As much as Rice is a smaller campus compared to other universities, this summer I learned how large-scale and wide-reaching Rice can be. I spent the summer doing a public health internship in Cape Town, South Africa as an International Ambassador for the Rice Gateway Program. The purpose of the program is to connect Rice students beyond their internships and gain perspectives from other professionals in their setting through interviews. One part of the program required me to interview a Rice alumnus who is living in the same city that I was in the summer. Surprisingly, Rice connected me with a Rice School of Architecture 1979 graduate. After getting in contact with her through email, I was able to visit her architecture studio in Woodstock, a suburb of Cape Town. As much as I was nervous interviewing my first subject in South Africa, she completely eased my worries and made me feel very much at home. Though I learned a lot about South African history and her academic and personal story while interviewing her, I also bonded a lot with her through Rice. Even though I was in a completely unfamiliar setting miles away by myself, she made me feel right at home in an unexpected way. It was so refreshing to talk to someone who loves Rice and its quirks just like I do. After the visit was over, we both agreed to keep each other updated and catch up with lunch in Cape Town before I left.
One month after our first encounter, I visited her beautiful house in Cape Town when she invited me over for lunch with her family. She was nice enough to not only be a source of contact for me whenever I needed support in Cape Town, but she also wanted to maintain our relationship beyond my time in South Africa.
Through the Gateway Program, I was able to generate more significant relationships with my coworkers, local professors, and Rice alumni in a new country. My internship experience would not have been the same without it; it would have been more daunting to suddenly live in a different country for 2 months without learning from such interesting South Africans. I think that’s what Rice really values for its students—meaningful relationships from its close-knit community both on campus and beyond the hedge. I’m someone who really values interpersonal relationships, and Rice has certainly not disappointed me in that category. It amazes me to learn where so many alumni end up going all around the world, but I know that wherever I’ll go after I graduate my fellow Rice students will be there to support me.
Coincidentally, I ended up sitting in the same aisle as her on my flight when I went back home. Maybe Rice isn’t so small after all.