The Thing About Rice’s Courses

Walking out of Herzstein Hall Amphitheater with a cinnamon donut on my hand, I breathed in the cold air and let out a long sigh–the COMP midterm’s finally over.

COMP 182 is the most daunting computer science major requirement course for Rice freshmen as it has been regarded as one of the most time-consuming and difficult CS core course. Over the past years, creative students had made interesting comments about it: “It’s a good thing this course is offered in the Spring only. If it were offered in the Fall, some freshmen students might still be under 18, and then this course would be considered child abuse. (A COMP 182 student, Spring 2015).” With that being said, I had just had my COMP 182 midterm exam yesterday. Sitting in front of my desk last night, I couldn’t help letting my mind flashback to see how far I’d gone through this notoriously difficult class: I had been staying up late debugging my homework for three days without having a single clue what I did wrong, I had gone through multiple TA sessions in a week but still couldn’t think of the correct proof (yes COMP 182 covers not only programming, but also discrete mathematics), and I had to sacrifice all my leisure time studying at Fondren library for the midterm. It seems a little bit discouraging, isn’t it?

However, now that I had gone through the test, I realized how much I’d learned from this class. Not just Python or coding in general, but also how to write a rigorous mathematical proof and reasoning the correctness of the algorithms. Moreover, the coding projects that we did every two weeks are related to solving real problems in the world, like computing an epidemic outbreak in the hospital. They gave a great insight as to what computer scientists do and how they approach problems that seem unrelated to computer science but can be solved using computational thinking skills. It made me realize that computer science is not only about coding. More importantly, it is about the way we approach to problem solving–decomposing a major problem and coming up with solutions to sub-problems.

In fact, this is the beauty of most Rice classes. They are not designed to make you pass them easily. Instead, they are there to challenge you, to question you, to make you learn, and eventually to better you. Of course there can be some discouraging moment when you think you can’t keep up, but there are always people who are willing to help you: besides your friends and classmates, there are TAs (32 TAs in COMP 182) and professors who are there to answer your questions. In other words, the instructors don’t just assign extremely difficult questions and let you struggle alone. On the contrary, they want to help you learn the difficult concepts that will benefit you in the future.

With that being said, although I’m struggling at COMP 182, I’ll still keep on learning. It’s the spirit of Rice academics and the main reason why I love Rice.

A recipe for your life at Rice

Function Name: August

Input: Nervousness, homesickness, uncertainty

Output: Surprise, warmth, and culture of care

Algorithm:

  1. Participate in I-PREP (International-Preparation and Regulatory Education Program) and O-Week to experience the craziest and funniest week of your life, receive postcards and personal letters written wholeheartedly by o-week advisors on move-in day and a group of o-week brothers and sisters whom you dine with every week.
  2. Meet with tons of interesting people during lunch and dinner without feeling awkward (since everyone is extremely nice and welcoming).

 

Function Name: September

Input: Mid-Autumn Festival and Mid-Terms

Output: Fulfillment and Loss

Algorithm:

  1. Participate in the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival celebration that is open to the Rice community, enjoy Roast Duck and a rich Chinese cuisine, watch special performances in the RMC grand hall, make lanterns and moon cakes.
  2. Have three mid-terms in three consecutive weeks and being completely crushed by your COMP140 (an introductory computer science course) mid-term.

 

Function Name: October

Input: Adventure in Houston

Output: Surprise, satisfaction, better knowledge on Houston

Algorithm:

  1. Explore Chinese and South Asian restaurants in Rice Village and China Town (which is 15-20min away from Rice).
  2. Enjoy delicious Velvet tacos with your o-week advisor in Montrose and sing musicals loudly together in his car.
  3. Eat rich California bowl and ramen in Japanese restaurant Jinya Ramen with friends (you can easily get there by free metro).
  4. Go on a trip to NASA’s Space Center with OISS (Office of International Students and Scholars) to learn about space and rockets.
  5. Ice-skating, shopping, and eating fantastic cheesecake and California Omelet in Galleria (a huge shopping center in Houston).
  6. Walk along the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Natural Science, and have a FWIS (First-Year Writing Intensive Seminar) class at the Sicardi Gallery where you get to see artworks from the artists you study in class.
  7. Wander inside Hermann Park and watch the swans on the lake or enjoy a performance celebrating Argentinean culture in the Miller Outdoor Theater in Hermann Park.

 

Function Name: November

Input: Celebration and “Cold” Weather

Output: Contentment, international cuisine, beautiful dorm decorations, increase resistance to cold weather

Algorithm:

  1. Learn to make Mexican paper flowers and paper-cutting hosted by the CLIC (center for language and intercultural communication) and watch a music performance in the Discovery Green Park in Downtown on Day of the Dead (and it happens to be your birthday, whoohoo!).
  2. Watch your all-time favorite Phantom of the Opera show in the Hobby Theater.
  3. Cook authentic Chinese food in your college kitchen!
  4. Have a delicious Thanksgiving lunch with OISS and being interviewed by the cameraman.
  5. Feeling frustrated for the extremely cold weather (yes for someone from southern part of China 2℃ is SUPER cold!).
  6. Enjoy all your classes and become good friends with your COMP140 group mates.

 

Remark: These are the four meaningful months I spent at Rice, and as you can see, I really enjoy my time here. Of course there were losses and frustrations, but Rice’s culture of care helped me get through the tough time and push myself further: I came in as a novice who has absolutely zero knowledge in computer programming, and now I can even write a blog in programming recipe format! I really appreciate what Rice had helped me accomplish and am excited to continue the rest of my journey at Rice!