Going Abroad, and the You that Comes Home

This summer, while my friends worked internships and went on family vacations, I decided to spend more time doing one my favorite things: more school! I spent 6 weeks studying German in Berlin, on a program called Rice-in-Germany, which is one of many Rice-in-Country programs that send Rice students to the country of their target language for the sake of learning the language in the best possible way. Not only did I spend a lot of time in German classes, but I also lived with a host family, engaged in community service trips, explored Berlin, and, oh yeah, signed a pledge that I would only speak, read, write, and listen to German for 6 weeks. [protip: German Spotify is kind of limited, but German Harry Potter is every bit as magical.] The trip for me meant that I could go straight to third-year German in the fall, which means I’m that much closer to analyzing literature and looking at historical events in German. It also meant stepping into the location of some of the most thought-provoking events of the 20th century, turning my back on my native language and customs for six weeks, and humbling myself in a way that only study abroad can do. Seriously – when you need to activate your phone’s new SIM-card and the instructions are in a language you only sort of understand, that’s when you really learn to ask for help.

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The Brandenburg Gate, every bit as hopeful and grand as it has been for so many people before me.

The first conversation I had in German with a German person in Germany happened when I stepped off an 8-hour flight from Atlanta to Frankfurt, and a man in a Lufthansa uniform was waiting with a sign advertising the gate numbers for transfer flights.

Me: Uh, hallo. Erika Schumacher? 11:45, Berlin?

Lufthansa Man: Ok, Erika Schumacher – 11:45, Berlin, super.

Then he told me my gate number, and I went on my way, but I was left with a lingering existential question: have I been saying my name wrong all my life?

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Debunking Owl Days Myths

It’s mid-April, Rice, so brace yourselves: the prospies are coming. Owl Days is this week, Admit Days are today and next Monday – it’s the time of year when Rice welcomes on campus the hundreds of admitted prospective students – fondly called “prospies” – and helps them fall in love with Rice the same way we have.

I remember walking on campus for Owl Days with terror in my heart, mostly fueled by my anxiety about most social situations. Because I know many high school seniors feel the same way, I want to debunk a few of the myths your anxiety will try to tell you about Owl Days.

MYTH NUMBER 1: If you don’t meet your best friends over Owl Days, you will remain friendless and alone forever.

Owl Days is really great for meeting people. You’re likely to find a few people staying in the same suite/hall/residential college to talk to, but don’t worry if you don’t click and become instant best friends. I met great people that I still see around campus, but don’t feel totally alone if you don’t click at once with the people around you.

REALITY: Owl Days is great for getting to know your future classmates, but you’ll make friends in your classes and at your college as well!

More Reality: my only picture from Owl Days 2015 happens to be an appreciation of this artistic and tasty owl.

There will also be receptions and mingling opportunities galore, where you can pick up some tasty goodies like this beautiful cookie from Owl Days 2015.

MYTH NUMBER 2: The residential college you stay in is the absolute best college, and you must end up there.

Chances are, your host will be absolutely brimming with college pride and will explain to you that their college is the best college at Rice. It will be pretty easy to get attached, but don’t stay up late at night worrying about whether or not you’ll be placed in the “best” residential college. Every college is widely loved by its members. You’re likely to love whatever college you end up a member of, regardless of whether or not you stayed there over Owl Days.

REALITY: Residential college pride and inner-college friendly competition is strong, but most people absolutely love the college they are in. There is no “best” or “worst” college!

MYTH NUMBER 3: “Rice students are super cool and super busy and super superior to prospies and if you speak out of turn you’ll be shamed ahhhhhhhh”

Okay, so Rice students are pretty cool. Hosts come in every shape and size, from every residential college, and we all have different workloads. (Please forgive us if we have to study – our final tests and projects are happening now or are right around the corner!) Even if your host seems busy or way too cool to listen to your questions, ask questions anyway. People sign up to be hosts because they want to hang out with prospies. You’ll probably find people that aren’t hosts that want to get to know you, too! If you feel terrified and out of place like I did when I first stepped on campus, know that Rice kids are at most a few years older than you, they remember exactly what it was like to be in your shoes, and they’re volunteering their time because they want to get to know you!

REALITY: All we want to do is hang out with the cool prospies. Make yourselves at home!

A lot has happened in a year. I’m no longer the timid high school senior terrified of leaving home and making new friends. So if that’s you, it’s okay; we remember what that was like, and we can’t wait to meet you!

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What the picture says: WELCOME!

~Erika

Appreciation Post: Study Spots at Rice

In celebration of finishing the final midterms before spring break, I wanted to use this post to pay a small tribute to some of the most wonderful and essential resources Rice has to offer: the study spots. Rice is decked out from one end to another in benches and tables, in little study booths tucked out of the way, and wide, open arrangements of tables. So, as a tribute to the long week of studying we here at Rice have just gotten through, here are some of my favorite study spots:

Fondren Library (aka Fondy)

Rice’s big, loveable library, Fondren, is my place to go when I have an hour here or there and want to get some quick work done, or if I need a spot for quiet and focused work.

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Pictured: Erika with her favorite two fixtures of indoor study spaces, windows and corners.

First, there are study booths on most of the floors that are tucked in alongside the stacks. I like studying here when I really need to be separated and focused. There are individual study booths lining the walkways as well as the types of booths you see pictured here, which are near windows overlooking the back of the library and the quad beyond. There are also amazing study rooms on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors that can be reserved. Amazing if you want to be in a secluded area, but still be able to collaborate with one or two other people.

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What an ideal study booth looks like.

Another cool spot is the first floor, which has a much more open layout and plenty of options for your quick studying option. I like to study on the first floor if I’m trying to just find a desk to do some little tasks on. And the last of the places I’ll mention is the library’s sixth floor, aka Fondy 6th, the silent floor. As an English/Political Science double major who writes often and has a bad habit of typing loudly, I’ve never been up there. But some people love it for really focused, quiet work.

Residential Colleges (aka your home)

Every one of the residential colleges is set up with different places anyone can go and study. Because I’m a resident of Duncan College, I’m specifically talking about Duncan spots, but every residential college has similar spaces.

First, your college’s commons. This is the place to be if you want to collaborate with your friends on a math or physics problem set, or if you’re looking to do some casual paper-editing while talking to people or waiting for the servery to open. Except for maybe around 6am, you’ll always be able to find people in a college’s commons.

Second, college quads. Since Houston weather is great most days, you’ll want to go outside at least at some point. Duncan quad, pictured below, has a great array of picnic tables in sun and shade. Water Bonus: Duncan has the DuncTank, where you can do your readings for your history or chemistry class while listening to the soothing sound of running water.

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Duncan Quad. Outdoor residential college spaces are fantastic!

Every residential college also has its own spots. Some have awesome open spaces on each floor, white boards and couches that are great for hanging out, convenient, and open for multiple groups to study in. Others have individual study rooms. Other residential colleges (like Duncan), have a Sundeck or other rooftop spaces. There are days when it feels really great to study while overlooking the Downtown or Med Center skyline, and I can do that here!

Water Bonus: Brockman Water Tank

Lastly, I want to shed some light on one of my favorite outdoor study spots: next to the water tank in front of Hamman Hall and behind Brockman Hall. Out of the way, this is also an amazing place I like to spend time when I want to be outside. It’s hidden between buildings, so not a lot of people are walking back and forth, and even better – it’s in the shade at all times. You can be outside while not worrying about the glare on your computer screen! What more could you want? Recommended in particular for all my social sciences and (non-theatre) humanities friends who are less likely to have class over here and ever find such an awesome spot.

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Brockman water tank also makes for a great spot for your casual study selfies.

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A view of Erika’s favorite nook on campus: the tables between Brockman and Hamman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most universities are going to have their share of fun spaces you can visit when you need a place to get some work done, but at Rice I really feel like these spaces are here for me. On Rice’s big and beautiful campus, there are so many nooks, that I probably won’t ever find them all. But that’s also part of the fun of it: you can really make the most of the spaces here and make some of them your own. I recommend finding your escape, finding your focus zone, and finding the place that makes your time at Rice feel a little bit more like home. Happy studying, or more importantly – happy exploring!