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


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.

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.

Having Houston as a Hometown and Rice as a Home Away from Home

Rice and its surrounding neighborhoods were a big part of my childhood. My family frequently dined at the La Madeleine in Rice Village. I went to pool parties at my friends’ houses in the neighborhood of West University. My dad took me along to the annual “Turkish night” on Rice’s campus. You would think that growing up in Houston would make Rice feel all too familiar when I arrived on campus my freshman year. Yet, there is so much more to Rice than I could have expected at the time.

These reindeer were painted and placed around Rice Village last year, featuring Houston, Rice, and Astros (H-Town’s baseball team) themes.

Going to school in Houston and having “Home” so close by has been a wonderful experience. Still, Rice quickly became my home away from home; it felt like a whole new world to me. I realized I had two addresses in Houston; two very different parts of town that were each really cool in their own way. At Rice, I am within walking distance of Hermann Park, the Zoo, the museums, and Rice Village. At home, my local 24-hour Shipley’s donuts was close by and the lively City Centre was a short drive away. I used to live in West Houston and just recently moved to a suburb farther out of the city, which also has its own distinct venues, shops, and restaurants that I am still growing accustomed to. One of my favorite things about Houston is how huge and diverse it truly is. There is always somewhere new to explore – even in the areas I frequent the most around Rice, such as Rice Village (which has expanded quite a bit this past year, building new restaurants, featuring more food truck options, incorporating different murals and art pieces throughout its streets, and displaying Rice banners on streetlights and signs).

Having capital-H Home nearby doesn’t feel strange at all. It has made my college experience all the more enjoyable. I can go home when something comes up, when I want to be off-campus for a bit, or when I want to have some Turkish tea with my dad – but that being said, I don’t get homesick. I am more than comfortable and content in my home away from home, which includes my individual room, my residential college, the campus as a whole, and the neighborhoods surrounding Rice. It also includes my close friends and supportive professors – individuals I don’t get to see and spend time with regularly when I’m away from campus. Going to school in my hometown is familiar but fun, and I feel more fortunate than ever to call both Rice and Houston my home.

I get to witness this beautiful skyline view on my drive from my house to Rice.

The Trees of Rice

Do you fear those humid summer days? One of the most common concerns of prospective Rice students, including myself when I was in high school, is the Houston heat. Luckily, you do not need to worry.  Here is why:

  • The hottest months in Houston are from June to August

During the hottest months of the summer, you may not be studying at Rice. You will be on summer break, which means that you will probably get to escape the heat (yay!). During most of the months that you are here (August-April), the weather is actually quite nice, especially during the winter. In January, you get sunshine and 60 degree weather instead of the freezing temperatures of the North. How awesome is it to be able to wear shorts in the winter?

  • All of the buildings have air conditioning

Even though the weather is still pretty humid when you arrive in August, you still get to escape most of the humidity. Much of your time will be spent indoors in classrooms or in one of Rice’s beautiful buildings, which means that you get to enjoy air conditioning. Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night, drenched in your own sweat? Well, you will never have to experience that here because every dorm room in Rice has its own air conditioning.

  • Trees, trees, and more trees!

Did you know that Rice was designated as a “Tree Campus USA?” Rice is an arboretum with 4,300 trees spread across campus. That means that each undergraduate can have 1 tree!

So what does this have to do with the Houston heat?

Well, these trees are not just for show. They provide shade all over campus. Sometimes on a hot day, students can take cover under one of the many friendly trees spread across campus to cool off.

  • Wrapping it all up

Although Houston can have some pretty hot weather, Rice has so many awesome features like air conditioning and trees to keep us cool. As a result, we do not fear the seemingly intimidating heat of Houston.

The endless lines of trees that cover Rice University

Holiday Spirit


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!