About Anastasia

Anastasia Alex is originally from a small town outside Cleveland, OH. She is a senior in Bioengineering and is also pre-med. Anastasia enjoys exploring Houston and making videos for fun.

MCAT Classes During School Year

Hey y’all. I know there are lot of people who are thinking about being pre-med at Rice and I want to give some advice about taking MCAT courses during the school year.

First, if you can take the course over the summer when at least you won’t be trying to balance your school work with the demands of MCAT homework, that would be ideal. If you are unable to do that, as I was, and have to take it during the year, please consider the following advice.

DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT TO TAKE A PREP COURSE: Rice Pre-Med society auctions off Kaplan and Princeton Review discounted prep courses. I highly recommend the courses as they will really make you progress in your studying over the school year. If you do not choose to take a course, pay even more attention to the next piece of advice.

MAKE A PLAN OF ATTACK: look at your school schedule and determine when your tests and major projects are due. Make sure you keep this schedule in mind while you plan out how to fit in all the MCAT homework/completion of practice tests. It is easy to get behind in your homework schedule unless you do a little bit every day.  Doing smaller portions at a time versus large chunks of studying will also improve your retention of how to go about problem solving and remembering details.

DO THE HOMEWORK/PRACTICE TESTS: this is so important. I have spoken with many students in my MCAT class right now who are taking the exam for the second time. Many of them have said they did not practice enough problems or take all the practice tests and they believe this was their biggest fault.

TAKE TIME TO RELAX: all Rice students need time to relax, regardless of whether or not they’re prepping for the MCAT.  There are plenty of fun things to do at Rice and off campus in Houston. Go out to eat with friends. Go to the gym. Do not lock yourself away in the library or your room for the entirety of your studying period prior to MCAT test date.  I have known a few people who’s relationships with friends suffered because they never took time to relax and socialize.  You will be much happier if you take a day off every once and awhile, and perhaps more productive overall.

Finally, if you do not have a car, don’t fret! While Rice does not have prep courses taught on campus, there is usually a class you can find in the near vicinity. I walk or bike across the street to the med center where my classes are taught in a hotel conference room.

Good luck to you in your pursuit of applying to med school!

Professor Bun B

Upon picking  classes this semester, I first (as always) marked down the engineering classes I would need, and afterwards, added a cool English class (Literature and Medicine). Further I wanted to take something especially interesting and different, just for fun.  As my brother always told me, “make sure to take courses in college that you will NEVER have the opportunity to experience again.”  There were many options of course, but some that stood out were a gym class (LPAP) that results in your SCUBA certification (you practice right in the new heated pool!), a few student taught courses (The Art of Origami looked pretty neat), and Religion and Hip Hop, a religion course being taught by the outstanding professor, Dr. Pinn, as well as the world famous Houston rapper, Bun B.

Bun B

With my brother’s advice in my head I chose Bun B’s class, even though I was truly ignorant regarding his rapping career. I showed up on the first day of class with one of my Houston-native roommates, Cristina. The entire auditorium (that fits around 250 people!) was full and students were sitting in the walkways, a rare site at Rice. This was due of course to friends of friends of students not even registered for the course who came to see Bun B.  There was a posse of people taking pictures and videotaping the class and we signed a waiver saying it was OK if we were on TV/the internet. We were informed the course would be broadcasted as a podcast as well.  Cristina laughed at my question, “which one is Bun?” as it clearly  showed my oblivion.

At first I looked around the classroom to check out what type of student body was in the class. I never before took a religion course at Rice and saw many unfamiliar faces. However, amongst religion majors, there were fellow engineers, student athletes, freshman through seniors, and who knows maybe even a few graduate students. Everyone wanted a piece of this class and you could feel the excitement of the crowd as we waited for Dr. Pinn and Prof Bun to address the class.

That first day felt like I was at a press conference as student questions were answered one by one by both professors. I cannot lie, I was shocked at the level of eloquence that came out of Prof Bun’s mouth. Someone as ignorant as me, who does not listen to much rap or hip hop outside the few popular songs on the radio, may expect a rap artist to sort of slur words together and speak simply without much detail or description. Not the case. I was extremely impressed by Prof Bun’s ability to answer student questions clearly and with much personal feeling.

The second class was much more academic in nature. We discussed a reading assignment that we did for homework and listened and dissected a few verses of various hip hop songs to discover how some rap artists define religion and how this is evidenced in their lyrics.  The teachings of both professors intertwined nicely and pulled me in to discussion.  My favorite part was definitely getting to listen to rap in class and to hear the responses of the professors as they answered as many student questions as possible regarding the subject.  Needless to say, I was sold on keeping the class as I knew it would open my eyes to the world of hip hop and be easily entertaining because it is a discussion-based class.

Thanksgiving at Rice

As an out-of-state Rice student, I always get a little bit homesick right around Thanksgiving.  This year marked my first time in 4 years not going home for Thanksgiving break. While I missed my own family’s Greek-American Thanksgiving traditions, I got to experience two of my Houston-native suitemates’ Turkey Day celebrations.

At my house on Thanksgiving, we are usually busy cooking and end up eating very little during the day in order to work up a voracious appetite for the large family gathering we attend during dinner. However, here in Houston, I was blessed to, for the first time, experience the glory of Thanksgiving lunch AND dinner.

For lunch, my roommate and I went to our suitemate’s father’s apartment, who happens to be vegetarian. For all you meatlovers out there: tofurkey really isn’t as bad as it sounds, especially if prepared by an experienced vegetarian chef. After the meal we played Cranium (a beloved game amongst Rice students) with her family.  For dinner the three of us headed over to my roommate’s uncle’s house.  Her very large Persian family was there and I ate perfectly cooked turkey, as well as Iranian rice with chicken and curry. Persian-style is my absolute favorite preparation of rice. They cook it in a pressure cooker or pan just until the bottom layer gets nice and crispy.

Persian-style rice

It is so delicious when paired with homemade yogurt with dill. The yogurt reminds me a lot of my family’s Greek Tzaziki sauce and so I felt a little connection to my own roots.  For dessert they had all kinds of fruits and Iranian pastries, but the most interesting was a cranberry gelatin that turned out surprisingly well.

After dinner we headed over to the Edwards Cinema, which is a HUGE movie theater in Houston just minutes from Rice by car. Although movie tickets are ridiculously overpriced, we got the student discount by showing our Rice IDs and paid $9.25 each to see Love & Other Drugs (with Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway).

I love Edwards because the walls are covered in painted murals of celebrity couples on the red carpet going to movie premieres or perhaps to the Academy Awards…well that and the fact they have an ice cream store right inside.  Just a few weeks ago Rice rented out a bunch of theaters in Edwards to show an advanced screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Pt. 1) at 8:00 pm the thursday before the premiere. All the Rice students who attended got pretty excited, going all out with costumes. There were Hermiones in scarves and dementors in black, house elves in pillowcases and even some death eaters (see below image).

Dark mark tattoo drawn by a Hanszenite

But anyways, back to Thanksgiving. The three of us girls all slept over my roommates house and in the morning we walked to the Galleria to do some intensive Black Friday shopping and catch the deals.  The lines were ridiculous despite the fact that the Galleria has >400 stores!  Check out the Houston Galleria Directory for more details.

Overall, my weekend turned out to be quite fun even though I missed my family. Also staying in Houston for break allowed me to really focus in on my work, which is generally focused on the second set of Midterms around Thanksgiving time.