Houston is a magical place. Back in my home city, I would have been bathing myself in the coziness of spring for a while by now, yet being a Rice student, I have no choice but to check the weather forecast every twelve hours so that I don’t surprise myself with a 30-degree temperature drop or an accidental thunderstorm when I step out of my room. This habit just paid me off today: had I not checked the weather I would have gone out on tomorrow morning only to discover that the temperature had dropped from 72 to 40. A friend of mine was the one who taught me this lesson: she was wearing shorts and a T-shift on a fine, early November day but had to post on FaceBook to borrow a down jacket at night because the temperature suddenly dropped below 40 over just a few hours. A Texas native who nonetheless is not a Houston native, she apparently didn’t expect the temperature to go this low in the fall semester.
Not only does Houston have such a capricious climate, but it also, for the most part, has only two seasons—summer and winter. If you really think that you are going to experience spring or autumn here, I must sincerely regret your loss. As I struggle through my classes every semester, I would often find myself surrounded by the characteristic Houston heat and humidity on one day and freezing to an ice cube on the other. If you would like to have a taste of spring or fall in Houston, your best bet would be to put on all your winter clothes on a cold day so that what you feel might roughly approximate what you feel during those seasons in a city that has a more benign climate.
Therefore, to get the best out of Houston’s erratic climate, you should probably bring clothes for all four seasons: only so can you use clever combinations to experience whatever you want when there are only two alternating seasons. Also bring with you protective equipment such as raincoats and rainboots: after living here for a year, you would not be surprised when Houston transforms from a desert into a swamp overnight. Lastly, although I’ve said a lot of scary things about the weather in Houston, it does occasionally afford nice days that are good for field trips and hangouts, so definitely take advantage of them when such opportunities arise!
It is inevitable that transitioning into college will be difficult for at least some of the incoming freshman class. While this difficulty can be caused by a variety of factors, such as homesickness, acclimatizing to a new environment, and social networking, I think that having to adapt oneself to the fast-paced, rigorous curricula offered at Rice and the work rhythm of a college student constitutes one of the bigger challenges for many. To exemplify this, not even midway through my first semester my friends and I had already agreed that high school was such a joke and were laughing at our past selves for whining about school at all.
Almost always, new Rice students will come in with different levels of preparation although they are all highly qualified, and some will find themselves living in a dreamlike state during the first semester. This is not uncommon at all, so there is nothing to be ashamed of if you feel that way. However, I believe that the more quickly new students adjust themselves to college-level rigor, the earlier they can begin to reap the benefits of a college education. So here are some tips for you to start getting comfortable with the life of a college student once you become one:
- Be sure to challenge your limits, but don’t stretch them too far. It is always good to get ahead and push the prerequisites out of the way, but not everybody is built to handle 6 (or even 7) time-intensive classes right off the bat. Be ambitious and feel free to try things out: take a lot of courses and find out what you like! But whenever it gets too overwhelming, don’t feel pressured to back down. You have time to make up for it. Yes, you actually do. Also, GPA is important (or perhaps not, you decide), and you probably would want to optimize your schedule for the best outcome.
- I was quite a slacker last year and frequently put off stuff until the last minute—don’t do that. When you have time, get your homework done. Do your assigned reading. Don’t be me and start prepping for every exam the night (or two nights, sometimes) before. I was all right in the end, but I’m not sure if my study habits were healthy at all. You may not believe this, but getting things several days ahead of time actually makes you feel good, confident, free, and in control. You will find the ability to frontload efficiently to be a crucial skill as you begin to take more major courses.
- Manage your time wisely. Many of you might think this is easy but it usually isn’t that simple. We humans are born to be imperfect and readily access excuses for wasting time. Make yourself a plan, an agenda—whatever it is—and adhere to it. This not only helps you get things done, but it also provides a sense of being organized and on track, which is integral to your work rhythm.
- Release your excess stress. A moderate dosage of stress keeps you functional and motivated, but too much of it can be troublesome for your physical and mental soundness. Get involved in extracurricular activities and make more friends! Find out about entertainment events on campus! Go grab some bites in H-Town! Whatever you do, be sure to maintain a good balance between working and having fun so that you can stay operational while being happy.
It is important that you establish your own work rhythms quickly upon entering college. Being comfortable is always better than getting caught up in confusion and disorientation. I’m sure that most of you already know these things, but I thought that having these tips out here could remind you of their importance and help with getting you on the road. Welcome to college, and good luck!