Spring Break at Rice

Spring has finally arrived to the city of Houston. After a rather cold and dreary winter, at least by Texas standards, the sun has finally decided to show its brilliant face. Through the stress of midterms and problem sets, we as a school have collectively survived. This has created bonds between each and every single one of us that are extremely difficult to break. And yes, I know what you’re thinking and the answer is no, not the covalent kinds. Within the eyes of each student, a subtle emotion of excitement exists. The academic year is coming to an end, summer is steadily approaching, and Beer Bike is only weeks away. All is good and all is right at Rice. As these positive thoughts fill our minds, another one begins to form. One that comes at a slow yet sure realization: “What am I going to do for Spring Break?”. The short answer is: there is tons to do both inside and outside of Houston during our break! Of course, I must acknowledge and respect the desire to stay indoors and simply relax for break. Afterall, allergy season is at full force. However, going out and exploring Houston and surrounding areas is a fun activity to do with the amazing individuals you meet at Rice. Here are my top three of the many things you can do during Spring Break:

Houston Rodeo

The Houston Rodeo is both a major fair of the city and the largest livestock exhibition of the world. It runs from the 25th of February to the 17th of March. Between then, be ready to experience near daily artist performances at the NRG stadium located about a 15 minute train-ride or 10 minute car-ride away from Rice. The NRG stadium sits around 70,000  people and can often host major performers like Cardi B and George Strait. This year, Rice’s Passport to Houston program offered free tickets for the Panic! At the Disco concert to selected Rice students.

Houston Rodeo

Visiting Hermann Park

Located a block from Rice, Hermann Park is a perfect place to escape the bustling city life of Houston. If you want to see even more trees and vegetation, this place is perfect for you. Dotted with sculptures and other art, Hermann Park is a 445 acre stretch of well gardened land surrounded by museums, golf courses, and a zoo. Inside the park, you will be able to find the Japanese Tea Gardens of Houston, the Miller Outdoor Theatre perfect for weekend performances, and the McGovern Centennial Gardens.

McGovern Centennial Gardens

Texas Road-trip with Friends

If you have the time, energy, and an amazing group of friends (which I’m sure you’ll make when in Rice), leaving Houston and traveling to cities like San Antonio and Dallas is a perfect week-long getaway that allows students to experience more of the proudly proclaimed “yee-haw” state. Bus companies like Greyhound and Megabus are able to offer cheap alternatives to cars for traveling to these places.

Tower of the Americas in San Antonio, Texas


Social Science Owl: Claire Noel

Most people think of Rice as a STEM focused school with most students majoring in natural science or engineering. I used to think the same thing and came into this university wanting to pursue a degree in natural science. However, I quickly found out that the people around me were not all studying science and a large amount of my friends were studying social sciences and humanities at Rice. Two of my O-week advisors, multiple people on my floor and in the campus band, and some of my closest friends are all pursuing a major in the social sciences. One of my friends, Claire, is a double major in political science and social policy analysis. Continue reading

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.

Don’t Be Fooled by a False First Glance of Rice

A few weekends ago, our campus was visited by enthusiastic students from across the country in search of experiencing life at Rice. These prospective students were part of Rice’s fly-in program Vision, which draws a diverse range of people from this year’s pool of applicants. As I saw the excited, nervous, and awed faces of these prospies, I was forced to reminisce on my own experience at Vision last year.
I still cannot believe that it has been an entire year since I was in the same position as those high school students. My first year at Rice is passing by at a thousand miles per second, and soon I will be forced to leave my beloved residential college for the summer. Thinking back on my own experience at Vision, I came to the realization that it provided me with an incomplete perspective of student life at Rice. In all honesty, I disliked my first visit to Rice because it portrayed an academically-competitive, boring and challenging environment. I left with a bad impression , erroneously believing that this college was full of “awkward nerds”. Had it not been for the wonderful advice that I received from enrolled Rice students, I would have never committed to this school.
If you find yourself feeling out of place at Rice during your first visit, don’t fear. There is no way to capture a realistic image of student life at Rice in just a few days. You need to live through the sense of excitement during Matriculation, the bonding times during Orientation Week, and the college-pride of being in your residential college to truly experience a snippet of what being a Rice Owl is really like. From taking a selfie with President Leebron to attending the numerous cultural shows held by student organizations, life at Rice is unexpected, thrilling and worthy. There will be Friday nights when you will be stuck studying at the library or Sunday mornings where you will be overwhelmed by all the work that you procrastinated over the weekend, but that’s just part of the sacrifices that a college education requires. College life is difficult and challenging and never ending at times, but there’s a big Rice family waiting to help you out.

Selfie with President Leebron


Question yourself

High school and college are rather transformative times in your life. Whether it’s college applications or deciding your major, people are constantly asking you things like “Who are you?”, “What do you want to do?”, and “Why do you want to do it?”. While some people might already have the next decade of their life planned out to the hour, others might lack the faintest idea of what they’ll have for dinner. No matter which side of the spectrum you fall, it’s always a good idea to explore the resources you have, because you never know how they might change your mind.

Continue reading

The Highs and Lows of Life at Rice

Sometimes it’s just one of those weeks. It seems like everything that can go wrong does. Life at Rice is filled with fulfilling relationships, unique opportunities, and a beautiful campus, but also stress and academic commitments. When work piles up and exams are coming up, stress can build up and you can begin to feel overwhelmed.

I’ve experienced stress associated with academics across my life at different schools, and Rice is no exception. However, at Rice, there’s an incredibly supportive community that makes it better even when everything seems to be falling apart. Besides numerous academic resources like academic fellows at each residential college, review sessions, and TA sessions, it is incredibly easy to find other students to form a study group with. This collaborative environment works to alleviate stress and frustration that can build up when you’re trying to do a million things at once by yourself.

Further than just academic stress though, the Rice community has allowed me to meet individuals that work me through any of the numerous unexpected crises that have come up this year. Life at Rice is filled with highs and lows, but the friends I’ve made and the people I have met always find a way to make a rough time not seem so bad.

Rice is competitive, but collaboratively competitive, meaning you can always find someone who is more than willing to help you in academics or in life. I have never felt pitted against my classmates or felt an ‘every man for himself’ attitude since I’ve come to Rice. When you enter college, you never know what kind of situations may come up, and you may face things you never expected, encountered, or planned for. But at Rice, there’s always someone who’s gone through what you’re going through and is willing to be there for you.