Trying Dance at Rice

Last year, I decided to really step out of my comfort zone and try something I’d never tried before: dance.

I’d always been awkward at events like hoco and prom, where they’d set up a light-up dance floor replete with strobing lights and expect people to utilize it. I much preferred to stand by the refreshments or on the outskirts of a ring of people, watching a more talented friend break out their moves and start freestyling.

The start of college came with new resolutions, though, and one of those was to try learning how to dance. Several of my friends were a part of a group at Rice that learned hip-hop and k-pop choreography, so one evening, I hesitantly showed up to a BASYK practice.

While I found that going through the warm-ups was tough (body rolls and chest pops are surprisingly difficult), learning the choreography to songs I liked was a lot of fun. The choreographer in the front of the room broke things down to a manageable level for beginners like me to follow, and everyone was there to have a good time. As I continued to show up for practices throughout the year, I gained a lot of new friends from different majors and residential colleges, along with a lot of good memories and better dance moves.

While BASYK isn’t a competitive dance team, we learn choreo to perform at a lot of different events around Rice, including at Rice Dance Team’s (RDT) Showcase in the fall, the Chinese Student Association’s (CSA) Lunar New Year Show, the Korean Student Association’s (KSA) Korean Culture Night, and the Rice Taiwanese Association’s (RTA) Night Market in the spring. We also get invited to perform off-campus sometimes, like we did last weekend for the Houston Korean Education Center.

Sometimes I wonder if I would have been fearless enough to try to learn how to dance on my own, and I think I definitely wouldn’t have gotten into dancing if it weren’t for the low-key, fun-focused atmosphere that BASYK had when I joined. I’m thankful that I found a place to comfortably step out of my comfort zone here with friends who like the same music and are eager to try new dances with me.

On that note, here are two of my favorite performances from last year:

O-Week 2017: Get Hype?

Here’s a timely topic for you: Orientation Week (aka O-Week) 2017!!! This is the first week new students have on campus: a week of fun social events and academic planning and sessions meant to orient you to important aspects of campus life. Each new student is placed in a group of 8-10, with 2-4 upperclassmen advisors who are there to be the first point of contact and the first advocate for a new student.

“But wait,” you say, “O-Week doesn’t happen until next August.” That’s true. Many of the students who will be joining us next year haven’t even been admitted yet and won’t find out about their acceptance to Rice until the end of the semester. It’s the middle of February, sure – but in fact, planning for O-Week has already begun. This is just the point at which things pick up speed.

At Duncan, my residential college, the O-Week theme was revealed last week to be RadiO-Week, which has prompted two things: a wave of radio-related puns to circulate the college and a wave of excitement and mild panic as people rush to fill out their advisor applications. Interviews, decisions, a second wave of applications and interviews and decisions as colleges seek to fill the co-advisor (advisors who are from a different residential college) positions, and so on. It can be a stressful time, especially if it’s your first time applying to advise, especially because it’s a job that attracts so many people. Yesterday, at lunch with the group I advised last year, I asked who, if anyone, was applying to advise. Almost all of my new students said they were, and, further, that “basically the whole freshman class is applying.” So what’s the big deal? Why is it that my whole group – ten wonderful freshmen with diverse interests and backgrounds and personalities – wants to turn around and play the role of the knowledgeable older student?

As for my lovely O-Week family, there isn’t a single one of them that wouldn’t make a great advisor next year!

People have different reasons for wanting to become advisors, but here are some of the ones I’ve heard. Of course, everyone who applies wants to get to know the matriculating class of 2017 and wants to be involved in the college (and it’s fantastic to be part of an environment where those motivations are just givens). But here are other reasons for your future advisors giving up two weeks of their summer vacation and a whole lot of their sleep to make sure the matriculating class of 2017 feels safe and accepted at Rice:

  1. My O-Week was amazing!!! I want to repay the favor for the next group of new students!
  2. I know something could have been improved, so I wanted to see that change.
  3. I want new students like me to feel that they have someone supporting them.

The middle reason may be surprising, but it just goes to show the drive and compassion of Rice students. Other advisors I worked with last year admitted at some point, “You know, my O-Week experience was only okay, but I know that was only because of XYZ thing, so I wanted to sort of make sure that didn’t happen.” And those advisors who are advising for the third reason can be some of the most passionate – they’re people who have felt marginalized at some point in their lives, who struggle with mental wellbeing, and who want to use their experiences to make things easier and more comfortable for new students.

And the best O-Week team (like Duncan’s team last year) has a mixture of all three. So I encourage any prospective students who do decide to come to Rice to look out for the differences in the advisors at their residential college. There is no one Rice experience, and your advisors are going to represent that.

The only slightly nutty advising team at Duncan last year: more awesome than you could imagine

There Are No Boundaries Here

“I apologize, everyone, but we will need to delay the start of the show until 7:35 because we still have a line out the door. We didn’t expect so many people to come. Sorry, again, but thank you, everyone, for coming out tonight!”

I was surprised to not hear any groans from the crowd following the announcement. It was Saturday night, and the Rice African Student Association (RASA) was holding their annual dinner show, Africayé. Dinner started at 6:00, but when my friends and I got there at 6:10, the line was already far out the door and remained that way until the start of the show.

Last but not least – our classmates and friends on the dance team danced their hearts out. Photo Credit: Rice African Student Association

Africayé has always been a hugely popular event at Rice. The perfect combination of exotic but delicious food, foot-stomping music, and immersion into a lively culture so remote from most of our own is beyond worth the $5 ticket value, an opportunity Rice students are more than willing to drop everything for. Walking through the food line, my plate was loaded up with injera bread, a variety of meats, samossas, rice, and lentil stew. My heavenly gustatory experience was soon mingled with the heavy beat of traditional African music pumping through my body as my friend beckoned us to take our seats in front of the performance stage. We filled the time jamming and grooving to the drum sequences booming through the speakers and when the show started, my field of vision was flooded with colors, movement, and life. We screamed wildly for our friends who were performing, having never imagined that they could dance with so much purpose. The last number by the RASA dance team was incredible, bursting with an awesome sense of cultural pride and rendering everyone in the audience jealous that our bodies couldn’t move like that.

Our friend absolutely killed it as the RASA dance team captain, and we were happy to be there for her.

Cultural nights like Africayé are one of many at Rice. Ritmo! and Lunar New Year are equally enthralling, each in their own ways. I’m proud to attend a university where everyone celebrates everyone, and learning extends far beyond the boundaries of a classroom. The community that Rice fosters is one-of-a-kind, and I’ll be taking advantage of every opportunity to expand my limitless horizons. I’ve already added an entire album of traditional African music to my Spotify playlist.

A cappella at Rice

Last semester as a very fresh freshman, I decided that I wanted to try out for one of the a cappella groups at Rice. In case you haven’t heard of it, a cappella is a vocal style of music where all sounds are made using only the mouth (without musical accompaniment).

There are five a cappella groups on campus: Nocturnal (co-ed), the Philharmonics (co-ed), the Low Keys (girls), the Apollos (guys), and the Basmati Beats (co-ed). As an aside, one of my friends on campus is working on the formation of a sixth, Chinese-pop focused group as well, so that goes to show that you can make things happen at Rice if you want to!

Each of the groups consist of approximately twelve to sixteen people across voice parts, plus a beatboxer. It sounds like a lot, but you need a lot of people to make sounds to fill up the RMC Chapel, where the groups hold their concerts.

I was fortunate enough that my auditions and callbacks led to me becoming a member of Nocturnal. It’s been an experience nothing less than anything I would expect at Rice: different, challenging, but fun.

Nocturnal 2016-17!

You might wonder what the difference between the three co-ed groups are. Well, in comparison to the Phils (who perform mostly pop) and BB (who do South Asian/Western fusion), Nocturnal sings songs that could be classified as alternative or ‘hipster.’ We’re a diverse group of people with really different tastes (for example, I don’t listen to anything in English, while four of the radio stations on our president’s dash are decades) and that usually results in set lists where I know zero of the six songs before we break out the sheet music. It’s a cool experience anyway; I’ve come to like songs I’d never have listened to on my own, and it’s very indicative of how the diversity at Rice leads you to try new things, too.

Last semester, I was lucky to make music with some of the most musically talented people I’ve ever met, and I can’t wait for the years to come. As a last note, here’s my favorite performance from our most recent concert: “All These Things We’ve Done” by the Killers, soloed by alto Clair Hopper:

 

Holiday Spirit

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Winter Break is almost here!

It’s that time of year again! Christmas trees are out, sleigh bells ringing, and joyous spirit is in the air. The beginning of December goes by in a blur as we switch from turkey mode to Santa mode. Sadly, the happy times also bring the deadlines of the last few assignments that students hurry to finish and the dread of upcoming finals. To bear the thought of study days and the end of my first semester at Rice, I’m going to explore the various holiday traditions and events we have around campus and in Houston that students attend to take a break from studying.

The Rice Program Council (RPC) hosts a lot of events to get students in the holiday spirit. I’ve been to a few of their amazing study study breaks, like a gingerbread house making competition, late night bites from Tiff’s Treats, and subsidized tickets to see the annual Houston Zoo Lights. It is a really fun, unique experience to see the giraffes, ostriches, and sea animals at night surrounded by gorgeous light decorations that cover every inch of the 55-acre zoo. The RPC always has great events planned which almost always involve food, a must for surviving the finals season. One really fun upcoming study break is the Winter Wonderland themed President and Dean’s Study Break. We get to have amazing holiday themed treats and hang out with President Leebron and Dean Hutchinson. It is guaranteed to be a wonderful time, and a break from the stress of studying for finals. Our very own student run business, Rice Bikes will also be hosting a special Rice Rides: River Oaks Lights. River Oaks is a neighborhood around Rice University and is known for decorating their lawns with gorgeous displays of light decorations to honor the holiday season.

PC: Tim Stanley Photography

With all the fun events, I am sure that the prospect of study days and upcoming finals will actually be more entertaining than I realize with these great events on campus and around Houston – I just have to make sure not to get too carried away in the holiday spirit!

 

FALL in Love with Rice

Fall is in in full swing (and has been for some time – technically the fall equinox began on September 22nd), but it’s only just beginning to really feel like autumn. There’s a common saying in Texas: our seasons are summer and not summer. This saying is especially true in my hometown of Dallas, but applies to Houston to some extent as well. The extra humidity can make the cold a little colder and the hot a little more stifling, but generally, it stays in a pretty comfortable range with some days being absolutely breathtaking (I’m talking clear skies, cool breeze breathtaking). Even so, there is a slight transition into fall that is signaled more by the students than anything else. I know that fall is coming when I see winter boots coming out, long sleeves, and flannel tied around waists. I’ll see warm cups of coffee or tea clasped in the hands of students as they hustle to class or settle down to study in Coffeehouse. Suddenly, pumpkin carving study breaks, fall treats, and decorations for Halloween pop up around campus. Our library is set alight with lights the color of orange and yellow and a spooky skeleton greets you as you walk in.

Pumpkin carving study break at Hanszen College.

Pumpkin carving study break at Hanszen College.

I can even tell what region from the United States people are from by what they’re wearing when they leave their dorm on a chilly afternoon (that’s chilly in Texas-speak so anything under fifty). In general, it seems like a student from the south will be bundled up to the chin, complete with scarf, thick sweater, jacket, pants, wool socks and boots, while my friend from Wisconsin (and other students from the north) feel fine walking out in athletic shorts and a thin T-shirt. Whatever your preference, we all make it through the weather together (with plenty of pumpkin spice to spare).

Among the many events that happen during this celebration of fall, one that is especially exciting is Rice Program Council’s “Night Owl Antics: Trick or Treat on the Rink.” Rice Program Council is an organization at Rice that provides “opportunities for campus-wide bonding and entertainment.” They’re truly an amazing part of campus life, encouraging social events and interaction between students. As just one example of the cool events they sponsor, Trick or Treat on the Rink is an event where they rent out the entire ice skating rink at the Houston Galleria for just Rice students! You’re encouraged to wear costumes to do some cool tricks on the ice and there are plenty of treats to consume off the ice. I was a little nervous to wear a full outfit (I was Pikachu!) in case others didn’t dress up, but true to Rice culture and community, everyone was super encouraging.

Rare photo of Pikachu preparing Ash for battle

Rare photo of Pikachu preparing Ash for battle

I didn’t know how to skate at all, but it was so fun to scooch around on the ice and have all my fellow Rice students right there with me. There are events like this that cater to students and are designed to increase student connection and interaction all throughout the year. Just as the seasons change (or stay the same), so too do the activities and study breaks at Rice. One thing you can count on? Rice University being an amazing place to be.