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.

Rice, Round Two: Opportunities and Decisions, Dates, Deadlines

It’s the start of the second semester of my second year at Rice, and I already have several new things to consider: new classes, new professors, new opportunities. In addition, I have new responsibilities – namely, figuring out my academic plans and declaring my major(s). Thankfully, I took care of the latter task at the end of my freshman year, but there is still more to do. Now that I know what I’m majoring in, I have to start figuring out which classes to take and when, decide between various job and internship opportunities, and try to gain research experience in the fields of psychology that interest me the most. Sophomore year has been a treat to say the least, and I am continuously adapting to the varied aspects of the college experience.

It’s not all tedious tasks and distressing deadlines, though. Sophomore year has given me so many opportunities that I am thankful for. Two highlights include my role as a research assistant in one of Rice’s largest psychology labs, as well as my on-campus job. Continue reading

Beyond the Hedges, Summer Edition

When you think of potential places to spend your summer, does Houston cross your mind? If it doesn’t, it should.

This is a rather bold assertion coming from someone who will be spending two months working abroad this summer, but I firmly believe that Houston is entirely underrated for all that it has to offer. I could spend an entire blog post gushing about all the ways that Houston has secured its home in my heart. As someone who grew up here and now enjoys my relationship with the city as a Rice student, I will probably write an article about that soon (stay tuned!).

For now, let’s talk about summer in Houston. Classes are over at Rice! The weather has been wonderful! But what can Rice students do in Houston during these next few months?

La King's in Galveston

A trip to the Galveston Strand District isn’t complete without a visit to La King’s and its endless selection of sweets.

First, consider this: Houston is close to the coast. Galveston is a short (an hour at most, depending on traffic) road trip away. When you’re tired of meandering along the numerous beaches on Seawall Boulevard, treat yourself to one of the many local seafood restaurants on the island. Take a carriage tour in the Strand, explore Galveston’s historical downtown district, try the saltwater taffy – and ice cream, and candy, and chocolate, and just about anything – at La King’s Confectionery. Grab some friends, an open mind, and perhaps your ever-convenient Yelp app to explore Houston’s seaside neighbor.

Kemah Boardwalk is also a great summer destination. A personal favorite of mine, Kemah offers year-round opportunities for amusement park classics. Treat yourself to Dippin’ Dots ice cream, hit up the ferris wheel and the Aviator (one of my favorite rides), grab some funnel cake, steer some mini-sailboats, and end the day with dinner at the Aquarium. Do all of this while enjoying a nice boardwalk breeze.

FPSF Fireworks

The best music festivals feature a fireworks show as their final act.

There are also various events going on over the summer that make Houston an attraction for art-lovers, music-lovers, and an all around fun scene for anyone looking for something to do. Free Press Summer Fest takes over the first weekend of June. Big names and local acts offer a wide range of music, and in recent years, FPSF has reeled in the likes of Weezer, Vampire Weekend, Childish Gambino, Passion Pit, Macklemore, and Arctic Monkeys, among many others. Local bands such as Wild Moccasins are also frequenters of the FPSF lineup. Tickets are in high demand, and the festival has become a summer staple for many Houstonians.

Parks. There are so many parks in Houston. Sunny skies mean picnics and outdoor activities galore. Rice is right across from Hermann Park. Walk to the nearby Zoo for a fun, free (the perks of being a Rice student) day with animals – make sure you see the red pandas! Head over to Miller Outdoor Theatre for local performances of your favorite plays. Discovery Green, the Menil Park, Memorial Park, and Market Square Park are also popular parks in Houston, all within driving distance.

Houston is a city that I, a resident of nineteen years, have yet to fully explore.  All of the activities I have mentioned above form only a fragment of what Houston summers are all about. So when the weather warms up, take advantage of the diverse activities that this bustling city offers. Once you set aside the time to really step beyond the hedges (which is Rice lingo for going off campus), you will find reaffirmation in your decision to attend Rice.

Six Degrees of Revelation: Six Months into College

Mid-February is always a strange time of the academic year for me. You’re not quite close to the end of the semester, but you’re definitely not close to where you started, either. Maybe I feel this limbo-like state far too keenly; I’m still taken by surprise every time I realize that I am steadily progressing through my first spring semester as a college student.

Without further awe, allow me to highlight some of the most important (or at least, the most interesting) discoveries I have made about life at Rice University:

Continue reading

Roommate Reflections: From a Freshman’s Perspective

It’s a Monday morning, and as you move around in your sheets, the shuffling sounds seem to amplify. Your eyes open and adjust to your suddenly sunlit room, where you spot another (equally dazed) human figure lying on the bed across from you. This is a recurring process, a daily routine for you and your roommate.

Not all roommate pairs wake up at the same time, nor do they all experience the morning stupor that I tend to experience with mine. Relationships with roommates are wide-ranging. From casual conversations to occasional outings, relationships with roommates encompass a considerable variety of interactions. This holds true at all college campuses, since interpersonal relationships are not standardized to one shape or form.

At Rice, however, roommate surveys give incoming students a creative opportunity to express their interests and hobbies – in addition to expressing their personal living preferences. A roommate at Rice thus presents a potentially promising friendship, given that both students are honest and open on their survey responses. Some have more fun with them than others; I was one of those people.

Continue reading