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.

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.

KTRU: Rice’s Student Radio Station

For the longest time, I wasn’t involved heavily with an extracurricular activity at Rice. All of my friends were in some sort of club or organization that they identified closely with, but I felt left out since I hadn’t found my niche. I joined some here and there my freshman year, but none really appealed to what I was looking for. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I saw an application to join KTRU. I had seen the KTRU stickers plastered on various places around campus, from staircases to lampposts, but I never really knew what it was until this year.

KTRU is Rice’s student-run radio station, which can be listened to locally in Houston or from its website. The station is on the second floor of the student center, and it’s one of my favorite places on campus. I decided to apply this year and I’m really glad that I did. Apart from the radio aspect, KTRU is a club as well. It hosts concerts for the public, and it has several events for its members and DJs throughout the year. Since joining KTRU, I’ve met a lot of new people from campus that have similar interests as me, I’ve made a lot of new friends to attend concerts and shows with, and I’m a part of a community that I feel connected to.

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The Quokka Challenge at Rice

There is a multiplicity of ways for all Rice students to immerse themselves in the exciting and thriving Rice community. This can range from joining committees at their residential colleges to joining Intramural or Club sports teams to becoming a member of any club which suits their interests. One club that I joined is the Rice Alliance for Mental Health Awareness, which is better known as RAMHA. The mission of RAMHA is to “reduce the stigma surrounding mental health disorders” by encouraging all members of the Rice community to openly discuss mental health and to take care of their own. RAMHA hosts various events throughout the year, including Body Positivity Week and the Quokka Challenge.

The Quokka Challenge is an eight week-long program that various universities across the country, such as Georgetown, Princeton, and The Ohio State University, participate in. Each week, participants are encouraged to engage in a particular healthy behavior or habit that has been empirically proven to boost one’s well-being. Some of the challenges this year include exercise, good deeds, journaling, and giving thanks. At the end of each week, participants can choose to answer a few questions about that week’s challenge online and can even win a prize, like a gift card to a local restaurant or a stress ball. At Rice, the residential college that has the most students taking part in the challenge by the end of the eight weeks wins a super fun study break with a ton of awesome food!

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Dipping a Toe Into Rice? Immerse Yourself in Rice.

For most Rice students, their Rice careers begin during O-Week. For mine, it was a hot and sweaty week in the middle of July, filled with sleepless nights and some of the best memories I’ve ever made. Elated after my admission into Rice, it wasn’t long until I got an email about a cryptic summer program called “Urban Immersion”. Coincidentally, my birthday fell on the last day of the program- and I was initially just excited to spend my birthday with people from school for once.

I won’t give away too much about Urban Immersion- after all, so much of the fun was because we had virtually no idea what was going on until the night before- but I will say that it made me develop so much as an individual. For a general overview, Urban Immersion was a six day summer program that requires an application. 24 incoming freshmen are selected, and the experience is led by 3 current Rice students who have been planning and training for Urban Immersion for months. Over the course of the six days, we worked with various non-profit organizations and explore Houston, staying at a location off of Rice’s campus. From dawn (literally getting up at 6 AM) to the time we slept (usually 2 AM), there was hardly a single moment of down time. As grueling as it sounds, each activity provided indispensible knowledge. Even though I’ve lived in Houston for the past five years, I learned the most about my home in that one week.

The takeaways from Urban Immersion go so far beyond just the friends I made. Sure, it was great coming into Rice with a whopping 26 other students I trusted and had great memories with, but when I came to Urban Immersion, I thought I knew everything about civic engagement and being an ally to communities. It turns out that I only knew the tip of the iceberg. Urban Immersion didn’t just prove to me that I had so much left to learn, but also that becoming more civically engaged with your community is an ongoing progress. It’s just as possible to regress in the path to active citizenry, which is totally okay! What’s more important is the continual and conscious effort to grow and address social issues in life.

Urban Immersion acquainted me with not only some of the most selfless student leaders I have ever had the privilege of meeting, but also instilled in me a determination to take my experiences from the summer even further. Upon encouragement from my Urban Immersion coordinator, I applied and got accepted into an Alternative Spring Break. Though my journey into civic leadership has just begun, these past few months as a Rice student have already challenged my previous knowledge and spurred on growth in leaps and bounds.

When they talk about going outside of Rice’s hedges, let me tell you that each and every day here prepares me to maximize my impact on wherever I go.

Coincidental Connections at Rice

One of my motivations in attending college has been finding my life’s work and passions. Looking back on my time here, I’ve found that new interests have mostly sprung from minor interactions with people I’ve only met by coincidence.

This is true with my journey into singing with the Apollos, Rice’s all-male acapella group. Before Rice, I never sang outside the shower, so singing on campus never crossed my mind. During Orientation Week, however; one of my advisors had me recite the beginning of “Your Man” by Josh Turner because of my deep voice.

After classes started, I happened to be reading in my residential college’s commons. Out of the blue, two strangers appeared behind me. Having scared the book out of my hands, one said, “One of your advisors told us you have a really low voice. Come audition for the Apollos!” Despite the incredibly awkward situation, I trekked across campus and nervously sang in front of several strangers. This wasn’t how I pictured college starting.

Having joined the group, I’ve learned to blend vocally, project my sound and perform with confidence. More importantly, I’ve found something I’ll enjoy long after graduation. However, none of this would be possible if my advisor had not suggested me to the group. Where would I be if I had not left my comfort zone?

My journey into the Apollos has opened me up to exploring opportunities, no matter who introduces them. Fortunately, Rice perfectly serves this mindset with its small undergraduate population and large variety of life-changing opportunities!

The Apollos after Acapellooza