Taking a Language at Rice

Rice’s foreign language program is an excellent resource for both fluent speakers and first time language learners. However, like most incoming freshmen, I struggled with the idea of continuing my French studies in college: I loved foreign language classes in high school and wanted to continue, but at the same time I didn’t know if I was ready to allocate time from my busy schedule for French. Wonder what taking a language at Rice is like? Here is some information based on my experience with the foreign language program.

  1. The faculty are very supportive. My French professor, Dr. Couti, has helpful and easily accessible office hours. I often bring my rough drafts to her office hours and receive valuable criticism for grammar, spelling, and clarity; I can attribute most of my improvement in French to these helpful office hours! If you choose to take a language class and find yourself struggling, do not be afraid to ask for help from your prof: they love talking about language to their students!
  2. Language classes tend to be smaller discussion based classes. In fact, my French class has three other students in it! While small class sizes may seem more daunting due to there being more pressure on you to speak and contribute, I can assure you that your classmates will be supportive and understanding, even through the errors: after all, speaking is the number one way to improve fluency in a foreign language, and you’ll be surrounded by other students who empathize with your language journey! At Rice, we’re here for you, even when you miss conjugate a verb or forget an idiomatic expression.
  3. First year language classes are perhaps some of the greatest elective classes you could take! A few of my friends are taking first year Japanese and love to talk about what they’re learning at lunch. What sets Rice’s first year language classes apart is how the department designs them to be as encouraging as possible. Usually, there are around 20 people a class (yay to not learning language in a big lecture hall!) and there is a cultural club for almost all of the languages, where you can interact with fluent speakers who will be more than happy to help you with any troubles.

Rayzor Hall, home of the language program at Rice, as seen from the inner loop.

I would definitely recommend taking a language at Rice! Our amazing language department makes learning language in college accessible and so much less daunting. Continue learning the language you’ve been practicing for years, or start fresh with a new one – the choice is yours!

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!

Being a Non-STEM Student at Rice

When I was first deciding on a college to attend, I was initially discouraged about coming to Rice because I am a Humanities major. I thought that I would feel inadequate and less worthy surrounded by brilliant pre-med minds and the future engineers of the world. I was also fearful of the idea that as a Humanities major I would be unable to have the same opportunities as the rest of my classmates. As my first semester at Rice nearly comes to an end (thankfully), I”ve reflected on the fact that I love studying Humanities at Rice.
While some of my classmates are stressed out about Chem midterms and others are struggling with computer science classes,  I am fighting battles of my own. Readings of more than 300 pages per week and constantly writing essays is just as difficult as all the other academic challenges that my classmates are facing. Rather than fulfilling the scary perception that I had established in my mind of STEM majors, I’ve found the Rice community to be very encouraging and collaborative. After making the mistake of taking a calculus class for pure joy purposes (when it wasn’t necessary at all for my major), I’ve had the opportunity to bond with individuals from a variety of different majors, ranging from biochemistry to civil engineering to physics. Despite the fact that I am not the smartest person when it comes to optimization and integrals, they have never discredited my intelligence and have instead tried to find ways to help me understand hard concepts. I love the Rice community of caring and unconventional wisdom because people always receive my inquiries and doubts with open arms.
I am the first person to admit that academic life at Rice is challenging, stressful and never-ending at times. However, I’ve come to cherish the TA sessions and long hours spent at the library because of the amazing,helpful people I’ve met along the way.

Uncertainty is my Travel Buddy

Every time I go home to Saratoga, California for break, my family goes out to meet with extended family and family friends. The typical questions flood in: how is school? Great! I love Rice! How are your studies? They’re going well! What are you majoring in? Political Science and Psychology, and I’m minoring in Engineering Design.

Long pause. Oh. Interesting combination! What do you want to be?

It’s taken me awhile to find a response to this interaction that is both authentic and acceptable to the traditionalist Chinese aunties and uncles who grill me every holiday break. But the more time I spent talking to Rice people – peers and mentors alike – about my aspirations, the more I felt comfortable asserting my uncertainty.

When asked the same question now, I usually give an abridged version of the following rant — but since I’m presenting this in writing now I’ll indulge in the luxury of being a little flowery in my language.

Frankly, I’m not entirely sure what career path I want to pursue. I love working with people, and I love working with my hands. I love studying how people think and act, but I also love the intricate rules of math. I love the abstract and the concrete, the ambiguous and the clear-cut, the subjective and objective. But I know that I love them, and I know that I have fun studying them, and I know that at Rice I don’t have to be afraid of uncertainty for now. As long as I keep exploring and collecting new data points, pursuing the things I love to do, and asking for help along the way, the amazing people and resources at Rice will help me end up right where I’m supposed to be.

How to Navigate Your Mid-Major Crisis

One of the greatest benefits of being a Rice student is the flexibility in declaring majors. It’s not like other universities, where switching majors is a long, arduous process with lots of paperwork. Here, you just get a single sheet of paper signed, and BAM, you’re done.

For people who are undecided about their major, this is a serious blessing. When I came in as a freshman, I was completely lost. I’ve now decided to double major in Cognitive Science and Statistics, with a minor in Data Science if I can squeeze it in. (The minor’s not official yet, but is set to be released next year!) However, it took me a lot of trial and error to get this point. I considered almost every major under the sun and have had countless crises about what I want to do with my life. As a result, I’ve got a lot of experience when it comes to what I call the “mid-major life crisis” – aka do I really want to major in this? What am I going to do with my life? Will I graduate on time?

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Wonderful Owl Communities

Yesterday at lunch, I was sitting with my RA (residential assistance), and he asked me what I love most about Rice during my first two months of life here. I thought for a while and answered, the community. Rice provides incredible communities for students to find their places and prosper. For me, the most important communities I belong to are the residential college and the academic community.

 

Some people say that the dormitories at Rice are not dormitories, but colleges. I say they are not colleges, but home. Before I came to Rice, I heard tons of nice things about the residential college system. After I arrived and started the fantastic O-Week, I finally realized what a unique and splendid life experience that the residential college offers. The one thing that I love most about it is that I never feel alone here. Whenever I feel bored or wanted to hang out with friends, all I have to do is go downstairs to the pool table or the lounge, and I can always find friends to play and chill with. Although I have been here for only two months, I already feel attached to my college. The residential college gave me a smooth and happy transition to my university life.

 

The academic community here is also wonderful. Students and faculty at Rice treat academics with seriousness. During work hours, students work hard to achieve their goals. The weeks around midterms are quite stressful for me, but my stress was cleared out quickly by classmates, TAs (teaching assistance), and the professors. In each class I can find friends to work with and talk about the class. Because students are all randomly assigned to residential colleges, I can always find people in my college that are in the same classes. Besides the study groups that I can find right next to me, the assistance provided by the faculty is essential as well. The TAs and professors for each class are ready to answer all the specific questions you have about the class. What if I have concerns about my majors and future academic plans? The academic advisors are there to talk to and they will help you plan your semester and your future.