Sid and Me? We Go Wayyy Back

I’ve been a tour guide for almost three years and have had the honor of having many Rice alumni on my tours, accompanying their children on their search for the perfect university, only slightly constrained by the poorly-hidden bias emanating from their parents. I have to admit that having these parents on my tours is one of the coolest things about being a tour guide. Their enthusiasm about the university and their memories of their eventful time here is still as strong as when they graduated, and it’s inspiring to realize how much larger yet how much more close-knit Rice is than I previously thought. As a student at Rice, you are plugged into the fascinating, quirky, and unique history that has been shaped by the students themselves over the last 105 years.

I had the honor of giving the first woman to graduate from Sid and her family a tour of the campus. Here we are in the Sid Richardson lobby!

Twice, I’ve had Sid Richardson (my residential college) alumni on my tours, and both times, it was extremely cool to hear their stories (I may or may not have given them a little princess treatment after the general tour). The first alum happened to be the first woman to have graduated from Sid Richardson College after Sid became a co-ed college in 1987. She was with her whole family on the tour, and I excitedly brought them back to Sid Richardson afterwards, her first time back in the building since she graduated. Nothing had changed. She scanned the portraits on the wall of presidents and pointed out her friends to her kids. I brought them up to my suite to see a Sid room, and that, too, was exactly the same as she remembered it. It was exciting, as she shared stories of her time with her kids in the place that they happened, and how she transferred from Jones to Sid in her junior year. It was truly a blast from the past, and the fact that she was an Asian woman made it feel like she had carved the way for me to be there.

The second time was just recently, perhaps two weeks ago. Two boys on my morning tour were accompanied by their mother and father, who graduated from Sid Richardson in 1979. Later on in the day when I was walking back from class to Sid, I found them standing in front of the entrance, staring up at the building. Seeing that there was not much for them to garner just from looking at it, I brought them inside. Their father was charged with infectious energy as we made our way up to his old floor, 6th floor, and looked out from the balcony as the stacks blasting music right above us. Their father told us about the time someone drove their motorcycle into the college commons for college night (which we still have today) and another time someone fell through the ceiling tiles into the servery. Conveniently, we ran into our current Sid president at the same time, and we all engaged in a fascinating conversation merging two eras of Sid history and tradition.

We talk about the residential colleges a lot – how fun they are, which one has the best food, which one is going to win the President’s Cup for intramural sports – but sometimes we forget that the colleges are living with rich history of all the students who lived there before us. It’s crazy for me to go through old yearbooks and see things like Lyndon B. Johnson standing among the same brick walls in Sid commons in 1971. Rice is a community that spans far larger than any of us could imagine, not only in breadth but also depth. Your presence and participation in any of the residential colleges is no small matter. If anything, it makes your experience as an undergraduate student that much more meaningful.

Looking Through A Different Lens

“You know you are more than welcome to come back and shadow anytime. You could even work here over the summer,” Dr. Hopping told me as I walked into the optometry office one Thursday morning.

It was spring break, and I had chosen to spend my time doing an externship in Houston. Through the Owl Edge Externship program pioneered by the Center for Career Development at Rice, I was assigned to a 4-day shadowing externship with optometrist Dr. Desiree Hopping (Rice class of 1976) at her private practice Hopping Eye Associates. I knew nothing about optometry nor had the specialization held any particular interest to me, but I wanted to explore my options.

I arrived at the office on my first day, and Dr. Hopping welcomed me with open arms. She introduced me to the other optometrists in the group practice: her husband, her son, and two other optometrists. As I followed her around for the day, watching eye exams and listening closely to her explanations for her actions, I took great interest in her personality and interaction with her patients. Most of her patients had been visiting Hopping Eye Associates for decades. There was never any need to go to another optometrist. Dr. Hopping was personable, curious about the well-being of each of her patients. She was also a great optometrist, skillful and smart in her diagnoses. I watched many eye exams over the next four days, learning more about eye conditions and how to detect them with eye imaging, the academic course to becoming an optometrist, and the different kinds of cases you could deal with depending on your training. But most of all, I appreciated Dr. Hopping’s hospitality towards me during the week, bringing me to her house to eat lunch, telling me about her grandkids, taking me along to pick up some cupcakes, and inviting me back to shadow and work at Hopping Eye Associates any time.

At Rice, spring break is not the only time that you can go into the field like this. Right across the street in the Texas Medical Center, you can shadow and volunteer all throughout the year. In doing so, you not only gain insight into what goes on behind the scenes, but also get a feel for the clinic environment, learn about the kinds of people you’re caring for, and gain connections amongst many medical professionals – all things that you can’t access by simply going to class and burying your nose in textbooks. Rice fosters both sides of preparing you for the future, offering a top-tier education while making experience and opportunities to get into the field more than accessible.

Dr. Desiree Hopping and her partners in crime

Hopping Eye Associates had a huge office. Besides eight private exam rooms, they had a large vision therapy clinic and their own in-house optical (pictured). I had a lot of fun trying on glasses in my down time.

There Are No Boundaries Here

“I apologize, everyone, but we will need to delay the start of the show until 7:35 because we still have a line out the door. We didn’t expect so many people to come. Sorry, again, but thank you, everyone, for coming out tonight!”

I was surprised to not hear any groans from the crowd following the announcement. It was Saturday night, and the Rice African Student Association (RASA) was holding their annual dinner show, Africayé. Dinner started at 6:00, but when my friends and I got there at 6:10, the line was already far out the door and remained that way until the start of the show.

Last but not least – our classmates and friends on the dance team danced their hearts out. Photo Credit: Rice African Student Association

Africayé has always been a hugely popular event at Rice. The perfect combination of exotic but delicious food, foot-stomping music, and immersion into a lively culture so remote from most of our own is beyond worth the $5 ticket value, an opportunity Rice students are more than willing to drop everything for. Walking through the food line, my plate was loaded up with injera bread, a variety of meats, samossas, rice, and lentil stew. My heavenly gustatory experience was soon mingled with the heavy beat of traditional African music pumping through my body as my friend beckoned us to take our seats in front of the performance stage. We filled the time jamming and grooving to the drum sequences booming through the speakers and when the show started, my field of vision was flooded with colors, movement, and life. We screamed wildly for our friends who were performing, having never imagined that they could dance with so much purpose. The last number by the RASA dance team was incredible, bursting with an awesome sense of cultural pride and rendering everyone in the audience jealous that our bodies couldn’t move like that.

Our friend absolutely killed it as the RASA dance team captain, and we were happy to be there for her.

Cultural nights like Africayé are one of many at Rice. Ritmo! and Lunar New Year are equally enthralling, each in their own ways. I’m proud to attend a university where everyone celebrates everyone, and learning extends far beyond the boundaries of a classroom. The community that Rice fosters is one-of-a-kind, and I’ll be taking advantage of every opportunity to expand my limitless horizons. I’ve already added an entire album of traditional African music to my Spotify playlist.

How to Throw a Party like a Kardashian Rice Student

With the amount of time I spend looking at Snapchat news stories, 90% of which are about the Kar-Jenners, it’s surprising my brain hasn’t completely wasted away. The other day, however, I opened one story titled “How to Throw a Party like a Kardashian” and proceeded to swipe through the pictures and video clips of opulent decorations and luxurious table setups that ‘took 4 days to get right.’”

The highlight of the day was a visit from 10 golden retrievers, bound to lift anybody's spirits!

The highlight of the day was a visit from 10 golden retrievers, bound to lift anybody’s spirits!

Being neither rich nor famous nor patient enough to set up a table with real plates and silverware, Rice students have come up with equally sufficient and, in my opinion, better ways to have a good time. One such event is College Night, each college hosting its own once per semester. College night is actually an all-day event at your respective college – a themed day filled with music, games, and fun activities for just your college! As one of four college night coordinators for my college Sid Richardson last year, I can now say I can throw a Kardashian-standard party for about $10,000 less.

Sid Richardson’s fall college night was themed “Sid Turns UP!” (first step to throwing a killer event is a killer theme), and was based on the Pixar movie Up. My fellow coordinators and I worked endless hours to make this one of the best college nights Sid had ever seen. From fantastically-designed t-shirts to colorful jungle decorations and balloons tied everywhere to ordering way too much Cane’s chicken, we planned and executed a great event for all Sidizens. We posted “oldified” pictures of Sid’s freshmen on the wall, played the music from the iconic movie throughout the day, and just when it couldn’t get any better, we had 10 golden retrievers come and play with Sidizens.

The Sid Rich 2015-2016 college night coordinators in all our decked-out glory

The Sid Rich 2015-2016 college night coordinators in all our decked-out glory (I’m on the far right!)

College night is one of the many things you will get to look forward to as a part of the residential college system at Rice. Events like this bring everyone together to have fun, relax and mingle. They also offer many ways for you to get involved in your college’s activities. Being a college night coordinator was one of my favorite things about my freshmen year and helped me get to know a lot of my fellow Sidizens. As such an integral part to student life at Rice, your residential college will provide you boundless opportunities to have fun, kick back, and get involved. Hope you’re excited for your first college night!

College is the time to expect the unexpected

I came in last year with a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to major in and what I wanted to do. I had spent all four years of high school in a specialized biotechnology program, learning essential lab techniques and assays and the building blocks of manipulating biological organisms. Naturally, I drifted towards the biochemistry major at every university I applied to. It just seemed obvious to me – biochemistry and molecular biology were really all I knew, and therefore, I was most interested in this field. I had been set on majoring in biochemistry and going to medical school after undergrad since my junior year of high school, and since I was confident that I could maintain interest in it, the possibility of ever wanting to change my major didn’t even cross my mind.

I picked up an opportunity to shadow a gastroenterologist in my second semester of freshman year. During my first time in the office, I expected to learn a little bit about a medical specialty I knew little about, but instead I got a much greater insight into a different side of the medical field. After talking to the doctors in the office and taking notice of how things worked, I realized that treating patients and applying all of the organic chemistry, cell biology, and anatomy that we learned in classes is only half of what being a doctor is. The other half is about finances, healthcare laws, computers, etc. – things that most pre-med students don’t even give a second thought to when deciding to enter the medical field.

However, the most striking thing that I learned that day was something the doctors all told me: “If you want to make a difference in the medical field, don’t major in biochemistry.” You can probably imagine how panicked that statement made me. I had been set on biochemistry and going into the medical field, only to be told by medical professionals themselves to not major in biochemistry! However, by the end of the day, seeing how much economics and policy factored into the decisions made by physicians, I realized that they were right. If I wanted to be a physician who could implement effective changes for the bettering of the field and patient care, I needed to change my direction and refocus my goals. After a summer of reconsideration, I’ve decided to double major in Biological Sciences and Policy Studies with a focus in health management.

Now here is my biggest disclaimer: biochemistry is an absolutely fantastic field to go into. If you can really delve deep into studying this topic, you could reap infinite amounts of useful and applicable knowledge. And if you want to go into the medical field afterwards, there is absolutely nothing preventing you from doing so. You can do whatever you want! My main burden here, though, is that you can be plenty sure to expect the unexpected, especially at Rice where there are opportunities galore for us to explore deeper and experience afresh. This is what Rice is all about, so don’t be afraid to just go for it.