also involves the fact that there weren’t resources in place to support student initiatives and the drive to do something different. There were organizations I was truly passionate about in high school, but I never felt there was a system in place to encourage me or make me feel as if I could ever follow through with an idea. This is most definitely not the case at Rice. Here, there are so many opportunities to get yourself involved, create new traditions, and make your mark. Best of all, you can do all these things simply because you want to and not because you hold any position of power or some sort of sway.

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My friends and I (far right) after our cascarones event

In my home college, I’ve coordinated several events throughout the year with the help of my fellow Hanszenites. Some events include renting out the skating rink for our college, gathering in the quad to have a cascarones fight, carving pumpkins together, and throwing a major declaration party to celebrate what we’ve accomplished in the past year. The success of these events wasn’t based on the number of people who came or the amount of people that talked about it afterwards. Rather, the true success of the events came from the fact that all of them were the result of the students’ desire to try something new and take ownership of their own college culture. I am so grateful to attend a university that supports the ideas of its students and gives them the resources to turn those ideas into a reality.

Debunking Owl Days Myths

It’s mid-April, Rice, so brace yourselves: the prospies are coming. Owl Days is this week, Admit Days are today and next Monday – it’s the time of year when Rice welcomes on campus the hundreds of admitted prospective students – fondly called “prospies” – and helps them fall in love with Rice the same way we have.

I remember walking on campus for Owl Days with terror in my heart, mostly fueled by my anxiety about most social situations. Because I know many high school seniors feel the same way, I want to debunk a few of the myths your anxiety will try to tell you about Owl Days.

MYTH NUMBER 1: If you don’t meet your best friends over Owl Days, you will remain friendless and alone forever.

Owl Days is really great for meeting people. You’re likely to find a few people staying in the same suite/hall/residential college to talk to, but don’t worry if you don’t click and become instant best friends. I met great people that I still see around campus, but don’t feel totally alone if you don’t click at once with the people around you.

REALITY: Owl Days is great for getting to know your future classmates, but you’ll make friends in your classes and at your college as well!

More Reality: my only picture from Owl Days 2015 happens to be an appreciation of this artistic and tasty owl.

There will also be receptions and mingling opportunities galore, where you can pick up some tasty goodies like this beautiful cookie from Owl Days 2015.

MYTH NUMBER 2: The residential college you stay in is the absolute best college, and you must end up there.

Chances are, your host will be absolutely brimming with college pride and will explain to you that their college is the best college at Rice. It will be pretty easy to get attached, but don’t stay up late at night worrying about whether or not you’ll be placed in the “best” residential college. Every college is widely loved by its members. You’re likely to love whatever college you end up a member of, regardless of whether or not you stayed there over Owl Days.

REALITY: Residential college pride and inner-college friendly competition is strong, but most people absolutely love the college they are in. There is no “best” or “worst” college!

MYTH NUMBER 3: “Rice students are super cool and super busy and super superior to prospies and if you speak out of turn you’ll be shamed ahhhhhhhh”

Okay, so Rice students are pretty cool. Hosts come in every shape and size, from every residential college, and we all have different workloads. (Please forgive us if we have to study – our final tests and projects are happening now or are right around the corner!) Even if your host seems busy or way too cool to listen to your questions, ask questions anyway. People sign up to be hosts because they want to hang out with prospies. You’ll probably find people that aren’t hosts that want to get to know you, too! If you feel terrified and out of place like I did when I first stepped on campus, know that Rice kids are at most a few years older than you, they remember exactly what it was like to be in your shoes, and they’re volunteering their time because they want to get to know you!

REALITY: All we want to do is hang out with the cool prospies. Make yourselves at home!

A lot has happened in a year. I’m no longer the timid high school senior terrified of leaving home and making new friends. So if that’s you, it’s okay; we remember what that was like, and we can’t wait to meet you!

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What the picture says: WELCOME!

~Erika

Creating the Perfect Schedule: Freshman Edition

For all you entering freshmen out there, congratulations on choosing Rice! Now that you are going to be a Class of 2020 Rice Owl, I’d like to give you some advice about choosing classes based on my freshman year experience.

 

1) Don’t overload yourself! This is crucial to ensuring that you do not get overwhelmed in the first few weeks. You have a lot of learning to do outside of the classroom, in addition to your classes. You will learn how to balance your social life, homework schedule, and any extracurricular activities that you take on, in addition to trying to get enough sleep. Taking six full classes with one lab and an LPAP may be tempting, but you’d probably appreciate having some downtime, too. In my free time, I picked up the Rice Owls Dance Team as an extracurricular activity.

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Before Rice Owl Dance Team’s Spring Show 2015 – I had only joined that semester!

2) Try a class outside of your major. Rice is unique because there are many departments that you probably haven’t been exposed to yet. For instance, my freshman fall semester I took a Sociology and Environmental Studies class called “Environmental Issues: Rice Into the Future” that I really liked. I learned about green living practices and worked on a group research paper, which was a nice break from my more technical classes. Taking classes outside of your major is important because you can try new subjects at the introductory level, and you might even major or minor in something that you tried for fun. If you aren’t sure about which class(es) to take, try talking with a peer academic advisor or any upperclassmen for suggestions.

3) Learn a new language. I took Spanish every semester in high school. When I got to Rice, I wanted a change of pace. I decided to take Russian last fall. The class had a large speaking component so we could practice our conversation in class and I learned how to read Cyrillic. My class was small with about 14 people, so we got to know each other well. Rice has 12 languages to choose from, so take advantage of these numerous options.

4) Take UNIV 110. At some point during your freshman year, take this class. It’s called “First Year Foundations.” UNIV 110 covers so many topics, including Rice’s Resources, Health, Identity, and Academics to name a few. There are also guest speakers and panelists, such as Dean Hutchinson, the Dean of Undergraduates. You see performances on campus, go to sporting events, or even to the Career Center to learn about different companies. You get to meet a small group of other freshmen and have an open space to reflect on life. You also have a peer advisor, an upperclassman who gives advice and co-teaches the class. I looked forward to going every week.

Me at the Vagina Monologues to support my Peer Advisor, Christa!

Me at the Vagina Monologues to support my Peer Advisor, Christa!

You may not be able to follow every piece of advice here. Maybe you want to be a Chemical Engineer, which has a 132-hour degree requirement and you don’t have time to cut back on your hours. That’s okay. Maybe you are double majoring and you don’t have time to take classes outside of your majors. That’s okay too. At the very least, try to follow at least one item listed above, to broaden your horizons.

I have a feeling you might be curious to know what I took my freshman year. Well, I’ve attached my old schedules below. Enjoy, and happy planning!

Freshman Fall Schedule

Fall Semester – 14 hours

Spring Schedule

Spring Semester – 16 hours

What I Miss the Most about Houston while Abroad

Houston is home. For me, this huge, flat, humid city is not just one of the largest in the nation; it’s a welcoming and comfortable place to live. Whenever I go abroad, I am usually fully immersed in everything happening there. International adventures make life exciting and fun for the time being, but there are always a few things about Houston that I miss while I am away.

  1. The food. Houston has so many options when it comes to eating out. If you haven’t already heard, we have the most diverse selection of restaurants in the nation. In the neighborhoods surrounding Rice alone, there are multiple options for tacos, Thai, and Turkish cuisine. The Tex-Mex options in the city can’t be beat, and it’s becoming harder and harder for me to find and enjoy its equivalent in restaurants abroad.
  2. The green. Although Houston is a large, urban city, it has several parks, picnic grounds, and tree-lined running trails. Rice Blvd and the Outer Loop alone have some of the most beautiful pathways in the city, lined with a dense canopy of trees. I have yet to see these picturesque sites in the middle of another major city while abroad, and I find myself missing the green scene around Rice the most.
  3. The sunsets. Okay, I know this last one is cliché, but bear with me. I have never seen a sunset more beautiful than the ones I have seen in Houston – anywhere in Houston. For me, there’s something incredibly soothing about ending the day under cotton candy-hued skies. At Rice, I am fortunate enough to witness some of the most vivid sunsets. These, paired with its already appealing architecture, makes Rice’s campus one of the most enchanting places to be in Houston on a daily basis.

    A typical sunset I see every day from my room on campus at Wiess College.

    A typical sunset I see from my room on campus at Wiess College.

Notice a pattern here? Each of the above categories mentions Rice, and, needless to say, I miss my school while I am thousands of miles away. However, it’s not just Rice that I miss, but Houston as a whole. Houston is lucky to have a school like Rice at the heart of the city, and Rice is fortunate to have a city like Houston outside of its hedges. And I’m pretty lucky to call both my home.