Perfect Group Photos

     The days leading up to the start of my freshman year were nerve wracking. I was terrified of moving away from home. After years of living on the same street, in the same house, with the same group of friends, I never thought I would be able to make connections with the people around me. Now my phone is littered with group photos from my first semester here and not only do I have friends, I have a family here.

It all started with my roommate and my floor. A family was already built for me where I lived on Brown 2nd – we even had a floorsgiving together! I could not be more grateful for those that live around me.

Brown College’s 2nd Floor Floorsgiving

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Soarin’, Flyin’, and Dancin’ Our Way into Homecoming with the Owls!

When I was a senior in high school deciding where to apply for college, I knew that I wanted to go to a school that had a dance team. As a seasoned dancer and dance/drill team member in Texas, a state known for its high school football, I knew I wanted to continue performing at sporting events and promoting school spirit in college. As soon as I confirmed that I would be attending Rice this year, I looked forward to joining the Rice Owls Dance Team, an organization of which I am now a member.

It can be nerve-wracking to join a new team, but I soon realized that the girls on the Rice Owls Dance Team are compassionate and dedicated to dancing and fostering a welcoming community. We have a big-little sister program in which the officers assign a rookie (new member) to two veterans who will mentor her throughout the year. My coach, the officers, and my “big sisters” helped me learn the ways of the team earlier this fall, and I excitedly jumped into performing with my new teammates.

The Rice Owls Dance Team performs at all home football, volleyball, and basketball games, as well as other events such as pep rallies and our annual Spring Show. We practice twice a week and learn exciting pom, jazz, and hip-hop dances to popular songs like I Like It by Cardi B and Womanizer by Britney Spears. Everyone works hard to make our dances shine both on the field and on the court, and each member exhibits their desire to promote the good of the team. Though Rice may not have the same gameday experience as larger state schools, the students and alumni that reside in Houston cultivate a vibrant atmosphere at sporting events that any Owl can appreciate.

We performed at our last football game of the season this past Saturday, but our work is not over yet. Basketball season has only just begun, and we still have our Spring Show to look forward to at the end of the academic year. If you are interested in seeing what one of the best spirit squads at Rice is all about, come on out to one of our performances to help us cheer on the Owls! Rice Fight Never Dies!

Members of the Rice Owls Dance Team wearing our new uniforms at the homecoming game!

Full-Time Student, Part-Time Worker

As a college student, I already have a lot of responsibilities on my plate, ranging from academics to my extracurriculars to maintaining strong relationships with my friends. Another one of these responsibilities is my job. Last summer, I worked for OpenStax, a non-profit organization that utilizes openly-licensed resources to make free textbooks for students. I really enjoyed working here, as I was able to combine my passion for education accessibility and affordability with my interest in marketing and communications, all while making friendships along the way. When I found out that I had the opportunity to continue working here when the academic year started, I was ecstatic!

When the semester first started, I had a bit of difficulty managing my time so that I could best balance my schoolwork with my job, other extracurriculars, and social life. However, as the semester has progressed, I’ve gained a variety of crucial time management skills that I know will benefit me for the rest of my college career. If you’re one of the many Rice students who plan to work while in college, here are some tips to help you manage your time and keep track of your schedule:

-Use a planner or an online calendar to keep track of classes, club meetings, and appointments. I use Google Calendar, where I can easily input the times and locations of my classes and meetings and keep track of where I need to be via a color-coded system.

-Maintain a routine sleep schedule during the week. It can be really tempting to stay up in your college’s commons with your friends until 3 in the morning. Even though this is perfectly fine to do occasionally, if it becomes a regular activity then it can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule and leave you feeling exhausted (trust me, I’ve been there!). I find myself feeling healthiest and best organized when I maintain a consistent sleep schedule during the school week.

-Don’t be afraid to ask for help! College can be very stressful, and it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by everything on your plate. However, it’s crucial to remember that Rice has an amazing culture of care, and everyone you meet – ranging from your friends in your residential college to your professors to your magisters – care about your wellbeing and are here to support you during times of both success and trouble.

The Familiarity of Family

When I came to Rice one of my major fears was being homesick. Although my family was only as far away as Dallas, I was worried that I would lose the support system and familiarity that I had by living with them. I believed that although Rice had a “culture of care” it could never have the true familiarity of family and friends that I had developed in my hometown in the 18 years I had been alive. I can now say after being at Rice for over eight weeks and coming off of Family Weekend that I have been proven wrong.

Rice has made me feel welcome ever since the first day I stepped on campus and provided me with a strong support system in the form of the variety of groups of friends I have found and Advisors that are always available to answer your questions. I have found my family in places such as my suite at Sid Richardson to my workplace at East West Tea. Rice honestly makes it harder to remain isolated as they do everything in their ability to find at least an Advisor to be a direct line of support. All new students at Rice go through an intense awesome experience known as O-Week which is a week of events and discussions with Advisors that leads to new friends and a game plan for the year to come. My O-Week experience started with the introduction to my O week group and five Advisors. I have remained close with all of them ever since and I still go to these Advisors when I look into my classes for the future and overall help becoming a college student and understanding how to manage my time. Besides O-Week groups, each Residential college has its own culture that can make it become one big family as well.

I belong to Sid Richardson College: statistically the tallest residential college and the smallest freshman population on campus. The freshmen are split among seven floors with each floor having its own culture and each having a residential health Advisor who is always available for any sort of complication be it mental or physical. My floor for example, has a family vibe due to the fact that we have a large dining room table and living room lobby space. Every night many of the freshmen on the floor gather to work together at the table sharing in one another’s company and stress over the work to be done. Even though we use the lobby as a place to study, knowing there are other people in a similar situation to me and are able to relate to what I am going through acts as a familiarity for me allowing me to talk to others about it. Continue reading

Beginning a new life with New Life

Dealing with a seventeen hour time difference between Houston and New Zealand, severely awkward small talk with new people, and an exhausting, action-packed O-Week, I honestly struggled when I first arrived at Rice.

Amidst all the struggle, questions of ‘What if’ began to formulate in my head as I lay down in bed after an entire day of nonstop O-Week presentations and activities: “What if I chose to attend college closer to home?”, “What if I’m the only person who feels this way?”, and most importantly, “What if it doesn’t ever get better?”. Honestly, I was not in too great of a mental space at all.

But I’m glad to be able to say that things started to get much better once one of my O-Week moms, Erin, invited me to New Life Fellowship, a Christian fellowship group at Rice. Joining the group allowed me to momentarily get away from the quick pace of school, have deeper conversations about subject matters I value, and receive all the support I needed to adjust to Rice. I slowly grew the determination to build stronger relationships with people outside of church, embrace the college’s lively atmosphere, and ultimately become more involved in the tightly-knitted community. I could see myself slowly transitioning from an international student who felt like he would never fit in at Rice to a student who could call Rice his home and call his friends his family.

Oman House Church 🙂

Joining a religious fellowship at Rice may be something you’re interested in or something you would never decide to do. But because of the multitude of really interesting academically-oriented clubs, I feel like it’s extremely easy to forget the importance of finding a group of people who will be there for you during rough times, which in my case, is my house church. Although I’ve been here for only seven weeks, I know that these people will always have my back through thick and thin, mentor me throughout school, and make my Rice journey so much more enjoyable for many more weeks to come.

Making the Most out of Your Time at Rice Outside of Rice

Rice is your first-choice school because it’s a rare combination of a high-achieving environment perfectly balanced by a dynamic and close-knit social community. The residential colleges make your Hogwarts dreams come true, and you can’t wait to be friends with every squirrel on campus.

I can say this light-heartedly because this was me. These were essentially my exact reasons for wanting to come to Rice as a high-schooler, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you share my reasoning. I’m not here to undermine them at all – I still hope to one day become the resident squirrel whisperer – but the paradoxical truth is that I didn’t fully feel justified in choosing Rice over all other schools and above all other practical reasons (such as finances) until I took advantage of opportunities outside of Rice.

One of these opportunities was research in the Texas Medical Center. As a pre-med student, I felt some pressure to start doing research from freshman year, but the pressure wasn’t overwhelming enough to push me to do it on my own volition. So through all of freshman year, through all of sophomore year, the extent of my pre-med experience was taking the required courses, and during this time, I definitely wondered if there was any difference between me coming to Rice or going to my state school if all I was doing was taking classes like general physics and organic chemistry. It wasn’t until the summer after sophomore year that I decided to start research in Houston, and I opted to continue researching in the same lab through my junior year. UT Health is a mere five minute walk away from my college, but even being less than a mile away from Rice, I suddenly felt like my time at Rice was truly worth my decision to come to Rice in the first place. Balancing a full class schedule with a research schedule, switching my Rice ID for my UT ID as I pushed Rice’s bordering hedges out of the way, made me feel, for the first time, that I was truly redeeming my time as a Rice student.

Learning confocal microscopy with my mentor in lab

A second off-campus opportunity that I do not regret taking advantage of involved my involvement with the Campanile Yearbook. Every semester, the Campanile staff is invited to attend the National College Media Convention, and as copy editor this year, I decided to go to the fall convention held in Dallas. I had no idea what to expect since it was first time going to a convention about college publications, but once I got there, I realized that I was participating in something much bigger than myself. Universities from across the nation were there, pitching ideas for up-and-coming publications, getting their current volumes edited by publishing professionals, learning how to be better reporters and writers and designers. It was amazing to be there and to represent Rice. When we returned, I was more excited than I had ever been to create a stunning 2017-2018 yearbook.

CMA Dallas with Campanile Yearbook staff

When you choose to come to Rice, you’re not just choosing the school. Rice itself indeed has amazing opportunities for internships, volunteering, work, and networking, but so does the city of Houston and so does the state of Texas. It’s never too early to start seizing these opportunities, and never be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, maybe even far away from Rice.