OWLways Learning, OWLways Exploring

One of the things that I love about Rice is the academic freedom that we possess as students. Even though I am majoring in math and economics, I am still able to take classes in a wide array of subjects I’m curious about.

This semester, I decided to take a leap of faith and enrolled in an architecture course. The Rice School of Architecture is one of the highest-ranked programs in the country, so naturally, I was curious to get a glimpse of what being an “archi” was all about. The only time that I had ever been in the architecture building during my freshman year was for Architectronica (a party put on within the architecture school where they play electronic music that’s in sync with a light show – it’s really cool!). I wanted to take advantage of the fact that, as a Rice student, I had the opportunity to take a class from such a well-respected program.

Architectronica is the only party thrown by a major/school on campus! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLz5h8cNoC0

From Le Corbusier to Frank Lloyd Wright, and from classicism to postmodernism, we have looked at a wide array of architects, their works, and their varied approaches to design. Our most recent assignment was to build an architectural model out of cardstock. This was a great creative outlet that allowed me to “think like an architect”, something I had never done before!

Most importantly, this class has made me think about the built world in a completely different way. A prime example of this occurred last week, when my class took advantage of some nice weather to explore the architecture on campus. We stopped to examine Herring Hall, one of the humanities and social sciences buildings. I had been in this building many times for class and walked by it on my daily treks from my dorm to Fondren Library. Never giving it much thought, I always considered it to be “just another building on campus.” However, as we walked around its exterior, I began to take note of certain features of the building that I had never noticed before. The patterns in the colored bricks, the strange placement of certain windows, and the half-finished columns, all things I had never given much thought to, suddenly stood out to me as we related elements of Herring Hall’s design to the theories and styles that we discussed in lecture.

Herring Hall’s outdoor courtyard.

This class, like most others I have taken, has shown me that Rice can help you see the world in brand new ways. Students are encouraged to be intellectually curious, and this is one of the things that makes the Rice experience truly one-of-a-kind. Regardless of where your interests lie, you’re free to be the “architect” of your own future here!

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

For the last week, campus has been in good spirits, even though many of us are going through a second round of midterms. Why, you might ask? Two words: Willy Week!

Willy Week is the week leading up to Beer Bike, an annual Rice tradition where a day of festivities culminates with a bike race between teams from the residential colleges. There’s a men’s team, a women’s team, and a team for alumni from each college; so if you like biking, you can join your college’s bike team once you get to campus! Throughout Willy Week, the residential colleges host activities for students to enjoy themselves and forget about the stress of classwork and exams. It’s a week full of special events, fun and games, and water balloons (more on the water balloons later).

My residential college, Sid Rich, put on its own share of activities. This year, these included the annual Mr. Sid pageant, where 5 male Sidizens competed for the top prize. We also had a private dinner service one evening where we got to dress up and bond over fancy food. My favorite Sid Willy Week tradition, however, was the annual Orc Raid.

For Orc Raid, me and a bunch of other Sidizens assembled outside. Wearing all black, we covered ourselves in black and red paint, Sid’s college colors. Then, as a mob, we ran all over campus, infiltrating the commons of other colleges. By shouting cheers and jumping on tables, we asserted our dominance as the best residential college (in our eyes at least). Along the way, we got a few weird looks from people doing homework and even joined a group of people in the Will Rice commons singing karaoke (because, let’s be real, Adele never fails to bring everyone together).

Sid infiltrates Duncan commons!

There is a friendly rivalry between all the colleges about which one truly is the best. While there really is no answer to this question, Rice students are pretty partial to the one they call home. This rivalry is especially magnified during Willy Week, and reaches its peak come Beer Bike morning.

Here’s where the water balloons come into play. Throughout Willy Week, students spend time between classes filling up water balloons. Then, as the final activity before the bike races on the morning of Beer Bike, thousands of students take their positions around the perimeter of a big field for (unofficially) the world’s largest water balloon fight. It’s a Hunger-Games-esque battle where everyone gets soaking wet (but it’s so much fun getting to throw balloons at your friends!).

Tens of thousands of balloons are thrown in a matter of minutes!

Throughout the week, I was able to make lasting memories with my friends and fall even more in love with Rice and its unique traditions. Getting to experience Willy Week and Beer Bike for myself made me understand why it’s nicknamed Christmas. There’s definitely a reason why something so special only comes once each year.

Rice Owls, Then and Now

One of the RAs at my residential college works in the Research Center at Fondren Library. A few weeks ago, she gave me and a few other Sidizens a highlights tour of some of her favorite things in the library archives. While we were there, we got to see all kinds of treasures. These included:

  • A nurse’s uniform from World War I
  • A world map from the 1300s (although you would definitely get lost if you used it for directions)
  • Possible X-rays of Hitler’s skull
  • A book with a cover that may or may not have been made from human skin (spooky!)
  • The first folio of Shakespeare’s works

Getting to turn through the pages of books written hundreds of years before I was born made me feel like I was traveling back in time. I couldn’t believe that these treasures had only been a few floors below me while I worked on assignments at the library late into the night!

The first folio of Shakespeare’s works was compiled in 1623, almost 300 years before Rice was founded.

Of all of the things that I was able to see, however, I was particularly intrigued by the Rice-related items in the archive collection. Amidst the glimpses of the past on display were old yearbooks and photographs taken during the university’s early days. It’s amazing to see how much larger and how much more diverse our campus has become over the years. With the university’s founding in 1912, almost none of the buildings that I go into each day existed, and there were about the same number of people in my Econ class last semester as there were in the first graduating class.

Pictures from when Sid Rich first opened in 1971. The building was dedicated by LBJ!

As I went forward in time from the university’s founding, I saw class sizes grow, watched campus expand, and witnessed an increase in diversity on campus. Along the way, I got to see pictures of my own residential college, Sid Rich, from when it first opened in 1971. As the pictures moved from black and white to color, I watched hairstyles and fashion change. Different faces occupied the photographs taken year after year. However, throughout the tremendous growth and positive change that Rice has experienced, the unconventional wisdom of its student body has remained an integral part of the campus culture. Going through the archives that night made me realize that Rice has always been committed to educating its students so that they can change the world for the better. The Rice experience is truly life-changing, and there are so many opportunities waiting here for you to discover!

I Wanna Be (Sid) Rich

It’s hard for me to believe that I’m almost done with my first semester at Rice. It feels like I’ve only just gotten here, and now Winter Break is right around the corner. With that being said, I wanted to take some time to reflect on my college experience so far. I am enjoying my classes, have made great friends, and have gotten way too many honey butter chicken biscuits from the Hoot at night (The Hoot is a student-run shop that sells Chick-Fil-A, Whataburger, and a bunch of other snacks and drinks – it’s my go-to for a midnight snack). However, I think the residential college system has become my favorite thing about Rice. Being a part of Sid Richardson College (SRC DFA!) has made my experience all the more satisfying and rewarding.

The traditions that Sid Rich has really make me feel part of something bigger than myself:

  1. Radio Free Sid: Walking back from class on Friday afternoons, I hear music blasting from the 7th floor speakers. Sidizens can submit their own playlists for Radio Free Sid, getting the opportunity to blast their favorite songs. Radio Free Sid always starts and ends with Sid’s unofficial theme song, AC/DC’s “Back in Black”. Hearing some of my favorite jams puts me in a good mood and gets me excited for the weekend.
  2. Sid Skate: This is coming up in the next few weeks, but I can’t wait! Sid rents out the ice skating rink at the Galleria for students to take a break from studying for finals. Though I’m probably gonna fall down a lot, it’ll still be fun to spend time with my friends and not think about the impending doom of final exams.
  3. Floor Culture: One of the things that I love most about Sid is our floor culture. Some of my closest friends are the people that I’ve met on my floor. People are always out in the common area studying, playing games, or just hanging out. In order to further strengthen this floor culture, the Sid master hosts a year-long contest called “Floor Wars.” Every few weeks, he hosts an event that the floors compete in against each other. All year long, the floors compete for victory, and at the end of the year the winner gets a fancy dinner at the Master’s house (and the unofficial title of Best Floor). My floor (3rd Floor FTW!) is in first place right now, so hopefully we can keep our lead until the end of the year. Some of the events that we’ve had so far include a puzzle making competition, a pumpkin carving competition, a karaoke battle, and an ice cream making competition. It’s a whole lot of fun and a great way to become even closer to the people on your floor.

The people in your residential college are some of the closest friends that you will make at Rice. They are the people that you go to the movies with on a Friday night and the people that you discuss the meaning of life with at 2 AM. It feels good knowing that even when I’m away from my family in Dallas, I’ll “OWLways” have a home here at Rice!

Sid is the tallest residential college on campus, and this is the amazing view from the 7th floor balcony. The sun is setting on my first semester here, and it has been a wild ride!

Sid is the tallest residential college on campus, and this is the amazing view from the 7th floor balcony. The sun is setting on my first semester here, and it has been a wild ride!

O-Week: A Hous(TON) of Fun

When move-in day arrived, I was both excited and incredibly nervous. All kinds of questions raced through my head: Would I make new friends? Would my roommate and I get along? Would I be able to call Rice home? I wasn’t sure what to expect. Little did I know that by the end of O-Week, I could answer all of the above questions with a whole-hearted, scream-at-the-top-of-my-lungs YES!

During O-Week, students are split into small groups, called O-Week groups, consisting both of other freshmen and upperclassmen advisors from their residential college. These people are some of the first friends I made at Rice, and we made all kinds of crazy memories together. Over the course of the week, my O-Week group:

  • Played Paint Twister (which was WAY more messy and tiring than I was expecting)
  • Stayed up late baking cookies (the cookie dough turned into a giant cookie blob that we collectively devoured in all of 2 minutes)
  • Competed in a scavenger hunt (which we ultimately won. GROUP 5 FTW!!!!)

New students are introduced to all aspects of student life at Rice during their first week on campus. Academic planning sessions are intertwined with group bonding activities and trips on the Metro to explore the Houston area (FYI: Rice students get free entry to all Houston museums… EXCEPT for the Children’s Museum. My O-Week group, in a futile attempt to relive our childhoods, sadly found this out the hard way). Though O-Week is jam-packed and at times exhausting, it really helped me immerse myself in the Rice environment. I didn’t have time to think about missing home because I was having such a great time with all of my new friends.

Of all the crazy things we did during O-Week, the Matriculation ceremony was definitely my favorite. On the first night, my class assembled together for the first time. As a group, we walked through the Sallyport with our upperclassmen advisors cheering us on from afar. Fireworks lit up the sky and made me so #HYPE for the next four years.

Students are welcomed to Rice with a quite literal bang.

Students are welcomed to Rice with a quite literal bang.

A “rite of passage” for all Owls, O-Week gave me the warmest welcome possible to campus. My advisors went out of their way to make sure my experience was an incredible and unforgettable one. As much as I would love to tell you all of O-Week’s secrets and traditions, I don’t want to spoil the surprise. I love Rice, and if you end up coming here next fall, I know you’re gonna Lovett too.