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.

Pens are Still Relevant

Though we have all the wonderful technologies of laptops and tablets allowing for less physical writing, the latter is not yet completely avoidable.

When it comes to essays, typing only gets you to the first draft. The Center for Writing, Oral, and Visual Communication will ask you to bring that first draft printed out to your meeting. At this meeting they will tweak, sharpen, rearrange, and improve your essay – but you will need to take notes. The scribbles in different colors of pen will help you better remember what to do for your next essay.

You will have enormous amounts of free pens from various events thrown by the university. And these you will see for moments at a time throughout your four years here, as you trade them amongst your peers and keep them in your backpack at all times for emergencies. These will be great for when you forget your laptop, or when you need to write down a note on your arm from a passing conversation.

For your division 3 classes (hard and natural sciences), typing equations as fast as they are being written is impossible, so you will need a physical notebook to go along with the pens you brought. This strategy transfers to homework that is more quantitative as well. Pens are also required for many exams written in blue books.

You’ll definitely need to to keep a pen on your person during any professional events. If you are at an information session, you will need to jot down the name of every name and email address that comes up in the presentation. And you will take notes during career fairs to remember which companies were the best fits for you. And the type of pen in this case can matter (hint: get a pen that is heavy).

Not to mention there will be many stressful times at Rice where clicking, tapping, and unscrewing will keep your mind at peace.

The Importance of Organization

The other day, an acquaintance told me that I should use a Google calendar. He had good intentions, but I already have an excellent system. I keep a 2.5 ft x 3.5 ft wall calendar for events outside of class and a planner for coursework and assignments. When I am not in class or participating in something on my calendar, I look to my planner so I can do assignments in between. (Note: the assignments take a fairly long time – Rice is a challenging university)

My calendar is color-coded: black is labs, class cancellations, and office hours; dark blue is dance team; light brown is non-dance team exercise; light blue is interviews/job stuff; light green is vacation days, dark pink is social events; red is exams, and orange is impending deadlines (with the intention of being erased upon completion, preceded by a checkbox).

A benefit to using a non-technological calendar is privacy. I like knowing that I have full control of my time to allocate as I see fit. There are gaps in my schedule, but those are necessary breaks to eat, sleep, and be human. These intentional gaps prevent burnout and keep me motivated to continue pursuing whatever I am doing. Many people over-schedule and over-commit themselves to extracurricular activities, which causes them to become more stressed.

You may use a Google calendar or electronic alternative, and that is great if it works for you. You may think my system is old-fashioned or outdated, but then again, I still talk to people on the phone, instead of DM’ing or tweeting on Twitter, so it’s really personal preference. (Note: many people still prefer phone calls!)

The main reason I haven’t gone electronic? “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” My calendar system is a well-oiled machine, and I don’t see things changing any time in the near future.

Don’t Be Afraid to Go Outside of your Comfort Zone

Rice has a bunch of students that all come from different places— from neighboring towns in Houston to foreign countries across the globe. Nevertheless, we all amalgamate together on campus and bring special diversity to the undergraduate student population. In my case, I hail from the state of New Jersey, just a meager 1,607 miles away from Rice. Whenever I mention that I’m from New Jersey, people never hesitate to ask the token follow-up question: “So why did you decide to come to Rice and live in Texas?” As much as I understand why they ask me, over time I’ve realized that the question implies that most people don’t choose to attend a university far away from home without an explicitly good reason.

My token answer to the token question? I wanted to go to Rice because of the amazing community they have with the residential colleges, its proximity to the largest medical center in the world, and its unique social and cultural environment. Additionally, Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the country, with a myriad of great opportunities (academic and non-academic) for college and beyond. I feel like that answer very much justifies itself, but many people still ask me why I wanted to move so far away. Yes, I don’t get to see my friends and family as often, but I do not regret exploring and going out of my comfort zone in a new environment. From my perspective, I’ve had some of the most unique experiences living in Houston, whether that be cultural experiences from living in Texas to academic experiences from interning at special organizations here. I’m someone who can struggle with change, but lately I’ve become more open to saying yes to new things because they are usually the most rewarding. And going to Rice is a prime example of its benefits.

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Houston has so many cool attractions to visit with friends! This is Discovery Green, and they had a cool interactive exhibit this past March.

I’m not saying that it’s better to go farther away from home, but you shouldn’t limit your options. There are many factors to consider (like finances and family), but I think that I made the right choice going to school here. At Rice, I’ve been exposed to such a unique culture within the diverse campus and beyond. Even though Texas is a new environment for me, Rice makes me feel like I very much belong here. Besides, I’m not the only New Jerseyian or Northeasterner here. I’ve befriended many other students who come from the same area as me. There are still internship and job opportunities connected to Rice that are located throughout the country (including where I’m from), so my college experience is not limited to Houston.

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The MFA (Museum of Fine Arts) is super close to Rice. And the best part is that Rice students get in for free!

To any student who lives far away from Texas and is considering Rice: keep in mind that going beyond what you’re comfortable with can yield some of the most worthwhile experiences. And the best part about living far away from school? The trip back home is 100 times more special.

Looking the part: Hairstyles

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O-Week Bonding! Best friends in the first week!

First day of school, freshman year. Fresh from back to school shopping, ready to reinvent yourself. Outfit looks great and your hair cut looks safe. Yes, you get to be whoever you want in college, and most people want that to be a person with friends. By society’s constraints, people come to Rice wanting to impress others, looking particularly plain and approachable. And we will be completely not-surprised to see that it works! All new students with any hair cuts will find friends.There is nothing wrong with this! Going off to college is scary, and it is so natural to want to fit in. Luckily, that basic period of time is something that Rice has come to minimize. Going through an entire week of orientation with people you will live with for the next 4 years makes people very comfortable, very quickly. The people you meet (roommates, o-week groups, etc.), are chosen, by hand, to be people you will like. And they will like you right back.

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A rockin’ hair cut to go with international travels! Study abroad!

Coming back from winter break, sophomore year. Settled in and doing things we enjoy (like your German Fairytales class).  Hair cut: fresh and free. Finally solved the riddle of how to find happiness: being yourself. Not only have your old friends decided that they like the real you (the you who has ventured into Acroyoga), but a ton of new people have realized how awesome you are as well. Your close community grows bigger so that your support system now stretches across the entire campus. Your hair cut reflects how you try new things (like becoming a site leader for an alternative spring break), and maybe you didn’t know how growing organic vegetables was going to turn out, but you made a commitment, and you are still living through it. Because you rock the most at being yourself.

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Why not try all of the colors at once? BEER BIKE

Beer Bike, junior year. Hair cut: TBD Stress, we all feel it. The academics are hard, you’ve picked a major that you aren’t really sure about, you’ve been through your first heartbreak, and the servery is having green beans and mashed potatoes, again. Good thing that we plan a week around being incredibly spontaneous and ridiculous. It’s great that you, as a typical Rice student, stay on top of your work, because you aren’t going to want to open a book this week. You don’t have to worry, because no one is worrying. Your hair has changed three times during the week: dyed, cut, and filled with Holi powder and mud. This is a great week of your life. You realize that your summer internship is going to be amazing, you are doing well in your classes, and you love green beans. Everything you’ve been doing the past 3 years has, and will be worth it. Relax! And breath in this beautiful weather Houston gives us around this time of the year.

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You’ve made it! Looking like the well put together adult you are. 🙂

Graduation, senior year. Hair cut: perfect. Not only are you finished, you are ready. You have become substantially more yourself at Rice. An incredibly smart, well spoken, and friend-having graduate. You’ve just finished an incredible senior thesis about the correlation between gender and drug prices, you’ve impacted an incredible amount of lives through your volunteer work in the Medical Center, and you realize how good you are at problem solving. The last four years seem like a blur, so it is a good thing everyone documents everything in this generation (specifically to remind you of the time you forgot you had a presentation so you improvised on the topic of “Theory of Business Principles in 1920’s Cinema”).With your job lined up and ready to go, and your cap and gown on point, all you have to do is walk out of the Sallyport.

But your legs want nothing more than to take another lap around the inner loop.

Debunking Owl Days Myths

It’s mid-April, Rice, so brace yourselves: the prospies are coming. Owl Days is this week, Admit Days are today and next Monday – it’s the time of year when Rice welcomes on campus the hundreds of admitted prospective students – fondly called “prospies” – and helps them fall in love with Rice the same way we have.

I remember walking on campus for Owl Days with terror in my heart, mostly fueled by my anxiety about most social situations. Because I know many high school seniors feel the same way, I want to debunk a few of the myths your anxiety will try to tell you about Owl Days.

MYTH NUMBER 1: If you don’t meet your best friends over Owl Days, you will remain friendless and alone forever.

Owl Days is really great for meeting people. You’re likely to find a few people staying in the same suite/hall/residential college to talk to, but don’t worry if you don’t click and become instant best friends. I met great people that I still see around campus, but don’t feel totally alone if you don’t click at once with the people around you.

REALITY: Owl Days is great for getting to know your future classmates, but you’ll make friends in your classes and at your college as well!

More Reality: my only picture from Owl Days 2015 happens to be an appreciation of this artistic and tasty owl.

There will also be receptions and mingling opportunities galore, where you can pick up some tasty goodies like this beautiful cookie from Owl Days 2015.

MYTH NUMBER 2: The residential college you stay in is the absolute best college, and you must end up there.

Chances are, your host will be absolutely brimming with college pride and will explain to you that their college is the best college at Rice. It will be pretty easy to get attached, but don’t stay up late at night worrying about whether or not you’ll be placed in the “best” residential college. Every college is widely loved by its members. You’re likely to love whatever college you end up a member of, regardless of whether or not you stayed there over Owl Days.

REALITY: Residential college pride and inner-college friendly competition is strong, but most people absolutely love the college they are in. There is no “best” or “worst” college!

MYTH NUMBER 3: “Rice students are super cool and super busy and super superior to prospies and if you speak out of turn you’ll be shamed ahhhhhhhh”

Okay, so Rice students are pretty cool. Hosts come in every shape and size, from every residential college, and we all have different workloads. (Please forgive us if we have to study – our final tests and projects are happening now or are right around the corner!) Even if your host seems busy or way too cool to listen to your questions, ask questions anyway. People sign up to be hosts because they want to hang out with prospies. You’ll probably find people that aren’t hosts that want to get to know you, too! If you feel terrified and out of place like I did when I first stepped on campus, know that Rice kids are at most a few years older than you, they remember exactly what it was like to be in your shoes, and they’re volunteering their time because they want to get to know you!

REALITY: All we want to do is hang out with the cool prospies. Make yourselves at home!

A lot has happened in a year. I’m no longer the timid high school senior terrified of leaving home and making new friends. So if that’s you, it’s okay; we remember what that was like, and we can’t wait to meet you!

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What the picture says: WELCOME!

~Erika