Uncertainty is my Travel Buddy

Every time I go home to Saratoga, California for break, my family goes out to meet with extended family and family friends. The typical questions flood in: how is school? Great! I love Rice! How are your studies? They’re going well! What are you majoring in? Political Science and Psychology, and I’m minoring in Engineering Design.

Long pause. Oh. Interesting combination! What do you want to be?

It’s taken me awhile to find a response to this interaction that is both authentic and acceptable to the traditionalist Chinese aunties and uncles who grill me every holiday break. But the more time I spent talking to Rice people – peers and mentors alike – about my aspirations, the more I felt comfortable asserting my uncertainty.

When asked the same question now, I usually give an abridged version of the following rant — but since I’m presenting this in writing now I’ll indulge in the luxury of being a little flowery in my language.

Frankly, I’m not entirely sure what career path I want to pursue. I love working with people, and I love working with my hands. I love studying how people think and act, but I also love the intricate rules of math. I love the abstract and the concrete, the ambiguous and the clear-cut, the subjective and objective. But I know that I love them, and I know that I have fun studying them, and I know that at Rice I don’t have to be afraid of uncertainty for now. As long as I keep exploring and collecting new data points, pursuing the things I love to do, and asking for help along the way, the amazing people and resources at Rice will help me end up right where I’m supposed to be.

Texas?!

I’m not going to lie here: being a Texan and Austinite for 18 years, I was dying to get out of Texas for college. Nearly 90% of the schools I applied to my senior year of high school were outside of (and far away) from the lone star state. A part of it was my insatiable craving for independence that developed after years of being the smothered only child. Another part was a desire to see something other than Texas, to be able to experience another culture, surrounding, and group of people.

By the end of the process, I had the opportunities to go out of state: some were phenomenal peer institutions to Rice and were equally financially generous (if not more) considering my family’s situation. It’s insane to look back and see that my life would have easily gone in a completely different direction. Of course, I am now a first year Rice student and only about two and a half hours away from my hometown. And to be honest, in the 3 months that I’ve been here, I can easily say beyond a shadow of a doubt that coming to Rice was the best decision I ever made.

The general consensus is that there are many mixed feelings about staying in Texas or coming to Texas for college. Some of you are so ready to experience the “yee haws” and the “y’alls” (kidding about the yee haws, not so much about the y’alls). Others aren’t feeling attracted to Texas as much, and it might even be the case that your parents are wondering how in the world did you end up finding a college option in Texas to begin with. For this post, I want to go through the reasons that prompted me to choose Rice, Houston, and Texas. To the prospective student in Texas, I hope you can get to know more about the perspective of staying in state and its benefits. To the students outside of Texas, I hope you can identify with some new experiences or new facts about Texas that make it a great college experience.

  1. Rice’s Unique Size, Student Body, and Culture

Rice’s medium sized population allows for the formation of close friendships and relationships but not at the expense of diversity. Being a student from Texas, I’ve enjoyed being able to converse with my peers who are in-state and celebrate the common experiences we’ve shared living here. But with nearly 60% of the student population not from Texas, I’ve been enlightened to so many perspectives around the nation and around the world. Even when it comes to something as polarizing as politics, the multitude of perspectives humbles everyone to listen and acknowledge rather than ignore and shut down.This intermingling, in classes, clubs, and even just during lunch in the commons, has allowed me to share my home state with others, help my out of state counterparts make Rice their new home, and feel at home myself.

  1. Houston and Surrounding Cities

Houston, being the 4th largest city in the United States, has so much to offer in terms of academic opportunities, cultural experiences, and recreational activities. Being a natural sciences student, I can’t speak for all of the opportunities, but the Texas Medical Center, Fortune 500 companies, and diverse metropolitan offer so many internship, research, and volunteer opportunities for students interested in any major. However, the best experiences so far have been the ones outside of the hedges. Going to the Chinatown area for some amazing bubble tea and ramen, going to a symphony orchestra concert, or just shopping at The Galleria have been some of the best memories at Rice so far. Being able to recharge with some quiet time has also been important and super easy with the museums and parks to walk through located near Rice. In addition to all of this, cities like Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas are all within reach and growing. Weekend trips can bring you to conventions, concerts, or job opportunities all around Texas. Just this past week I was able to go back to Austin to attend a Health Careers Fair.

  1. Family

The last factor that really influenced me was family, and being from Texas and going to Rice, family has two definitions. Going to college only two and a half hours away from home has allowed me the room and space needed to grow as an independent individual, but it is nice to be able to see family members at times. But as I mentioned, committing to Rice translates to being welcomed by a completely new family too. From day one of orientation week at my residential college, I immediately felt like I had a new family to support me through this difficult transition period. The fact that we are all from different parts of the country and the world (of all of freshmen members in my O-Week group, I’m the only one from Texas) makes the relationships that much stronger and meaningful. This is just a once in a lifetime experience that is special for whether you’re an in-state or out of state student.

O-Week Group in front of the Mystery Machine

Getting a world class education and being able to continue that with the experiences outside of the classroom is absolutely priceless. Doing it with a group of passionate and diverse individuals with a dash of southern hospitality just sweetens the deal. Not a day goes by in which I regret my decision to staying in state and coming to Rice, and I am super excited to see what will come in the next four years.

How to Navigate Your Mid-Major Crisis

One of the greatest benefits of being a Rice student is the flexibility in declaring majors. It’s not like other universities, where switching majors is a long, arduous process with lots of paperwork. Here, you just get a single sheet of paper signed, and BAM, you’re done.

For people who are undecided about their major, this is a serious blessing. When I came in as a freshman, I was completely lost. I’ve now decided to double major in Cognitive Science and Statistics, with a minor in Data Science if I can squeeze it in. (The minor’s not official yet, but is set to be released next year!) However, it took me a lot of trial and error to get this point. I considered almost every major under the sun and have had countless crises about what I want to do with my life. As a result, I’ve got a lot of experience when it comes to what I call the “mid-major life crisis” – aka do I really want to major in this? What am I going to do with my life? Will I graduate on time?

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Soarin’, Flyin’, and Dancin’ Our Way into Homecoming with the Owls!

When I was a senior in high school deciding where to apply for college, I knew that I wanted to go to a school that had a dance team. As a seasoned dancer and dance/drill team member in Texas, a state known for its high school football, I knew I wanted to continue performing at sporting events and promoting school spirit in college. As soon as I confirmed that I would be attending Rice this year, I looked forward to joining the Rice Owls Dance Team, an organization of which I am now a member.

It can be nerve-wracking to join a new team, but I soon realized that the girls on the Rice Owls Dance Team are compassionate and dedicated to dancing and fostering a welcoming community. We have a big-little sister program in which the officers assign a rookie (new member) to two veterans who will mentor her throughout the year. My coach, the officers, and my “big sisters” helped me learn the ways of the team earlier this fall, and I excitedly jumped into performing with my new teammates.

The Rice Owls Dance Team performs at all home football, volleyball, and basketball games, as well as other events such as pep rallies and our annual Spring Show. We practice twice a week and learn exciting pom, jazz, and hip-hop dances to popular songs like I Like It by Cardi B and Womanizer by Britney Spears. Everyone works hard to make our dances shine both on the field and on the court, and each member exhibits their desire to promote the good of the team. Though Rice may not have the same gameday experience as larger state schools, the students and alumni that reside in Houston cultivate a vibrant atmosphere at sporting events that any Owl can appreciate.

We performed at our last football game of the season this past Saturday, but our work is not over yet. Basketball season has only just begun, and we still have our Spring Show to look forward to at the end of the academic year. If you are interested in seeing what one of the best spirit squads at Rice is all about, come on out to one of our performances to help us cheer on the Owls! Rice Fight Never Dies!

Members of the Rice Owls Dance Team wearing our new uniforms at the homecoming game!

Wonderful Owl Communities

Yesterday at lunch, I was sitting with my RA (residential assistance), and he asked me what I love most about Rice during my first two months of life here. I thought for a while and answered, the community. Rice provides incredible communities for students to find their places and prosper. For me, the most important communities I belong to are the residential college and the academic community.

 

Some people say that the dormitories at Rice are not dormitories, but colleges. I say they are not colleges, but home. Before I came to Rice, I heard tons of nice things about the residential college system. After I arrived and started the fantastic O-Week, I finally realized what a unique and splendid life experience that the residential college offers. The one thing that I love most about it is that I never feel alone here. Whenever I feel bored or wanted to hang out with friends, all I have to do is go downstairs to the pool table or the lounge, and I can always find friends to play and chill with. Although I have been here for only two months, I already feel attached to my college. The residential college gave me a smooth and happy transition to my university life.

 

The academic community here is also wonderful. Students and faculty at Rice treat academics with seriousness. During work hours, students work hard to achieve their goals. The weeks around midterms are quite stressful for me, but my stress was cleared out quickly by classmates, TAs (teaching assistance), and the professors. In each class I can find friends to work with and talk about the class. Because students are all randomly assigned to residential colleges, I can always find people in my college that are in the same classes. Besides the study groups that I can find right next to me, the assistance provided by the faculty is essential as well. The TAs and professors for each class are ready to answer all the specific questions you have about the class. What if I have concerns about my majors and future academic plans? The academic advisors are there to talk to and they will help you plan your semester and your future.

Life as Anthropology Major

What’s your major? Whatever people are expecting when they ask me that question, Anthropology definitely isn’t it. Although Rice is a STEM-heavy university, the humanities and social sciences (which anthropology falls under) still maintain a strong presence on campus. Even when I was still applying to schools last year, I knew that I didn’t want to major in a STEM-related subject, which always prompted people to ask me “why Rice?” because they knew it as an engineering school.

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