The Evolution of my Relationship with Emails

I have a love-hate relationship with my email account. And it is one of the most important relationships I have here at Rice.

When I first got my rice.edu address, I was pretty excited – probably more so than most other incoming Rice students. I was proud of finally having a professional email address, one associated directly with my dream school. Gone were the days of “(embarrassing middle school catchphrases/abbreviations)” and the slightly more mature albeit bland “(first and last name followed by a number)” email addresses.

I remember how, in middle school, emailing was a “cool” (and not yet unpopular) form of communicating with my friends. Yes, we made plans to hang out at the mall or go to the movies over emails. Yes, it took longer to make those plans. Yes, that taught me to practice patience and yes, it held me more accountable to my friends because I was more likely to actually show up and carry out those plans – rather than relying on our smartphones and their capacity to send instantaneous push notifications to take a rain-check. So, for me at least, emails have always been kind of a big deal.

Now, in college, emails are more important than ever. Some people, including myself, have a love-hate relationship with their account. At busier times of the year, I find myself swamped with emails, some more pressing than others. When I’m especially busy or stressed, I just don’t want to read an email from a listserv or a club that is not my priority at that particular point in time. Other times, I love seeing those emails because it usually means I can reconnect with a club/group of people/activity that I have not heard much from lately.

The now-familiar Rice seal that greets me each time I log in to my email account.

Emails are efficient and universal (your peers, professors, RAs, and just about everyone on campus is part of the Rice email community), but can also seem excessive or unnecessary at times (e.g., “It’s finals week; I don’t have time to read a lengthy newsletter from this club!”). All-in-all, though, I am grateful that I can stay connected via email. Even when I am too preoccupied to read certain emails, I almost always make time to read them eventually.

I thus take good care of my account. I do an email cleanse weekly, deleting older message threads that are no longer relevant (and will no longer be relevant to my future). I create and organize labels and folders; some of these include “Classes,” “Jobs and Opportunities,” and “Wiess” (residential college related emails). More long-term academic or extracurricular investments get their own labels as well (e.g. “RCSummer,” the program I worked at these past 2 summers).

Even though I (fondly) refer to my relationship with my Rice email as one of love and hate, my email system makes my life a lot easier. It keeps me connected to Rice, even when I am working abroad at a summer camp, or applying for jobs across the nation. Ultimately, my email helps me navigate the highs and lows of college.

Having Houston as a Hometown and Rice as a Home Away from Home

Rice and its surrounding neighborhoods were a big part of my childhood. My family frequently dined at the La Madeleine in Rice Village. I went to pool parties at my friends’ houses in the neighborhood of West University. My dad took me along to the annual “Turkish night” on Rice’s campus. You would think that growing up in Houston would make Rice feel all too familiar when I arrived on campus my freshman year. Yet, there is so much more to Rice than I could have expected at the time.

These reindeer were painted and placed around Rice Village last year, featuring Houston, Rice, and Astros (H-Town’s baseball team) themes.

Going to school in Houston and having “Home” so close by has been a wonderful experience. Still, Rice quickly became my home away from home; it felt like a whole new world to me. I realized I had two addresses in Houston; two very different parts of town that were each really cool in their own way. At Rice, I am within walking distance of Hermann Park, the Zoo, the museums, and Rice Village. At home, my local 24-hour Shipley’s donuts was close by and the lively City Centre was a short drive away. I used to live in West Houston and just recently moved to a suburb farther out of the city, which also has its own distinct venues, shops, and restaurants that I am still growing accustomed to. One of my favorite things about Houston is how huge and diverse it truly is. There is always somewhere new to explore – even in the areas I frequent the most around Rice, such as Rice Village (which has expanded quite a bit this past year, building new restaurants, featuring more food truck options, incorporating different murals and art pieces throughout its streets, and displaying Rice banners on streetlights and signs).

Having capital-H Home nearby doesn’t feel strange at all. It has made my college experience all the more enjoyable. I can go home when something comes up, when I want to be off-campus for a bit, or when I want to have some Turkish tea with my dad – but that being said, I don’t get homesick. I am more than comfortable and content in my home away from home, which includes my individual room, my residential college, the campus as a whole, and the neighborhoods surrounding Rice. It also includes my close friends and supportive professors – individuals I don’t get to see and spend time with regularly when I’m away from campus. Going to school in my hometown is familiar but fun, and I feel more fortunate than ever to call both Rice and Houston my home.

I get to witness this beautiful skyline view on my drive from my house to Rice.

Residential Colleges: More Than a Living Space

If you’re considering applying to Rice, you’ve probably heard about the residential college system. The residential colleges are interesting – they are a little bit of everything. Even now as a junior, I am realizing how much the diversity of socialization and experiences that the colleges provide play a prominent part of my undergraduate career.

At other universities, my friends describe their dorms as more distinct – as “humanities dorms” or “honors dorms” or “engineering dorms.” Rice’s residential colleges are more of a mix, with no one major or program dominating the spaces we live in. The residential colleges are an inclusive blend of everything – academic interests, social interests, cultures. Even for me, personally, living on campus at Wiess College for the past two and a half years has produced interactions and memories with different kinds of individuals. In my current suite, I live with an athlete, an artist, and a future chemical engineer. My freshman year, I shared a room with a Math major who stayed up with me every other night writing proofs while I wrote essays for my English courses. Sophomore year, my roommate and I (usually) both went to bed by midnight, juggling very different non-academic commitments and daily to-do lists, but still managing to attend social and campus-wide events together.

Rice’s residential college system can bring you close to very individually interesting, bright, and inspiring people – here’s my suite heading over to the fall formal, Esperanza, all together.

At any given time in the residential college commons, I often see groups of people working together. I also see people getting up and floating around, interacting with people who are working on something completely different (whether academically, or for another purpose – someone designing a shirt for a social event, for instance). The residential colleges really allow each and every one of us to bring our unique interests, talents, and experiences to the table. No matter where you live on campus, no matter which residential college’s cheers you learn during O-week, your residential college provides potential interactions and friendships with people of all kinds. And although each college has its own colors, traditions, and buildings, they each share one very important feature: they are inclusive of all academic majors, ages, cultural backgrounds, and voices.

Academic Realizations and Reflections, Junior Year Edition

I am a Psychology and English double major, which means I get to read and write – a lot. On a daily basis, my backpack is full of thick reading packets, several novels, and a hefty textbook or two. To some, this may sound like a nightmare. For me, reading is what I’m all about.

Double majors are pretty common at Rice. But before I got here, I thought that I would solely focus on Psychology as an academic major. “College is hard, how could I handle not just one but two sets of requirements and workloads??” This was my mindset in high school. Since then, I have learned some very important lessons about academics. Though this all comes from my own personal experience, I want to share a few valuable realizations I’ve come to during my past two and a half years at Rice:

  1. If you love what you’re doing, you’re learning in more ways than one. You’re not just completing major requirements – each and every class can teach you something about your passions, how you communicate, your work ethic, and your capabilities. When you enjoy reading lengthy articles, conducting research, or finally completing a challenging problem set, you’re not just checking things off of a to-do list, or storing information in your mind for a midterm. You learn a thing or two about yourself when you realize what kind of information jumps out at you in articles, where you have to stop and scratch your head while you’re writing out a proof, or how you contribute to a group project.
  2. No major is better/easier/harder than the other. This becomes pretty obvious when you spend time with friends who are majoring in vastly different things. Your passions as well as your work habits may not line up with theirs – but you’re not the only one working hard. Media articles “ranking” majors according to intelligence, average income, and popularity do not reflect reality; majoring in something is a personal experience. No two Psychology majors are the same. That goes without saying, but it’s important to remind ourselves, and to respect others. Thankfully, Rice has so many incredible, different people doing incredible, different things. And that is by no means defined by how “good/hard/challenging” their majors are – those are value judgments we need to save for the media (if not altogether get rid of).
  3. Taking advantage of the endless opportunities that a university like Rice offers can make the biggest impact on your life. A single email recruiting job applicants, sent on the Social Sciences mailing list during my freshman year, changed my life. I applied to an English immersion summer camp abroad, where I discovered (or perhaps rediscovered, in my case) my passion for teaching and working with young kids. I have worked there for two summers now, and I cannot even begin to express my gratitude for the self-discovery and the friendships it has offered me. Although I am still a junior, I am now hoping to teach English at primary or secondary schools after I graduate. I learned so much about myself from one single opportunity that Rice offered me; all it took was a single click on an email attachment.
My suitemates and I are vastly different people, with very different majors, doing very different things – but we are constantly supporting and encouraging each other’s’ endeavors. We are all enjoying our individual college experiences here at Rice.

My suitemates and I are vastly different people, with very different majors, doing very different things – but we are constantly supporting and encouraging each other’s endeavors here at Rice.

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.

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.