It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

For the last week, campus has been in good spirits, even though many of us are going through a second round of midterms. Why, you might ask? Two words: Willy Week!

Willy Week is the week leading up to Beer Bike, an annual Rice tradition where a day of festivities culminates with a bike race between teams from the residential colleges. There’s a men’s team, a women’s team, and a team for alumni from each college; so if you like biking, you can join your college’s bike team once you get to campus! Throughout Willy Week, the residential colleges host activities for students to enjoy themselves and forget about the stress of classwork and exams. It’s a week full of special events, fun and games, and water balloons (more on the water balloons later).

My residential college, Sid Rich, put on its own share of activities. This year, these included the annual Mr. Sid pageant, where 5 male Sidizens competed for the top prize. We also had a private dinner service one evening where we got to dress up and bond over fancy food. My favorite Sid Willy Week tradition, however, was the annual Orc Raid.

For Orc Raid, me and a bunch of other Sidizens assembled outside. Wearing all black, we covered ourselves in black and red paint, Sid’s college colors. Then, as a mob, we ran all over campus, infiltrating the commons of other colleges. By shouting cheers and jumping on tables, we asserted our dominance as the best residential college (in our eyes at least). Along the way, we got a few weird looks from people doing homework and even joined a group of people in the Will Rice commons singing karaoke (because, let’s be real, Adele never fails to bring everyone together).

Sid infiltrates Duncan commons!

There is a friendly rivalry between all the colleges about which one truly is the best. While there really is no answer to this question, Rice students are pretty partial to the one they call home. This rivalry is especially magnified during Willy Week, and reaches its peak come Beer Bike morning.

Here’s where the water balloons come into play. Throughout Willy Week, students spend time between classes filling up water balloons. Then, as the final activity before the bike races on the morning of Beer Bike, thousands of students take their positions around the perimeter of a big field for (unofficially) the world’s largest water balloon fight. It’s a Hunger-Games-esque battle where everyone gets soaking wet (but it’s so much fun getting to throw balloons at your friends!).

Tens of thousands of balloons are thrown in a matter of minutes!

Throughout the week, I was able to make lasting memories with my friends and fall even more in love with Rice and its unique traditions. Getting to experience Willy Week and Beer Bike for myself made me understand why it’s nicknamed Christmas. There’s definitely a reason why something so special only comes once each year.

O-Week 2017: Get Hype?

Here’s a timely topic for you: Orientation Week (aka O-Week) 2017!!! This is the first week new students have on campus: a week of fun social events and academic planning and sessions meant to orient you to important aspects of campus life. Each new student is placed in a group of 8-10, with 2-4 upperclassmen advisors who are there to be the first point of contact and the first advocate for a new student.

“But wait,” you say, “O-Week doesn’t happen until next August.” That’s true. Many of the students who will be joining us next year haven’t even been admitted yet and won’t find out about their acceptance to Rice until the end of the semester. It’s the middle of February, sure – but in fact, planning for O-Week has already begun. This is just the point at which things pick up speed.

At Duncan, my residential college, the O-Week theme was revealed last week to be RadiO-Week, which has prompted two things: a wave of radio-related puns to circulate the college and a wave of excitement and mild panic as people rush to fill out their advisor applications. Interviews, decisions, a second wave of applications and interviews and decisions as colleges seek to fill the co-advisor (advisors who are from a different residential college) positions, and so on. It can be a stressful time, especially if it’s your first time applying to advise, especially because it’s a job that attracts so many people. Yesterday, at lunch with the group I advised last year, I asked who, if anyone, was applying to advise. Almost all of my new students said they were, and, further, that “basically the whole freshman class is applying.” So what’s the big deal? Why is it that my whole group – ten wonderful freshmen with diverse interests and backgrounds and personalities – wants to turn around and play the role of the knowledgeable older student?

As for my lovely O-Week family, there isn’t a single one of them that wouldn’t make a great advisor next year!

People have different reasons for wanting to become advisors, but here are some of the ones I’ve heard. Of course, everyone who applies wants to get to know the matriculating class of 2017 and wants to be involved in the college (and it’s fantastic to be part of an environment where those motivations are just givens). But here are other reasons for your future advisors giving up two weeks of their summer vacation and a whole lot of their sleep to make sure the matriculating class of 2017 feels safe and accepted at Rice:

  1. My O-Week was amazing!!! I want to repay the favor for the next group of new students!
  2. I know something could have been improved, so I wanted to see that change.
  3. I want new students like me to feel that they have someone supporting them.

The middle reason may be surprising, but it just goes to show the drive and compassion of Rice students. Other advisors I worked with last year admitted at some point, “You know, my O-Week experience was only okay, but I know that was only because of XYZ thing, so I wanted to sort of make sure that didn’t happen.” And those advisors who are advising for the third reason can be some of the most passionate – they’re people who have felt marginalized at some point in their lives, who struggle with mental wellbeing, and who want to use their experiences to make things easier and more comfortable for new students.

And the best O-Week team (like Duncan’s team last year) has a mixture of all three. So I encourage any prospective students who do decide to come to Rice to look out for the differences in the advisors at their residential college. There is no one Rice experience, and your advisors are going to represent that.

The only slightly nutty advising team at Duncan last year: more awesome than you could imagine

Residential Colleges: More Than a Living Space

If you’re considering applying to Rice, you’ve probably heard about the residential college system. The residential colleges are interesting – they are a little bit of everything. Even now as a junior, I am realizing how much the diversity of socialization and experiences that the colleges provide play a prominent part of my undergraduate career.

At other universities, my friends describe their dorms as more distinct – as “humanities dorms” or “honors dorms” or “engineering dorms.” Rice’s residential colleges are more of a mix, with no one major or program dominating the spaces we live in. The residential colleges are an inclusive blend of everything – academic interests, social interests, cultures. Even for me, personally, living on campus at Wiess College for the past two and a half years has produced interactions and memories with different kinds of individuals. In my current suite, I live with an athlete, an artist, and a future chemical engineer. My freshman year, I shared a room with a Math major who stayed up with me every other night writing proofs while I wrote essays for my English courses. Sophomore year, my roommate and I (usually) both went to bed by midnight, juggling very different non-academic commitments and daily to-do lists, but still managing to attend social and campus-wide events together.

Rice’s residential college system can bring you close to very individually interesting, bright, and inspiring people – here’s my suite heading over to the fall formal, Esperanza, all together.

At any given time in the residential college commons, I often see groups of people working together. I also see people getting up and floating around, interacting with people who are working on something completely different (whether academically, or for another purpose – someone designing a shirt for a social event, for instance). The residential colleges really allow each and every one of us to bring our unique interests, talents, and experiences to the table. No matter where you live on campus, no matter which residential college’s cheers you learn during O-week, your residential college provides potential interactions and friendships with people of all kinds. And although each college has its own colors, traditions, and buildings, they each share one very important feature: they are inclusive of all academic majors, ages, cultural backgrounds, and voices.

I Wanna Be (Sid) Rich

It’s hard for me to believe that I’m almost done with my first semester at Rice. It feels like I’ve only just gotten here, and now Winter Break is right around the corner. With that being said, I wanted to take some time to reflect on my college experience so far. I am enjoying my classes, have made great friends, and have gotten way too many honey butter chicken biscuits from the Hoot at night (The Hoot is a student-run shop that sells Chick-Fil-A, Whataburger, and a bunch of other snacks and drinks – it’s my go-to for a midnight snack). However, I think the residential college system has become my favorite thing about Rice. Being a part of Sid Richardson College (SRC DFA!) has made my experience all the more satisfying and rewarding.

The traditions that Sid Rich has really make me feel part of something bigger than myself:

  1. Radio Free Sid: Walking back from class on Friday afternoons, I hear music blasting from the 7th floor speakers. Sidizens can submit their own playlists for Radio Free Sid, getting the opportunity to blast their favorite songs. Radio Free Sid always starts and ends with Sid’s unofficial theme song, AC/DC’s “Back in Black”. Hearing some of my favorite jams puts me in a good mood and gets me excited for the weekend.
  2. Sid Skate: This is coming up in the next few weeks, but I can’t wait! Sid rents out the ice skating rink at the Galleria for students to take a break from studying for finals. Though I’m probably gonna fall down a lot, it’ll still be fun to spend time with my friends and not think about the impending doom of final exams.
  3. Floor Culture: One of the things that I love most about Sid is our floor culture. Some of my closest friends are the people that I’ve met on my floor. People are always out in the common area studying, playing games, or just hanging out. In order to further strengthen this floor culture, the Sid master hosts a year-long contest called “Floor Wars.” Every few weeks, he hosts an event that the floors compete in against each other. All year long, the floors compete for victory, and at the end of the year the winner gets a fancy dinner at the Master’s house (and the unofficial title of Best Floor). My floor (3rd Floor FTW!) is in first place right now, so hopefully we can keep our lead until the end of the year. Some of the events that we’ve had so far include a puzzle making competition, a pumpkin carving competition, a karaoke battle, and an ice cream making competition. It’s a whole lot of fun and a great way to become even closer to the people on your floor.

The people in your residential college are some of the closest friends that you will make at Rice. They are the people that you go to the movies with on a Friday night and the people that you discuss the meaning of life with at 2 AM. It feels good knowing that even when I’m away from my family in Dallas, I’ll “OWLways” have a home here at Rice!

Sid is the tallest residential college on campus, and this is the amazing view from the 7th floor balcony. The sun is setting on my first semester here, and it has been a wild ride!

Sid is the tallest residential college on campus, and this is the amazing view from the 7th floor balcony. The sun is setting on my first semester here, and it has been a wild ride!

Branching Out with Classes

As fall semester is coming towards an end and spring class registration is underway, classes are on everyone’s mind right now, including mine. We all go to college to take classes, and they really make up a large part of your overall Rice experience. Choosing the right classes can be a stressful but important component of the Rice experience.

Luckily, Rice has plenty of resources if students need guidance. Fifty percent of Rice’s orientation week consists of academics and class planning, so you will definitely not be lost coming into college. Throughout the rest of the year, each residential college has Peer Academic Advisors (PAAs) who are there to help you plan your schedule based on your major, fulfill graduation requirements, and ask about any important deadlines or academic opportunities. As a PAA for Wiess College, I’ve found my role quite fulfilling because I have my own group of new students with similar interests to mine to help with academic planning in addition to my general role as an advisor for everyone else.

When I came into Rice, I had a general idea of what I wanted to major in but I wasn’t completely sure. Thankfully, the resources I had from the Office of Academic Advising (oaa.rice.edu) and my PAAs were instrumental in my decision to change my major from Biochemistry to Cognitive Sciences. Through the major and the suggestion from PAAs to take classes that interest me, I’ve discovered and re-aligned my academic interests from a natural sciences background to more social science subjects (psychology, linguistics, neuroscience, philosophy). With Rice’s requirement to take 12 hours from each distribution (Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences & Engineering), students have the opportunity to explore beyond their majors. I know many people who switch majors or change their career plans because they unexpectedly became interested in a distribution class and wanted to further pursue the major associated with the class. Additionally, there are so many interesting classes for students to take, like an English and Biology combined class titled “Monsters,” a class about managing large cities taught by former Houston mayor Annise Parker, or a class formatted like the reality TV show “Survivor.” It’s also great because you get so much feedback from other upperclassmen who give useful advice about which classes to take in addition to the OAA and PAAs.

One of the main purposes of college is to explore your options and really find your passions, whether that be academic or non-academic. I’m thankful that I found what I’m truly interested in, and there’s no doubt you will too when you come to Rice.

How to Throw a Party like a Kardashian Rice Student

With the amount of time I spend looking at Snapchat news stories, 90% of which are about the Kar-Jenners, it’s surprising my brain hasn’t completely wasted away. The other day, however, I opened one story titled “How to Throw a Party like a Kardashian” and proceeded to swipe through the pictures and video clips of opulent decorations and luxurious table setups that ‘took 4 days to get right.’”

The highlight of the day was a visit from 10 golden retrievers, bound to lift anybody's spirits!

The highlight of the day was a visit from 10 golden retrievers, bound to lift anybody’s spirits!

Being neither rich nor famous nor patient enough to set up a table with real plates and silverware, Rice students have come up with equally sufficient and, in my opinion, better ways to have a good time. One such event is College Night, each college hosting its own once per semester. College night is actually an all-day event at your respective college – a themed day filled with music, games, and fun activities for just your college! As one of four college night coordinators for my college Sid Richardson last year, I can now say I can throw a Kardashian-standard party for about $10,000 less.

Sid Richardson’s fall college night was themed “Sid Turns UP!” (first step to throwing a killer event is a killer theme), and was based on the Pixar movie Up. My fellow coordinators and I worked endless hours to make this one of the best college nights Sid had ever seen. From fantastically-designed t-shirts to colorful jungle decorations and balloons tied everywhere to ordering way too much Cane’s chicken, we planned and executed a great event for all Sidizens. We posted “oldified” pictures of Sid’s freshmen on the wall, played the music from the iconic movie throughout the day, and just when it couldn’t get any better, we had 10 golden retrievers come and play with Sidizens.

The Sid Rich 2015-2016 college night coordinators in all our decked-out glory

The Sid Rich 2015-2016 college night coordinators in all our decked-out glory (I’m on the far right!)

College night is one of the many things you will get to look forward to as a part of the residential college system at Rice. Events like this bring everyone together to have fun, relax and mingle. They also offer many ways for you to get involved in your college’s activities. Being a college night coordinator was one of my favorite things about my freshmen year and helped me get to know a lot of my fellow Sidizens. As such an integral part to student life at Rice, your residential college will provide you boundless opportunities to have fun, kick back, and get involved. Hope you’re excited for your first college night!