Rice University: The Hogwarts of the South

Have you seen or read the Harry Potter series? Well, just in case you haven’t, the only thing you need to know is that at the magical school of Hogwarts, where the story takes place, all the new students are sorted into four different houses (Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, or Slytherin) based on personality. So what in the world does this have to do with anything?

Similar to the way Harry and his friends were sorted into one of the four different houses when they arrived at Hogwarts, you will be sorted into one of the 11 (the more the merrier) residential colleges (Baker, Wiess, Hanszen, Will Rice, Jones, Brown, Sid Richardson, Lovett, Martel, McMurtry, Duncan) when you matriculate at Rice.  The only difference is that it is completely random instead of personality-based (Yay! You will not need to be scared of having a talking hat abruptly yell over your head). Your residential college will become your home, your family, your support group, your social space, and much, much more.

Lovett College (my residential college)

Each residential college is extremely close knit and has its own culture and traditions that you will quickly learn once you arrive on campus in the fall. You will make many close friends at your college.  And do not worry about not fitting in because each college is so diverse that you will definitely find your niche no matter who you are. Regardless of the college you get placed in, by the end of O-Week, you will love your college so much that you will believe your college is the best one on campus.

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My awesome O-Week Group at Lovett

Rice’s residential college system also provides endless resources for your success in college.  Each college has its own academic fellows, upperclassmen who can help you with your coursework. You will also be assigned to a peer academic advisor who can help you with planning your academics. Additionally, there are college masters and associates who are there to help if you have any concerns, so do not hesitate to reach out to them. The culture of care is truly alive at Rice, so if you need assistance of any sort, there are so many people here that would be more than happy to help you.

You have probably read enough about the different facets of Rice’s residential colleges, so let me address some of the related concerns that I have heard.

  • Making friends with people outside of the residential college: Do not worry! You will have plenty of opportunities to make friends from outside through clubs and classes.
  • No Greek Life: Although Rice does not have fraternities/sororities, the residential colleges provide the same close knit experience that many people look for through Greek life at other universities. The only difference is that everyone is guaranteed to be put in a college so there is no stress over rushing. Yay!

Like Hogwarts, Rice is undoubtedly a magical place. The residential college system provides an undergraduate experience that can be found in very few places. The inclusiveness of the colleges at Rice will integrate you into a large, caring family that will always be there to support you.  hey are what make Rice the perfect place for all of its students.

Every Student Has a Say: Being Part of Student Association

Athena with committee head from Academic Committee, Komal(currently SA internal vice president)

Athena with the committee head from the Academic Committee, Komal (currently SA internal vice president) at the SA recognition retreat.

I have been in Student Government throughout my three years in high school. So when I got into Rice, I knew that I would keep doing it.

There are two types of Student Governments at Rice: Rice-based and residential college-based. For Rice-based government, which we call Student Association (SA), the SA president, vice president, college presidents, senators and new student reps (NSRs) all have to attend our weekly meetings. I was an NSR for my residential college, Martel, when I was a freshman. And it was the most valuable experience I have ever had. I was able to participate in most of the important decisions made in Rice – for example, adding CCTV (closed-circuit television monitoring) at the university’s main entrance, and bike racks to prevent bikes from being stolen. I was encouraged to speak up about my personal opinions even as a freshman, because SA believes that every student has a say.

Besides attending weekly meetings, NSRs are also required to join a standing committee and work on their projects. There are five committees in total. Their names and visions can be found on http://sa.rice.edu/people/scc.php. I was in an academic committee and helped start a program called Meeting Your Professors. It was a monthly event that invited professors to have snacks with us and talk about their life before and after Rice. I really enjoyed doing it and helping build bonds between students and professors in a casual setting. I was also amazed by how much power I had as a freshman. Although the committee chairs did help me with planning and getting food to the event, I was given a lot of autonomy. I could decide how I wanted to advertise for it, which professors I wanted to invite, and how often I wanted to host the events. It was totally different from my experience with student government in high school. It was at Rice’s SA that I started to feel like I was given full responsibilities as an adult.

If you are not interested in Rice-based government, there is another choice: our residential colleges’ governments. For residential college-based government, class reps from each year (another way for freshman to get involved!), the residential college president, vice president, prime minister, senator and standing committee heads are also meeting weekly. But it mostly focuses on specific residential college-related topics. For my college, Martel, we would talk about topics such as how much money we will give to a special event held in our college and suggestions we have for renovating our kitchen. The residential college president and senator will also bring important topics that the SA is considering up to discussion within the college so that they can give feedback to the SA representing their college’s opinions.

Being part of Student Government was one of the most valuable experiences I had during my freshman year. It was quite different from high school, but I did enjoy it. I loved having my opinions respected and treated equally as those of upperclassmen, and I loved the freedom and support I was able to get when I was working on my project. I cannot think of another place that can offer me, a 19-year-old girl, such freedom and respect.

At Rice You Can

Chances are, you’ve heard the phrase “you can do anything you set your mind to.” For many of us, it’s something we’ve heard since we were young, and even though we believe it on some level, we sometimes forget how true it can be. We get so caught up with the things that we can’t accomplish that we don’t appreciate the many things we can do. More than anything, Rice University has reminded me of the inherent power in setting your mind to something and seeing it through. At Rice, the entire adult team (deans, advisors, masters, associates, professors, etc.) are there for your benefit, and they have incredible resources at their disposal. Taking advantage of opportunities at Rice can seem daunting at first, but once you do, so many doors open up, and you’ll be surprised by what you can do with just a little initiative and forethought.

Hungry Hanszenites enjoying food at a student run event

Hungry Hanszenites enjoying food at a student run event

Rice students enjoy quite a bit of autonomy, and I have a feeling that this contributes to our ranking as some of the happiest students in the nation. We are free to think and learn in our own unique ways, and we are celebrated for our differences. This kind of freedom is what makes Rice an amazing and empowering place to be. In high school, I never considered coordinating my own events because that was something adults did. I assumed they were in charge of creating clubs, planning events, and leading meetings because they knew best, and I was not qualified to do any of those things. When I think about it now, one thought comes to mind: why not? The answer is more than just because I was young and inexperienced; it also involves the fact that there weren’t resources in place to support student initiatives and the drive to do something different. There were organizations I was truly passionate about in high school, but I never felt there was a system in place to encourage me or make me feel as if I could ever follow through with an idea. This is most definitely not the case at Rice. Here, there are so many opportunities to get yourself involved, create new traditions, and make your mark. Best of all, you can do all these things simply because you want to and not because you hold any position of power or some sort of sway.

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My friends and I (far right) after our cascarones event

In my home college, I’ve coordinated several events throughout the year with the help of my fellow Hanszenites. Some events include renting out the skating rink for our college, gathering in the quad to have a cascarones fight, carving pumpkins together, and throwing a major declaration party to celebrate what we’ve accomplished in the past year. The success of these events wasn’t based on the number of people who came or the amount of people that talked about it afterwards. Rather, the true success of the events came from the fact that all of them were the result of the students’ desire to try something new and take ownership of their own college culture. I am so grateful to attend a university that supports the ideas of its students and gives them the resources to turn those ideas into a reality.

The OC Life

When many people think of a college experience, they tend to imagine a bunch of students living together in dormitories and sharing communal bathrooms. But there are also Rice students who live off-campus. There are many students who choose to live off-campus for various reasons (their family lives close by, it’s cheaper, etc.), but there are also some students who live off-campus for a year because of housing constraints. Rice has 11 residential colleges with different living systems and cultures, and each college has different requirements for when students live off-campus (students at Rice are typically guaranteed on-campus housing for three of their four years, but many get to live on-campus for all four years). At my college, Wiess College, sophomores usually live off-campus.

As a current OC student, I’ve gotten used to a lot of lifestyle changes at college, but many of them are for the better. Overall I can say that being off-campus has allowed me to become more independent, manage my time better, organize my day-to-day plans, and become more prepared for the real life ahead of me. Let me be a little bit more specific.

I currently live in a house with four other friends. The house is super close to Rice and is in one of the safest neighborhoods in Houston. It’s a 7-minute walking distance and a 3-minute biking distance from Rice’s campus. So in a sense, I’m living as close as I can to being on-campus. But because I don’t have the wonderful Rice housing and dining staff taking care of me in my own house, I have adult responsibilities. Now I make my own food occasionally, so I have to buy groceries. Each of us in the house has chores to do on a routine basis, so I have to take out the trash twice a week. I have to wash dishes, and clean up after myself in the kitchen. Because biking back home takes a while, I have to make sure that I bring all of my books and other miscellaneous items that I need for the day. Especially when there’s a special event at night, I have to make sure that everything is accounted for. On a typical weekday when I have class, I eat breakfast at home, bike to classes, have lunch and dinner on campus, do work either at my residential college or at the library, and then bike back home to sleep. Sometimes I go back home early to get more quiet time and settle down in my work. On the weekends, however, I usually choose not to go on campus unless I have meetings on campus.

A lot of people ask me whether or not I like living off-campus. I think that there are pros and cons to the entire experience. It can be rather inconvenient if you’re involved in on-campus activities, but overall I’m glad that I’m doing it.

Here are my favorite parts of living off-campus:

  1. You’re better prepared for the real world. (Cause let’s be honest, college doesn’t really prepare you for independent living.)
  2. There’s always a place for you to get away from everyone and be in your own sanctuary.
  3. $!! Living off-campus is cheaper than living on campus (mainly because you do not have to get the full meal plan, and you can often find a place to live with cheap rent).
  4. More food options! You can buy different types of meal plans or just use tetra points on your student ID card as a form of currency. Rice has a solid selection of other places to buy food.
  5. You get sympathy points from everyone living on campus!

Even if you don’t want to live off-campus, many students who are in my year still ended up getting rooms last year; in fact, I got offered a room on-campus but already made off-campus plans. Either way, I’m grateful for my time as an off-campus student, but I’m definitely looking forward to moving back on next year!

O-Week 2014: It’s Coming

If you’ve done some thorough research about Rice, you probably know that when you drive up to your residential college for your first day, you’ll be greeted by anywhere from 30 to 50 advisors who are on campus just to help new students transition into their new homes. This memorable moment is simply the beginning of a week that is sure to be full of them: O-Week.

During O-Week, new students have the luxury of not having to worry about any of their classes. Required for all new students, O-Week takes place the week before the first week of classes and is designed to be 50% academic introduction to Rice and 50% introduction into your residential college.

The week requires a lot of intense work and meticulous planning. To prepare for the week, three students from each residential college (except for Wiess, which has two) are chosen to be O-Week Coordinators. As members of Lovett College, my two fellow coordinators and I have been working tirelessly all of second semester summer with the Office of First Year Programs (FYP) to make sure all of the new Lovetteers have a fantastic introduction into Rice and Lovett. We selected upperclassmen advisors from a competitive  pool of applicants, created the book that new students receive in the mail before coming to Rice, paired roommates based on new students’ roommate questionnaires and are now working on planning various events to take place throughout the week. Each residential college also has an O-Week theme; Lovett’s theme this year is O-Week 2014: Pass the Torch. We’ll have all sorts of Olympics-themed events, t-shirts and decorations at Lovett during O-Week.

O-Week is one of the finest examples of the welcoming atmosphere on campus. All eleven residential colleges have a team of 30-50 students who have given up the last two weeks of their summers for the sole purpose of making sure the incoming class feels included and welcome. It’s a fantastic system and one that the O-Week Coordinators and FYP work to improve each year. There’s nothing quite like 50 upperclassmen you’ve never met shouting and cheering your name, and that’s exactly what will happen your first moment on campus as a Rice student.

 

Saturday Salad Study Break

Somehow at the end of this semester, I found myself without any finals! So I decided to put my time to good use, and hosted one last event as this year’s food rep for my residential college. To foster an appreciation for whole foods, healthy eating, and cooking for oneself, I decided to host a salad-making/tasting event over finals period, when most people would be too busy to go out for dinner on a Saturday evening. To do so, I first applied for money–Jones has a JIBA fund of $1000 for Jonesians to apply for when they have an idea of how to use it! I was so excited to have gotten the support of my fellow Jonesians, who granted me $150 to make the event happen. I decided to do a kale, plum, pear and goat cheese salad, a crunchy chicken salad, a curried lentil salad, a mango avocado quinoa salad, a basil tomato mozzarella salad, as well as a mint, ginger and lime cantaloupe salad! The event turned out way better than I could have expected–a good number of people came to help out, and even more people came to try the salads. A number of people even asked me for the recipes, to which I happily obliged. Based on the positive reception, I hope to see this become an annual event!

Salads galore!