Trying Dance at Rice

Last year, I decided to really step out of my comfort zone and try something I’d never tried before: dance.

I’d always been awkward at events like hoco and prom, where they’d set up a light-up dance floor replete with strobing lights and expect people to utilize it. I much preferred to stand by the refreshments or on the outskirts of a ring of people, watching a more talented friend break out their moves and start freestyling.

The start of college came with new resolutions, though, and one of those was to try learning how to dance. Several of my friends were a part of a group at Rice that learned hip-hop and k-pop choreography, so one evening, I hesitantly showed up to a BASYK practice.

While I found that going through the warm-ups was tough (body rolls and chest pops are surprisingly difficult), learning the choreography to songs I liked was a lot of fun. The choreographer in the front of the room broke things down to a manageable level for beginners like me to follow, and everyone was there to have a good time. As I continued to show up for practices throughout the year, I gained a lot of new friends from different majors and residential colleges, along with a lot of good memories and better dance moves.

While BASYK isn’t a competitive dance team, we learn choreo to perform at a lot of different events around Rice, including at Rice Dance Team’s (RDT) Showcase in the fall, the Chinese Student Association’s (CSA) Lunar New Year Show, the Korean Student Association’s (KSA) Korean Culture Night, and the Rice Taiwanese Association’s (RTA) Night Market in the spring. We also get invited to perform off-campus sometimes, like we did last weekend for the Houston Korean Education Center.

Sometimes I wonder if I would have been fearless enough to try to learn how to dance on my own, and I think I definitely wouldn’t have gotten into dancing if it weren’t for the low-key, fun-focused atmosphere that BASYK had when I joined. I’m thankful that I found a place to comfortably step out of my comfort zone here with friends who like the same music and are eager to try new dances with me.

On that note, here are two of my favorite performances from last year:

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 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.

Mentality Shift: A Junior’s Final Days

A college junior’s last few weeks is a period of reckoning. It is a timeframe wracked with concerns (for the future), nostalgia (for the past), and angst (in the present). It is the first time your scope is really broadened into the post-graduation context, when you are forced to look beyond the receipt of a diploma, and must instead not only imagine but plan life beyond Rice.

Of late, I’ve been attending graduate school information sessions. I have met with professors regarding recommendation letters and general advice for what lies ahead. At the same time, it is probably the first sustained period of time that I’ve had some substantial hope and anticipation for all that is yet to come: acceptances, rejections, the lot. Especially as an underclassman, one is still not used to rejections. They happen a lot, by the way. When they’re few and far between, one doesn’t really know how to cope with them. Now a tenured recipient of rejections, I’ve learned it is not so much the “yes/no” decision that defines you, but rather how you deal with the decision and learn from it.

The feeling of “looking forward” transcends academics and professional life–I have begun to envision which friends I’ll stay in contact with and which, just as in life immediately following high school, will fade into the white noise of the contextual past. I have also begun to keep better track of all the little things that happen every day at Rice–if I wait any longer, I worry that I’ll miss some!

Rice is small. It seems like everyone knows everyone. As a result, I think we sometimes wind up complaining about the bubble. But in doing so, we forget how nice it is to be in a place of such familiarity. Studying abroad, not knowing anyone, taught me as much.

All this to say that I’ve treasured my time at Rice thus far, and continue to cherish every moment, but before this semester was not really comfortable with the whole graduating thing. However, the only way to take control of your future is to greet it with optimism, not anxiety. It’s a lesson that I couldn’t have learned earlier, and probably the most important lesson I’ve learned.

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.

Why I Chose Rice

Today after my economics class, I checked in at the admissions office to grab a lunch host card and round up a few prospective students and their parents. As a volunteer for the Student Admission Council, this has been a semi-regular occurrence since I first came to Rice. (If you come to Rice for a tour, I’d strongly suggest you stay for lunch—you’ll learn a lot and you might even get to talk to me!)

I lunch-host for several reasons. One of them is to push myself out of my comfort zone (I’m introverted by nature); another is that it’s a way to remind myself about the great things that happen at Rice. Most importantly though, I do it because I enjoy talking to prospective students and hearing their questions, stories, interests, aspirations. Over time, I’ve heard a lot of questions, and today I want to talk about one of the most common ones I get asked: “Why did you choose Rice?”

My answer when I first committed and now, a year later, is still the same—because of the people. Rice is an institution of learning, just like other colleges and universities across the nation and around the world. However, each school is truly defined by the people within it—the professors, the staff, the students; without the people, a university is simply a collection of buildings and spaces.

I remember visiting Rice during Owl Days (which is coming up again soon!) and meeting people that I eagerly wanted to become friends with (and later on, did befriend). I met so many students who were down-to-earth and actively interested in reaching out. I met professors who were excited about not only the material they taught, but also the students they were teaching.

A year from now I can say these things are true with more certainty; I see it every day. I continue to meet cool people and make friends as the year progresses. Rice students take an active interest in helping their community, whether it be at their residential college, the entirety of Rice, or outside the hedges in Houston. Professors are excited to be here and teach, and mine have always been happy to answer my questions in order to give me a deeper understanding of the material.

These are just some of the more obvious things I see because of the people. Small things, like making magic through music with the Nocturnal a cappella team, or big things, like getting to attend a talk by Joe Biden (and more recently, an Apollo 13 astronaut) also happen because of the people here.

Incredible things happen every day because of the people. That’s why I chose Rice.

I’m thankful to be at Rice 🙂