As an out-of-state student, if you had told me I’d be spending my first summer after freshman year still in Houston I would’ve thought you were crazy. Especially after having gone through O-Week and knowing how brutal Houston summers are. But after my friends and I all landed internships in the area, the decision to stay was an easy one.
First things first: Houston’s reputation for heat is one it has rightfully earned. Real feel was easily over 100 degrees each day, and the humidity made it feel as though you had to wade through the air. This isn’t quite as bad as it sounds, though, since you spend most of your time inside anyway (where the AC is wonderfully cold).
What I found most rewarding about spending the summer in Houston, and I think this holds true for spending the summer away from home in any location, is that you have so much free time to explore. Sure, you’re busy with that 9-5 grind during the day, but you have virtually no obligations at night and on the weekends. We tried so many cool restaurants (I’m talking about you, Kura Revolving Sushi and Dak & Bop), took a weekend trip to Austin, wandered through the Galleria and Hermann Park at leisure. The point is, you have the opportunity to dive deep into an entirely new city and culture, and it’s something I’d recommend every student try at least once during their four years at Rice.
I hesitated putting the word budget in the title of this post, because let’s face it, Houston isn’t necessarily an inexpensive place to live.
A nice, oversized latte I got at Common Bond, complete with the Snapchat geotag.
But if you wanted to know the most economical way to get around the city (and explore all of the amazing food options), I couldn’t recommend picking up your metro card from the Allen Center highly enough. Included with your tuition at Rice, each student is entitled to a metro card with a $50 balance. If you run out? No problem! Just go pick up another one, no extra cost.
Since it’s our freshman year, my roommate and I thought the best way to explore the city would be to go out for one meal every week. This wasn’t cheap. Even though we kept receiving 50% off our Lyft rides, our weekly excursions were quickly adding up. $3 for the Lyft there, $13 for brunch, $3 for the Lyft back. Realizing we could get free metro cards was a game changer – and it helped us justify our brunch addiction!
A screenshot of the Transit App, providing directions to Ono Poke (so good!)
A must-have app for any public transport user is “Transit.” It’s free to download, and all you have to do is share your location and the app gives you step-by-step directions on how to get to where you’re going. When the bus/metro is coming, what line to take, which stop to get off on, how far you’ll need to walk. It makes the whole process much less daunting, and it’s a cool way to really get a feel for the city of Houston.
As for which brunch spots I recommend? You can’t go wrong with Common Bond, a Montrose staple. Snooze is also quite good. Recently we tried a cute place called Ritual in the Heights, which was amazing. We haven’t been disappointed yet. Our mission for this weekend is to find some quality bagels and lox, and with our metro cards in hand, we should be good to go.
Turning my back on my sister and walking away from her tear-stained face after move-in was easily the hardest thing I have had to do so far at Rice. Aside from the occasional overnight field trip during high school or sporadic vacation with different groups of friends, my sister and I had never been apart before college. And that scared me.
When applying to schools, we knew from the start that it wasn’t likely that we would end up at the same place. We chose not to dwell on this fact, though, nor let it affect our decisions, and by the spring of our senior year in high school I had chosen to come to Rice, and she had chosen to go to Tulane. We were excited for each other, and we were happy that we both ended up in the south (hailing from D.C., there was a good chance one of us would have ended up in a northeastern school somewhere).
I was lucky enough to get to visit Tulane during Rice’s midterm recess.
We spent the entire summer together, relishing in the end of this chapter of our lives. But the gravity of finally being on my own for the first time didn’t hit me until I sat back down in the commons of my college, in a room full of strangers.
The great thing about Rice, though, is that I knew that I would be happy here before I even set foot on campus as a new student. The O-Week coordinators had been so transparent and welcoming through their emails and messages in group chats, and the roommate they matched me with was absolutely incredible (snapchatting over the summer made us both realize how scarily accurate the roommate matching process is here).
And I was fine. Better than fine, actually – I felt amazing. By the end of O-Week I had a strong group of friends, an extensive support system, and a clear vision of what to expect during my time here at Rice. I haven’t felt lonely, which was a lingering concern of mine, and (more excitingly for me) I haven’t been called the wrong name once.