My Favorite Nooks at Rice University

My first few months at Rice have probably been the most exhilarating months of my life. I have learned innumerable things, met interesting new people, and had a myriad of new experiences. But at the same time, these months have also been the most turbulent. I’ve struggled with homesickness and a good share of difficult exams, and sometimes I feel like my life is spiraling out of control. Although I know that this is natural of any big transition, I find that sometimes I need a place to be alone with my thoughts and destress at a vibrant and lively place like Rice. So here are my three favorite spots to work, think, and destress!

  • Every Friday I have a one hour break between my Chemistry and my Math classes. I fight the temptation to go to my room and take a nap and instead head to my favorite spot on campus. It’s a bench outside Fondren Library, overlooking the academic quad. This spot is not exactly secluded and quiet, but I don’t mind the bustling activity of the steady stream of people walking past Fondren and around the academic quad. I get to enjoy the warm morning sun and the (mostly) lovely Houston weather. The hour that I spend here is probably the most relaxing and productive time I get all week, and I like to spend it reading a book or reviewing some math homework.
  • I love libraries, and Fondren Library is no exception. I spend most of my time studying on the first floor, the sixth floor, or in the basement. However, when I need some inspiration for a paper, want to watch a few episodes of a show that I have been binging, or just spend some time thinking by myself, I head to the Quiet Study Space in the Brown Fine Arts Library. Hidden amongst stacks of books about Music, Art, and Architecture, this study space gives me the quiet alone time that I sometimes crave. When I want a break, I just browse the shelves for some interesting books! 
  • Sometimes, when I need to blow off some steam (and I’m too lazy to go to the gym), I go for a late-night stroll around campus under the night sky. I always make sure I stop at James Turrell’s ‘Twilight Epiphany’ Skyspace. This art installation looks beautiful during the light shows at sunrise and sunset, and at night, it is quiet and peaceful. For me, sitting on a bench in Skyspace amidst the cool night breeze serves as an instant de-stressor. It is the best place on campus to just sit, relax, and be alone for a while.

KTRU: Rice’s Student Radio Station

For the longest time, I wasn’t involved heavily with an extracurricular activity at Rice. All of my friends were in some sort of club or organization that they identified closely with, but I felt left out since I hadn’t found my niche. I joined some here and there my freshman year, but none really appealed to what I was looking for. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I saw an application to join KTRU. I had seen the KTRU stickers plastered on various places around campus, from staircases to lampposts, but I never really knew what it was until this year.

KTRU is Rice’s student-run radio station, which can be listened to locally in Houston or from its website. The station is on the second floor of the student center, and it’s one of my favorite places on campus. I decided to apply this year and I’m really glad that I did. Apart from the radio aspect, KTRU is a club as well. It hosts concerts for the public, and it has several events for its members and DJs throughout the year. Since joining KTRU, I’ve met a lot of new people from campus that have similar interests as me, I’ve made a lot of new friends to attend concerts and shows with, and I’m a part of a community that I feel connected to.

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The Quokka Challenge at Rice

There is a multiplicity of ways for all Rice students to immerse themselves in the exciting and thriving Rice community. This can range from joining committees at their residential colleges to joining Intramural or Club sports teams to becoming a member of any club which suits their interests. One club that I joined is the Rice Alliance for Mental Health Awareness, which is better known as RAMHA. The mission of RAMHA is to “reduce the stigma surrounding mental health disorders” by encouraging all members of the Rice community to openly discuss mental health and to take care of their own. RAMHA hosts various events throughout the year, including Body Positivity Week and the Quokka Challenge.

The Quokka Challenge is an eight week-long program that various universities across the country, such as Georgetown, Princeton, and The Ohio State University, participate in. Each week, participants are encouraged to engage in a particular healthy behavior or habit that has been empirically proven to boost one’s well-being. Some of the challenges this year include exercise, good deeds, journaling, and giving thanks. At the end of each week, participants can choose to answer a few questions about that week’s challenge online and can even win a prize, like a gift card to a local restaurant or a stress ball. At Rice, the residential college that has the most students taking part in the challenge by the end of the eight weeks wins a super fun study break with a ton of awesome food!

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‘Tis The Season (of Spring-Semester Schedules)

As one of my college’s head Peer Academic Advisors, there is little that I think about more at this time of year than academic planning. For this is the point in the semester when Rice students register for classes. It’s the first time that “Spring 2018” doesn’t seem like a far-distant future anymore, but a tangible time of possibility that is just around the corner. Opinions on campus vary as to whether these early days of November are exciting or just nerve-wracking. My job as a Peer Academic Advisor is to help with the process of registering for class by meeting with my peers at my residential college in any way I can. As such, I’m pretty easily someone who falls into the “excited” camp of people.

 

First of all, there’s the excitement of the course offerings when they are revealed. I love looking through the incredible variety of courses Rice has on offer. In some departments, classes are offered so often that there’s a lot of available information on what to expect. Others are taught only once every few years, and some are thought up by professors for the first time. Either way, it’s exciting to decode the mystery and start thinking about scheduling. Plus, the courses offered at Rice are wide-reaching and varied. Here are just some examples, pulled from four departments around campus:

 

  • The Biochemistry department is offering courses like Evolution, Cell and Molecular Animal Physiology, and my personal favorite, Monster,  an interdisciplinary course on the science and art of monsters in history and pop culture.
  • The Computer Science department has its normal distribution of electives that range from machine learning to cyber security
  • My home department, English, is offering courses on Hollywood films, Chicana feminist literature, renaissance dramas, and podcast-writing.
  • The Sociology department is offering courses on immigration, the family, gender, Muslims in American society, and disaster

As you can probably guess, with so many options, some people find it daunting to even try to pick out classes. Every semester, I personally start with a long list of the fifteen-or-twenty classes that at first glance sound neat to me. Whittling it down to the four-or-five classes I end up taking can be a challenge. And that’s just one paradigm. Due to my majors (English/Political Science), I have relatively few courses required, and even those requirements offer me choices. Some degree programs fit this paradigm, where schedule planning is both free as flying in an open sky and directionless as swimming in the open ocean. Other degree programs will have more stringent requirements and less flexibility – for better or worse, depending on the type of person you are. This is part of the reason people are so divided in how they feel about schedule planning.

Either way, students at Rice have a lot of chances to ask for help and get advice, which is my second-favorite part of the academic planning time of year. I love being a Peer Academic Advisor (PAA) because I get to help people make those large decisions in a casual, but ultimately personal way. While Rice’s Office of Academic Advising is an amazing group of people, it’s unrealistic to expect them to field the sheer number of student inquiries. That’s where we, the merry band of PAAs come in. With training, we are equipped to answer the basic questions our peers have and give advice on important basics of balancing classes and choosing between majors and programs. I think this is a revolutionary and integral part of Rice’s support network. When an answer to a large, pivotal question (how do I drop a class, when am I supposed to drop a class, which of these majors should I pursue?) is just a text message or a conversation with a friend away, academic planning becomes a lot less stressful at all ends. Doing my part for my college is one of the best, most rewarding parts of schedule planning season: not only do I get the excitement of completing my own upcoming semester plan, but I also get the satisfaction of helping others find what they’re happy with.

A Day in My life as a Rice Freshman

No single Rice student’s day looks the same, which is one of the best things about this university. Each person has unique interests and passions which they pursue here at Rice. Students pursue a wide range of majors, from Biological sciences to classics and everything in between. Students are involved in advocacy, research, medical humanities, policy, volunteering, and much much more. One of the best parts of being a Rice student is having the opportunity to interact with peers who have interests that are different from your own, but equally interesting to learn about. The first couple months of my freshman year at Rice have been all about exploring what I want to do with my time here and getting involved in things that seem interesting to me.  With that being said, here is a day I have recently had as a freshman at Rice.

7:15am– I heard my alarm. I groaned. I hit snooze.

7:30am– I heard my alarm again, this time I decided I should probably get up. I proceeded to get out of bed and get dressed for the day.

8:30am– I headed down for breakfast at West Servery and grabbed a plate of scrambled eggs and fruit. I sat at a table outside the servery and read an article for class. This particular one was called “Millennial Women are Worried About the Future of Their Reproductive Care.” After I finishing my reading, I grabbed a cup of servery coffee – which I must say is not bad at all – and headed back up to my room.

9:30– While I would like to say I was productive with the hour I had before class, alas, I was not. I laid in bed watching Stranger Things.

10:30– I packed my backpack and met up with my friend to walk to Econ class. I walked into class and waved at the professor, who I must say, is amazing! Econ 100 is a 120 person, lecture based introductory class, which the professor makes extremely interesting and manageable. He also knows who I am and talks to me whenever he sees me outside of class. But I’ve learned, that’s just how Rice professors are.

12:00– I walked to the English department lounge for a presentation on what careers are available to English majors. As a potential English major, this was right up my alley. Representatives from the Center for Career Development and the Jones Graduate School of Business spoke about various job opportunities. Free lunch was also provided at the event, so I dug into a delicious burrito as I listened to the speakers.

1:15– I hurried to Brochstein Pavilion, which is both a cafe and central spot on campus. I was meeting my English professor at Brochstein to discuss my ideas for my close analysis essay on Egyptian poetry.  

2:00– I went to my second and final class of the day. Today, there were two guest lecturers in class: one was from Planned Parenthood and the other was a doctor at Rice. We spoke about gender, reproductive care, health insurance and legislation.

4:00– I settled down in a comfortable chair at Fondren Library, with a view of the quad and Sallyport on my right, and my calculus textbook in front of me. With a midterm coming up soon, I had a lot of work to get done.

8:00– I suddenly realized that I forgot to leave the library and eat dinner- I know, it’s crazy! I walked back to my room and warmed up some readymade Kraft mac ‘n’ cheese (it’s honestly really good). My friends came over and we all sat on the floor talking, eating and watching Stranger Things.

10:00– I changed into pajamas and worked on my essay in my room. I occasionally got distracted and watched Youtube videos, but on the whole I was productive enough.

12:15– I got into bed and went on Instagram for a few minutes and then promptly dozed off afterwards.

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.