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 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 Katy, a suburb of Houston, 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 am fortunate enough 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

maxresdefault

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!

 

Houston Winter is Coming

There are many things that join the Rice students as one. Similar classes, parties, Coffeehouse, and residential colleges can give Rice students from around the world a common bond. These experiences all give a chance for students to bring their past experiences and share them with one another, creating bonds through differences. But one experience at Rice causes everyone to forget their past and uniformly struggle through together: Houston Winter.

At the time Houston Winter arrives, everyone has been at Rice for about 3 months. This means everyone is acclimated to the fact that we don’t ever have below 90% humidity and summer lasts through October. No matter where in the world students come from, air conditioning is now cold, and a good day is defined by when you can’t feel the sun burning your skin. Everyone is convinced that summer will never end, and so the cries roll in at the first sign of a chill in the air. And when students have something common to complain about, that is when everlasting bonds form.

10626207_354197271419724_1546339938917025067_o

Houston Winter attire: Short sleeves and gloves or scarf (not both or you’ll sweat too much)

Houston Winter is defined in most other parts of the country as “fall”.” However, in Houston, winter is defined as any period of time where you prefer to be inside because air conditioning is now warmer than outside. This usually begins around the start of November, a confusing period of time because the outfits can no longer be planned based on how you feel when you wake up. You feel a brisk wind in the morning, and decide to break out that olive green sweater, only to find yourself trapped indoors after 10am because it is above 90 degrees and there is no sign of a single cloud.

10845798_354197304753054_1488433431519928705_o

Rice Snow fight when it is 80 degrees and sunny

Snow in Houston is like the Loch Ness monster: there have been a few sightings, but relatively few people have actually encountered it. Luckily, Rice brings us snow! As a study break last year, Lovett College decided to have some shaved ice brought in so we could experience “a real winter.” And Houston Winter is the perfect transition to when everyone goes home to visit their families where they may be able to see real snow, and try to convince their friends that a magical place where fall lasts 6 months really does exist.

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.

Beyond the Hedges

When I have free time at Rice, I try to go out and explore the city. Houston is the third largest city in the country and we have an unparalleled number of leisure activities to partake in. Here is my list of the top places to visit:

  • The Galleria: The Galleria has everything – stores range from basic shoe stores to the more unusual stores, such as a Tesla store complete with model cars. In addition to hundreds of stores, there are a variety of restaurants and even an ice skating rink (with rental skates available).
  • Wild West: If you aren’t from Texas, you may not be familiar with the dance form called “two-stepping.” Even if you are from Texas, and maybe even Houston, you may still have never heard of two-stepping. That’s okay. Two-stepping is easy to pick up and it’s really fun to go with friends. Most people go at night, usually during the week.
  • Edwards Greenway Grand Palace Stadium 24 & RPX: It’s the movie theater. I always enjoy taking in a good film once in a while, and this theater is conveniently located near Rice, has lots of show times, and comfortable seats.
  • The Fine Arts District (Downtown): Once in a while, Rice will have ticket giveaways and discounts to shows via Passport to Houston. I’ve been lucky enough to see an opera (Marriage of Figaro) and a symphony (Mahler Symphony No. 5). Other fun parts in Downtown include Discovery Green, a park filled with festivals almost every weekend.
  • Rice Village: The Rice Village is the nearest mall to Rice (a short walk, and the Rice bus has a weekend route to the Village as well). There are tons of restaurants and niche stores that are great to check out, especially a boba tea store (your newest favorite drink once you arrive at Rice).

This concludes my short list of places to visit; the majority of places are very close to Rice and are within the 610 loop. Next time you have a free evening or weekend, go out and see some of the best places that Houston has to offer!