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.

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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