Adapting your work rhythm to college

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!

Learning a Foreign Language at Rice

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One of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had at Rice is learning a new language. I already speak English and Spanish, but I’ve wanted to learn French for a long time. My high school was pretty small, so the French classes filled up quickly and I was unable to take them. Fortunately, Rice has programs for a lot of different languages. I thought it would be interesting to take an introductory French course to see how it goes, and I was not expecting to like it as much as I did. I’m currently in my second semester learning the language, and I’ve already learned so much. In just a few months, I was able to learn enough to have significant conversations with other people. Apart from teaching vocabulary and grammar, my language professors also teach the culture surrounding the language. For example, I’ve learned the differences in how conversations flow in English versus in French. My language courses are my favorite classes at this school.

This is the group of students that participated in Rice in France, Summer 2017

Rice also has a lot of great study abroad opportunities, and one of the programs, Rice in Country, is specifically for students new to the languages. It is a 6-week study abroad program in the summer where students go to a country in order to immerse themselves in the language and the culture. I applied and got accepted to the Rice in France program, where I will be travelling to the south of France, staying with a French-speaking host family, taking more French classes. I’m so excited to apply what I’ve learned in the classroom to the real world. I highly suggest taking advantage of the language learning opportunities that Rice provides!

Classes Outside Your Major: Why Knit?

If you are interested in attending Rice (and I really hope you are!), your initial interest in this university may have come from the location, the community, the sports, the academics, or a combination of all of the above! I know that when I was making my decision on where I wanted to apply, Rice was at the very top of the list for all of those reasons. I knew that Rice was a stellar school in terms of academics, and since I’ve come here, I continue to be impressed with the faculty, the majors offered, and the course work. My experience as a Social Science major has been that my professors almost always make a concerted effort to learn their students’ names. There is also the opportunity to get to know your professor well through office hours and research opportunities. In a previous post I talked about these opportunities, and how Rice’s willingness and indeed their outright support of undergraduates serving in these positions really says something about how they view their students.

Take an art class at Rice!

With all of these opportunities and classes, I dived in and got involved in many things before figuring out what I really loved. I took so many classes in Cognitive Sciences that I ended up majoring in Linguistics and Psychology as well. After a whirlwind three years, my senior year arrived, and while the usual suspects (Memory, Social Neuroscience, etc.) were tempting, I decided to take a look at classes that I’d never thought about before. This led me to taking an amazing array of classes that I never would have discovered had I not stepped out of my comfort zone. I ended up taking classes like knitting, Russian, Japanese, and Makeup for the Stage! It is never too late to treat yourself, and Rice gives you the opportunity to do that. The knitting class I took was taught by a fellow Rice student, and I know some of my friends have taken classes like Disney narrative, chess, board game strategy, and stand-up comedy also taught by their peers. You will never know where these opportunities will lead you until you try them!

The hat I knit for my final in knitting class!

I learned that I love knitting and am currently knitting a scarf for my grandma and a sweater. I learned that I have a real knack for languages and will be going to study in Japan this coming summer (as a senior!). I also learned that makeup is an art and that theatrical makeup is not just beautiful – it also tells a story. All of this to say that Rice offers so much more than outstanding academics; it also gives you a chance to discover more about yourself and your talents. After almost four years at Rice, I thought that there was nothing else to learn, but the journey never ends, and I am so proud to be taking this journey while at Rice.

 

Research as an English Major: Beyond Reading Lists and Academic Essays

When I first got to Rice, I had no idea that I would conduct research in the Department of English. I certainly did not know about the abundant opportunities to pursue independent projects, nor did I know that I could work on an Honors Thesis consisting primarily of my own original, creative work.

As a senior, I have come a long way. I arrived at Rice with aspirations to conduct psychological research (which I still did and continue to do today in Dr. Mikki Hebl’s Industrial/Organizational Psychology Lab) – and psychological research only. I then took a FWIS (Freshman Writing Seminar) revolving around American poetry, and felt fulfilled and at my happiest while reading and writing poems. It didn’t take long for me to take a couple more poetry courses and declare my English major – excited yet unsure about what exactly my future as an English major held. All I knew was that I loved to read and I loved to write, and I still loved to conduct research.

As a Minter Summer Scholar, I spent several hours roaming bookstores in Boston; the Harvard Book Store quickly became my favorite, thanks to its international poetry section.

After completing the majority of the English major’s requirements, I considered taking an independent study where I could create my own coursework and study content that was not otherwise taught in the English department. Seeking mentorship, I reached out to my ENGL 300 professor, whose knowledge of foreign authors, philosophers, and films always sparked long conversations during her office hours. She was and continues to be incredibly supportive of my efforts to incorporate foreign poetry and translation into my academic experience. While taking independent studies with her during my junior year, I found myself exposed to foreign authors and poets. The most exciting part for me was the discovery of writers from my homeland; I was suddenly reading novels by Turkish authors and beginning to produce my own poems in Turkish. As a native Turkish speaker who grew up relatively unexposed to Turkish poetry, this was a huge step in not only my academic but also my personal growth. Poetry – reading it, writing it, and translating it – became my creative outlet as well as my medium for thinking through my homeland’s turbulent sociopolitical climate. With the support of my professor-turned-research-advisor, I experimented with a number of poetic forms, turned scattered ideas into portfolios of poetry, and spent 2 weeks this past summer in Boston researching foreign poetry and reading criticism on translation – all thanks to the Minter Summer Scholarship in the Department of English.

The beautiful Boston Public Library, where I spent most of my days researching translation and poetry.

Some find it easy to get caught up with the idea that being an English major only involves writing essays and reading books. However, there are so many opportunities to take all of that a step further, to conduct research in the English department (and beyond as well – in the Humanities Research Center, for instance), and to pursue research topics more independently with the guidance and support of a mentor. My time in the English department has certainly benefited from all the work I’ve done in my independent studies (even though it never really felt like “work,” as I was reading and writing about material that either I chose or my professor recommended to me). Moreover, I feel fortunate to both pursue research and produce creative works. Now, I am excited to wrap up my time at Rice by applying everything I have learned in my independent studies and my summer research to my Honors Thesis: a book of original poetry.

My Favorite Nooks at Rice University

My first few months at Rice have probably been the most exhilarating months of my life. I have learned innumerable things, met interesting new people, and had a myriad of new experiences. But at the same time, these months have also been the most turbulent. I’ve struggled with homesickness and a good share of difficult exams, and sometimes I feel like my life is spiraling out of control. Although I know that this is natural of any big transition, I find that sometimes I need a place to be alone with my thoughts and destress at a vibrant and lively place like Rice. So here are my three favorite spots to work, think, and destress!

  • Every Friday I have a one hour break between my Chemistry and my Math classes. I fight the temptation to go to my room and take a nap and instead head to my favorite spot on campus. It’s a bench outside Fondren Library, overlooking the academic quad. This spot is not exactly secluded and quiet, but I don’t mind the bustling activity of the steady stream of people walking past Fondren and around the academic quad. I get to enjoy the warm morning sun and the (mostly) lovely Houston weather. The hour that I spend here is probably the most relaxing and productive time I get all week, and I like to spend it reading a book or reviewing some math homework.
  • I love libraries, and Fondren Library is no exception. I spend most of my time studying on the first floor, the sixth floor, or in the basement. However, when I need some inspiration for a paper, want to watch a few episodes of a show that I have been binging, or just spend some time thinking by myself, I head to the Quiet Study Space in the Brown Fine Arts Library. Hidden amongst stacks of books about Music, Art, and Architecture, this study space gives me the quiet alone time that I sometimes crave. When I want a break, I just browse the shelves for some interesting books! 
  • Sometimes, when I need to blow off some steam (and I’m too lazy to go to the gym), I go for a late-night stroll around campus under the night sky. I always make sure I stop at James Turrell’s ‘Twilight Epiphany’ Skyspace. This art installation looks beautiful during the light shows at sunrise and sunset, and at night, it is quiet and peaceful. For me, sitting on a bench in Skyspace amidst the cool night breeze serves as an instant de-stressor. It is the best place on campus to just sit, relax, and be alone for a while.

Being Pre-Law at Rice

I have had a truly enriching experience as a pre-law student, and fully believe that in addition to its many opportunities in STEM fields, Rice devotes an incredible amount of time and resources to every area of academics. Although Rice has great STEM programs that it is rightfully well known for, its other programs don’t fall short of their STEM counterparts.

When I first came to Rice, I asked my O-Week advisors if there was a pre-law group on campus and was quickly directed to Legalese, Rice’s only and official pre-law organization. Led by students with support from an amazing pre-law advisor, it proved to be incredibly helpful as they unite students interested in pursuing the pre-law track, as well as provide information regarding law school admissions, law school itself, and the legal profession. They also organize various events throughout the year, from guest speakers to pre-law fairs to legal career panels. Through Legalese, I was able to meet an attorney who connected me to an internship that sparked my interest in corporate litigation.

In addition to Legalese, there are countless ways to get involved in legal and policy affairs, from research opportunities at the Baker Institute of Public Policy and the Kinder Institute of Urban Policy to individual research projects with professors. In addition, the recently developed Law, Justice, and Society Scholars Program is a truly remarkable addition that I encourage every pre-law student to take. It is one semester long, in which you intern at a nonprofit, court, or other legal organization, as well as enroll in a special law class. I interned at a nonprofit and had the opportunity to learn about criminal justice reform and voting discrimination, both of which opened my eyes and challenged my preconceived notions of the U.S. justice system. The class also offered me a chance to learn about the legal system, court cases, and how to conduct legal research, which greatly benefited me in other areas of my life.

As law does not have a required major or set of courses, there is a lot of flexibility in terms of building an academic plan. This can be quite overwhelming, though, as it’s difficult to figure out exactly what you ought to do that meets your passions but still demonstrates rigor and prestige for law schools. I sought help from the Center for Career Development, which aided me tremendously in picking courses that tailored to my interests and the skills I need for law school.

Those are just some of the abundant resources Rice provides for not only pre-law students, but really for any student pursuing what they love. I write from a pre-law perspective, but this applies to any academic field. I firmly believe that, while Rice is still expanding its Humanities and Social Sciences programs, there are already many rewarding and fulfilling opportunities that you can easily seek out with the help of various on-campus resources. So are you thinking about being pre-law? Attend a pre-law session. Talk to the pre-law advisor. Visit the CCD. Ask your professor if they’re currently doing research and if they’d like to have you on board. Escape your comfort zone, put yourself out there, make the most out of your experience, and you’ll be presented with amazing support and guidance that’ll greatly shape your future.