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).

Classes Outside Your Major: Why Knit?

If you are interested in attending Rice (and I really hope you are!), your initial interest in this university may have come from the location, the community, the sports, the academics, or a combination of all of the above! I know that when I was making my decision on where I wanted to apply, Rice was at the very top of the list for all of those reasons. I knew that Rice was a stellar school in terms of academics, and since I’ve come here, I continue to be impressed with the faculty, the majors offered, and the course work. My experience as a Social Science major has been that my professors almost always make a concerted effort to learn their students’ names. There is also the opportunity to get to know your professor well through office hours and research opportunities. In a previous post I talked about these opportunities, and how Rice’s willingness and indeed their outright support of undergraduates serving in these positions really says something about how they view their students.

Take an art class at Rice!

With all of these opportunities and classes, I dived in and got involved in many things before figuring out what I really loved. I took so many classes in Cognitive Sciences that I ended up majoring in Linguistics and Psychology as well. After a whirlwind three years, my senior year arrived, and while the usual suspects (Memory, Social Neuroscience, etc.) were tempting, I decided to take a look at classes that I’d never thought about before. This led me to taking an amazing array of classes that I never would have discovered had I not stepped out of my comfort zone. I ended up taking classes like knitting, Russian, Japanese, and Makeup for the Stage! It is never too late to treat yourself, and Rice gives you the opportunity to do that. The knitting class I took was taught by a fellow Rice student, and I know some of my friends have taken classes like Disney narrative, chess, board game strategy, and stand-up comedy also taught by their peers. You will never know where these opportunities will lead you until you try them!

The hat I knit for my final in knitting class!

I learned that I love knitting and am currently knitting a scarf for my grandma and a sweater. I learned that I have a real knack for languages and will be going to study in Japan this coming summer (as a senior!). I also learned that makeup is an art and that theatrical makeup is not just beautiful – it also tells a story. All of this to say that Rice offers so much more than outstanding academics; it also gives you a chance to discover more about yourself and your talents. After almost four years at Rice, I thought that there was nothing else to learn, but the journey never ends, and I am so proud to be taking this journey while at Rice.

 

RME: Rice Missed Encounters

You could ask students around campus what Missed Encounters is. You’ll get quite a few answers, though none of them are incorrect. For some, it’s just Rice’s iteration of the usual college crush pages. For others, it’s a nice bit of entertainment when they’re not studying. For me, it’s an extension of my daily life. Having owned the page for a year, I’ve started going through the motions in operating the page. So, I haven’t gotten the chance to consider its impact.

Missed Encounters Logo

Finding a perspective might be difficult since I’ve never read RME as others do. Just a few days after orientation week, I just happened to see a post requesting an underclassman’s help on the moderating team. As a page perused by such a large portion of the undergraduates, I expected an intricate system for getting submissions onto the page. Soon, I realized how simple the whole process was.

As for moderation, the team consisted of only the then-owner and myself (as the rest of the team had graduated or became inactive). Picking which anonymous submissions to post generally included removing verbally abusive messages, and directly pasting all the clean submissions straight to the page (which leads to the easy to follow yet minimally formatted encounters).

Despite how simple overseeing the page is, there’s quite a bit one can draw from its existence. After reviewing hundreds of submissions, I’ve noticed that most posters are often just a greeting away from accomplishing their encounters, but why go through the stress of a potentially award situation? I find this tendency to be common across campus. Instead of greeting and possibly coming off too forward, perhaps meting through mutual friends would remove some anxiety. Even further in the case of RME, a post acknowledging something about someone works two-fold. Not only do you get your point across, but you also maintain the utmost security.

This is one of my favorite things about Miss Encounters and Rice in general. Anyone feeling social anxiety or reluctance can find solace in the number of their peers overcoming or finished dealing with the issue. Without RME, those with these problems might never get the chance to compliment or catch the name of someone who caught their eye.

I’m glad the previous moderating teams put forth the effort to garner a following and good reputation for the page. With that said, I feel honored to have gotten the chance to run Missed Encounters. Hopefully, the page continues long after I walk back through the SallyPort.

A Community During Harvey

You could say that this year’s incoming class had a very “unconventional” welcome to Rice. After an eventful O-Week, classes were finally starting, and with that came the hustle and bustle of buying supplies, finding classrooms, reading syllabi, and joining clubs. However, by Thursday, we learned that then-tropical-storm Harvey was on its way to Houston and that the campus would be closing at 3 p.m. on Friday. Most of us believed that the storm watch would last only a few days, but clearly, that wouldn’t be the case.

As many may know, Hurricane Harvey was a devastating and unprecedented storm. Luckily, Rice didn’t experience as much damage as the rest of Houston did. There was hardly any flooding on campus. We were safe and well-fed, thanks to our amazing Housing and Dining staff, and we had access to hot water, electricity, and wi-fi. Sometimes, our only concern was what to do for the entire day.

So, what did we do during our extra week off?

Movie nights, karaoke, Zumba, Mario Kart tournaments, dodgeball, Sporcle quizzes, anything to keep ourselves entertained. Towards the end of the week, Rice professors offered lyceum lectures on topics from “The Physics of Music and Sound” to “The Debate Over Confederate Monuments.” Even though Harvey trapped us indoors, I was able to meet and bond with other students, many of whom are now my best friends here.

But the best thing that came from Harvey was seeing the number of students who got involved in the Houston community. There were many opportunities to help hurricane victims, and Rice students were always there to take them. Students were volunteering at disaster relief centers, donating supplies, and helping families clean and rebuild their homes. It was amazing to see the compassion that was in Rice and in Houston throughout the week.

Since then, Houston has still been recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, but it’s nice knowing that Rice will always emerge above any disaster as a community.

Being a Twinless Twin at Rice

Turning my back on my sister and walking away from her tear-stained face after move-in was easily the hardest thing I have had to do so far at Rice. Aside from the occasional overnight field trip during high school or sporadic vacation with different groups of friends, my sister and I had never been apart before college. And that scared me.

When applying to schools, we knew from the start that it wasn’t likely that we would end up at the same place. We chose not to dwell on this fact, though, nor let it affect our decisions, and by the spring of our senior year in high school I had chosen to come to Rice, and she had chosen to go to Tulane. We were excited for each other, and we were happy that we both ended up in the south (hailing from D.C., there was a good chance one of us would have ended up in a northeastern school somewhere).

I was lucky enough to get to visit Tulane during Rice’s midterm recess.

We spent the entire summer together, relishing in the end of this chapter of our lives. But the gravity of finally being on my own for the first time didn’t hit me until I sat back down in the commons of my college, in a room full of strangers.

The great thing about Rice, though, is that I knew that I would be happy here before I even set foot on campus as a new student. The O-Week coordinators had been so transparent and welcoming through their emails and messages in group chats, and the roommate they matched me with was absolutely incredible (snapchatting over the summer made us both realize how scarily accurate the roommate matching process is here).

And I was fine. Better than fine, actually – I felt amazing. By the end of O-Week I had a strong group of friends, an extensive support system, and a clear vision of what to expect during my time here at Rice. I haven’t felt lonely, which was a lingering concern of mine, and (more excitingly for me) I haven’t been called the wrong name once.

The Evolution of my Relationship with Emails

I have a love-hate relationship with my email account. And it is one of the most important relationships I have here at Rice.

When I first got my rice.edu address, I was pretty excited – probably more so than most other incoming Rice students. I was proud of finally having a professional email address, one associated directly with my dream school. Gone were the days of “(embarrassing middle school catchphrases/abbreviations)” and the slightly more mature albeit bland “(first and last name followed by a number)” email addresses.

I remember how, in middle school, emailing was a “cool” (and not yet unpopular) form of communicating with my friends. Yes, we made plans to hang out at the mall or go to the movies over emails. Yes, it took longer to make those plans. Yes, that taught me to practice patience and yes, it held me more accountable to my friends because I was more likely to actually show up and carry out those plans – rather than relying on our smartphones and their capacity to send instantaneous push notifications to take a rain-check. So, for me at least, emails have always been kind of a big deal.

Now, in college, emails are more important than ever. Some people, including myself, have a love-hate relationship with their account. At busier times of the year, I find myself swamped with emails, some more pressing than others. When I’m especially busy or stressed, I just don’t want to read an email from a listserv or a club that is not my priority at that particular point in time. Other times, I love seeing those emails because it usually means I can reconnect with a club/group of people/activity that I have not heard much from lately.

The now-familiar Rice seal that greets me each time I log in to my email account.

Emails are efficient and universal (your peers, professors, RAs, and just about everyone on campus is part of the Rice email community), but can also seem excessive or unnecessary at times (e.g., “It’s finals week; I don’t have time to read a lengthy newsletter from this club!”). All-in-all, though, I am grateful that I can stay connected via email. Even when I am too preoccupied to read certain emails, I almost always make time to read them eventually.

I thus take good care of my account. I do an email cleanse weekly, deleting older message threads that are no longer relevant (and will no longer be relevant to my future). I create and organize labels and folders; some of these include “Classes,” “Jobs and Opportunities,” and “Wiess” (residential college related emails). More long-term academic or extracurricular investments get their own labels as well (e.g. “RCSummer,” the program I worked at these past 2 summers).

Even though I (fondly) refer to my relationship with my Rice email as one of love and hate, my email system makes my life a lot easier. It keeps me connected to Rice, even when I am working abroad at a summer camp, or applying for jobs across the nation. Ultimately, my email helps me navigate the highs and lows of college.