Spring Break at Rice

Spring has finally arrived to the city of Houston. After a rather cold and dreary winter, at least by Texas standards, the sun has finally decided to show its brilliant face. Through the stress of midterms and problem sets, we as a school have collectively survived. This has created bonds between each and every single one of us that are extremely difficult to break. And yes, I know what you’re thinking and the answer is no, not the covalent kinds. Within the eyes of each student, a subtle emotion of excitement exists. The academic year is coming to an end, summer is steadily approaching, and Beer Bike is only weeks away. All is good and all is right at Rice. As these positive thoughts fill our minds, another one begins to form. One that comes at a slow yet sure realization: “What am I going to do for Spring Break?”. The short answer is: there is tons to do both inside and outside of Houston during our break! Of course, I must acknowledge and respect the desire to stay indoors and simply relax for break. Afterall, allergy season is at full force. However, going out and exploring Houston and surrounding areas is a fun activity to do with the amazing individuals you meet at Rice. Here are my top three of the many things you can do during Spring Break:

Houston Rodeo

The Houston Rodeo is both a major fair of the city and the largest livestock exhibition of the world. It runs from the 25th of February to the 17th of March. Between then, be ready to experience near daily artist performances at the NRG stadium located about a 15 minute train-ride or 10 minute car-ride away from Rice. The NRG stadium sits around 70,000  people and can often host major performers like Cardi B and George Strait. This year, Rice’s Passport to Houston program offered free tickets for the Panic! At the Disco concert to selected Rice students.

Houston Rodeo

Visiting Hermann Park

Located a block from Rice, Hermann Park is a perfect place to escape the bustling city life of Houston. If you want to see even more trees and vegetation, this place is perfect for you. Dotted with sculptures and other art, Hermann Park is a 445 acre stretch of well gardened land surrounded by museums, golf courses, and a zoo. Inside the park, you will be able to find the Japanese Tea Gardens of Houston, the Miller Outdoor Theatre perfect for weekend performances, and the McGovern Centennial Gardens.

McGovern Centennial Gardens

Texas Road-trip with Friends

If you have the time, energy, and an amazing group of friends (which I’m sure you’ll make when in Rice), leaving Houston and traveling to cities like San Antonio and Dallas is a perfect week-long getaway that allows students to experience more of the proudly proclaimed “yee-haw” state. Bus companies like Greyhound and Megabus are able to offer cheap alternatives to cars for traveling to these places.

Tower of the Americas in San Antonio, Texas

 

Handling the Houston Humidity

One thing you’ll quickly learn about Houston is that it’s humid. Even on the warmest of summer days, you can step outside and instantly feel all that moisture in that air clinging to your skin. Welcome to Houston!

I’m from Dallas, so I wasn’t used to the hot Houston summers when I first came here a year ago for O-Week. But Dallas is dry, unlike Houston, and the humidity took me by surprise. With all this humidity comes a lot of rain, and when it rains in Houston, it pours. I’m sure those of you reading from Houston are already quite used to this, but for those up north, it might take some getting used to. Instead of snowy winters, we have a rainy spring.

So here are my tips for prepping for the Houston weather:

  1. Bring an umbrella with you, always. Sometimes you’ll go to class, and on your way there, it’s beautifully sunny outside. Then, 50 minutes later when class has ended, you walk outside to find that it’s pouring outside. There’s nothing worse than not having your umbrella with you when you really need it, and believe me, running back to your room in the pouring rain is not fun – I learned this the hard way.
  2. Avoid the grove.  For those of you who don’t know, the grove, technically called the John and Anne Grove, is an walkway located in the South Colleges. It’s unpaved, and we all have a love-hate relationship with it. When it rains, there are huge muddy puddles in the grove, making it annoying to walk across. General life tip: don’t wear open-toed shoes on the grove if you can.
  3. Or, just get some rain boots! Is the grove the fastest path, but it’s too muddy outside to walk on it? Don’t worry, just get some nice rain boots. These are seriously useful, especially if you live in the South Colleges like I do.
  4. Get ready for some foggy glasses. There have been times where I step out of my nice, cold dorm to go somewhere outside, and my glasses instantly fog up. This isn’t really anything but a nuisance at most, but it took me by surprise since I was used to dry Dallas summers.

That being said, I still appreciate the rain. There’s nothing quite like stepping outside onto the Sid balconies while the rain falls down, enjoying a nice breeze outside and the quiet calm.

Also, watching people run to class without an umbrella is always entertaining.

A recipe for your life at Rice

Function Name: August

Input: Nervousness, homesickness, uncertainty

Output: Surprise, warmth, and culture of care

Algorithm:

  1. Participate in I-PREP (International-Preparation and Regulatory Education Program) and O-Week to experience the craziest and funniest week of your life, receive postcards and personal letters written wholeheartedly by o-week advisors on move-in day and a group of o-week brothers and sisters whom you dine with every week.
  2. Meet with tons of interesting people during lunch and dinner without feeling awkward (since everyone is extremely nice and welcoming).

 

Function Name: September

Input: Mid-Autumn Festival and Mid-Terms

Output: Fulfillment and Loss

Algorithm:

  1. Participate in the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival celebration that is open to the Rice community, enjoy Roast Duck and a rich Chinese cuisine, watch special performances in the RMC grand hall, make lanterns and moon cakes.
  2. Have three mid-terms in three consecutive weeks and being completely crushed by your COMP140 (an introductory computer science course) mid-term.

 

Function Name: October

Input: Adventure in Houston

Output: Surprise, satisfaction, better knowledge on Houston

Algorithm:

  1. Explore Chinese and South Asian restaurants in Rice Village and China Town (which is 15-20min away from Rice).
  2. Enjoy delicious Velvet tacos with your o-week advisor in Montrose and sing musicals loudly together in his car.
  3. Eat rich California bowl and ramen in Japanese restaurant Jinya Ramen with friends (you can easily get there by free metro).
  4. Go on a trip to NASA’s Space Center with OISS (Office of International Students and Scholars) to learn about space and rockets.
  5. Ice-skating, shopping, and eating fantastic cheesecake and California Omelet in Galleria (a huge shopping center in Houston).
  6. Walk along the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Natural Science, and have a FWIS (First-Year Writing Intensive Seminar) class at the Sicardi Gallery where you get to see artworks from the artists you study in class.
  7. Wander inside Hermann Park and watch the swans on the lake or enjoy a performance celebrating Argentinean culture in the Miller Outdoor Theater in Hermann Park.

 

Function Name: November

Input: Celebration and “Cold” Weather

Output: Contentment, international cuisine, beautiful dorm decorations, increase resistance to cold weather

Algorithm:

  1. Learn to make Mexican paper flowers and paper-cutting hosted by the CLIC (center for language and intercultural communication) and watch a music performance in the Discovery Green Park in Downtown on Day of the Dead (and it happens to be your birthday, whoohoo!).
  2. Watch your all-time favorite Phantom of the Opera show in the Hobby Theater.
  3. Cook authentic Chinese food in your college kitchen!
  4. Have a delicious Thanksgiving lunch with OISS and being interviewed by the cameraman.
  5. Feeling frustrated for the extremely cold weather (yes for someone from southern part of China 2℃ is SUPER cold!).
  6. Enjoy all your classes and become good friends with your COMP140 group mates.

 

Remark: These are the four meaningful months I spent at Rice, and as you can see, I really enjoy my time here. Of course there were losses and frustrations, but Rice’s culture of care helped me get through the tough time and push myself further: I came in as a novice who has absolutely zero knowledge in computer programming, and now I can even write a blog in programming recipe format! I really appreciate what Rice had helped me accomplish and am excited to continue the rest of my journey at Rice!

Being Vegetarian at Rice

Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, or just thinking about switching to a more plant-based diet, you may be wondering: How am I going to eat once I get to college? Especially in Texas, a state known for its barbecue, you may wonder if the meat-free options here are just as delicious. If you have a meal plan at Rice, though, you don’t need to worry too much, as there are plant-based options in every servery for every meal on campus.

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Exploring Houston! (Within a few miles of Rice)

As a self identified lazy person who struggles profoundly to get out of bed every Saturday and Sunday morning, I am well aware of the dichotomy of wanting to explore the city you’re in, versus wanting to endlessly lounge around in pajamas while watching Netflix. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with either option. However, for those days when you do manage to get out of bed, I have compiled a list below of fun places Rice students have access to, that are close enough to not require much planning, the metro, or a car.
  1. Hermann Park (.9 miles): If you’re not from Houston then you’re probably not familiar with this park. Hermann Park is one of Houston’s most popular public parks, and is quite literally across the street from Rice University. If you’re a walker like me (or a runner- which I must clarify that I am not), its filled with tons of beautiful trails to explore, blue lakes, fountains, gardens and people. It is also home to the Miller Outdoor Theatre, the Houston Zoo, and the Museum of Natural Sciences- which is has a really beautiful butterfly exhibit that you shouldn’t miss.
  2. Museums!!: Rice University is located in Houston’s museum district, which means that within a few miles (and often less) of campus there are 19 museums, galleries and cultural centers. The Museum of Fine Arts, The Holocaust Museum, The Contemporary Arts Museum and the Health Museum are just a few! Plus, a  lot of museums have free admission on Thursdays, which as a struggling college student, never fails to put a smile on my face.
  3. Rice Village (1.1 miles): Rice Village is a collection of restaurants, boutiques and stores, that’s both walkable and full of new shops to explore. It conveniently houses some delicious food places: Torchy’s Tacos (their queso is a must-have), Hopdoddy burger bar (home to parmesan truffle fries), and The Chocolate Bar, which is any chocolate enthusiasts dream come true, among other great restaurants.
Rice is located so optimally that just as they step of campus students have access to so many diverse locations. It’s almost hard not to take advantage of Rice’s location in one of Houston’s most cultured (and food filled neighborhoods).

Houston Brunch Scene on a Budget

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I hesitated putting the word budget in the title of this post, because let’s face it, Houston isn’t necessarily an inexpensive place to live.

A nice, oversized latte I got at Common Bond, complete with the Snapchat geotag.

But if you wanted to know the most economical way to get around the city (and explore all of the amazing food options), I couldn’t recommend picking up your metro card from the Allen Center highly enough. Included with your tuition at Rice, each student is entitled to a metro card with a $50 balance. If you run out? No problem! Just go pick up another one, no extra cost.

Since it’s our freshman year, my roommate and I thought the best way to explore the city would be to go out for one meal every week. This wasn’t cheap. Even though we kept receiving 50% off our Lyft rides, our weekly excursions were quickly adding up. $3 for the Lyft there, $13 for brunch, $3 for the Lyft back. Realizing we could get free metro cards was a game changer – and it helped us justify our brunch addiction!

A screenshot of the Transit App, providing directions to Ono Poke (so good!)

A must-have app for any public transport user is “Transit.” It’s free to download, and all you have to do is share your location and the app gives you step-by-step directions on how to get to where you’re going. When the bus/metro is coming, what line to take, which stop to get off on, how far you’ll need to walk. It makes the whole process much less daunting, and it’s a cool way to really get a feel for the city of Houston.

As for which brunch spots I recommend? You can’t go wrong with Common Bond, a Montrose staple. Snooze is also quite good. Recently we tried a cute place called Ritual in the Heights, which was amazing. We haven’t been disappointed yet. Our mission for this weekend is to find some quality bagels and lox, and with our metro cards in hand, we should be good to go.