OWLways Learning, OWLways Exploring

One of the things that I love about Rice is the academic freedom that we possess as students. Even though I am majoring in math and economics, I am still able to take classes in a wide array of subjects I’m curious about.

This semester, I decided to take a leap of faith and enrolled in an architecture course. The Rice School of Architecture is one of the highest-ranked programs in the country, so naturally, I was curious to get a glimpse of what being an “archi” was all about. The only time that I had ever been in the architecture building during my freshman year was for Architectronica (a party put on within the architecture school where they play electronic music that’s in sync with a light show – it’s really cool!). I wanted to take advantage of the fact that, as a Rice student, I had the opportunity to take a class from such a well-respected program.

Architectronica is the only party thrown by a major/school on campus! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLz5h8cNoC0

From Le Corbusier to Frank Lloyd Wright, and from classicism to postmodernism, we have looked at a wide array of architects, their works, and their varied approaches to design. Our most recent assignment was to build an architectural model out of cardstock. This was a great creative outlet that allowed me to “think like an architect”, something I had never done before!

Most importantly, this class has made me think about the built world in a completely different way. A prime example of this occurred last week, when my class took advantage of some nice weather to explore the architecture on campus. We stopped to examine Herring Hall, one of the humanities and social sciences buildings. I had been in this building many times for class and walked by it on my daily treks from my dorm to Fondren Library. Never giving it much thought, I always considered it to be “just another building on campus.” However, as we walked around its exterior, I began to take note of certain features of the building that I had never noticed before. The patterns in the colored bricks, the strange placement of certain windows, and the half-finished columns, all things I had never given much thought to, suddenly stood out to me as we related elements of Herring Hall’s design to the theories and styles that we discussed in lecture.

Herring Hall’s outdoor courtyard.

This class, like most others I have taken, has shown me that Rice can help you see the world in brand new ways. Students are encouraged to be intellectually curious, and this is one of the things that makes the Rice experience truly one-of-a-kind. Regardless of where your interests lie, you’re free to be the “architect” of your own future here!

Sid and Me? We Go Wayyy Back

I’ve been a tour guide for almost three years and have had the honor of having many Rice alumni on my tours, accompanying their children on their search for the perfect university, only slightly constrained by the poorly-hidden bias emanating from their parents. I have to admit that having these parents on my tours is one of the coolest things about being a tour guide. Their enthusiasm about the university and their memories of their eventful time here is still as strong as when they graduated, and it’s inspiring to realize how much larger yet how much more close-knit Rice is than I previously thought. As a student at Rice, you are plugged into the fascinating, quirky, and unique history that has been shaped by the students themselves over the last 105 years.

I had the honor of giving the first woman to graduate from Sid and her family a tour of the campus. Here we are in the Sid Richardson lobby!

Twice, I’ve had Sid Richardson (my residential college) alumni on my tours, and both times, it was extremely cool to hear their stories (I may or may not have given them a little princess treatment after the general tour). The first alum happened to be the first woman to have graduated from Sid Richardson College after Sid became a co-ed college in 1987. She was with her whole family on the tour, and I excitedly brought them back to Sid Richardson afterwards, her first time back in the building since she graduated. Nothing had changed. She scanned the portraits on the wall of presidents and pointed out her friends to her kids. I brought them up to my suite to see a Sid room, and that, too, was exactly the same as she remembered it. It was exciting, as she shared stories of her time with her kids in the place that they happened, and how she transferred from Jones to Sid in her junior year. It was truly a blast from the past, and the fact that she was an Asian woman made it feel like she had carved the way for me to be there.

The second time was just recently, perhaps two weeks ago. Two boys on my morning tour were accompanied by their mother and father, who graduated from Sid Richardson in 1979. Later on in the day when I was walking back from class to Sid, I found them standing in front of the entrance, staring up at the building. Seeing that there was not much for them to garner just from looking at it, I brought them inside. Their father was charged with infectious energy as we made our way up to his old floor, 6th floor, and looked out from the balcony as the stacks blasting music right above us. Their father told us about the time someone drove their motorcycle into the college commons for college night (which we still have today) and another time someone fell through the ceiling tiles into the servery. Conveniently, we ran into our current Sid president at the same time, and we all engaged in a fascinating conversation merging two eras of Sid history and tradition.

We talk about the residential colleges a lot – how fun they are, which one has the best food, which one is going to win the President’s Cup for intramural sports – but sometimes we forget that the colleges are living with rich history of all the students who lived there before us. It’s crazy for me to go through old yearbooks and see things like Lyndon B. Johnson standing among the same brick walls in Sid commons in 1971. Rice is a community that spans far larger than any of us could imagine, not only in breadth but also depth. Your presence and participation in any of the residential colleges is no small matter. If anything, it makes your experience as an undergraduate student that much more meaningful.

Coincidental Connections at Rice

One of my motivations in attending college has been finding my life’s work and passions. Looking back on my time here, I’ve found that new interests have mostly sprung from minor interactions with people I’ve only met by coincidence.

This is true with my journey into singing with the Apollos, Rice’s all-male acapella group. Before Rice, I never sang outside the shower, so singing on campus never crossed my mind. During Orientation Week, however; one of my advisors had me recite the beginning of “Your Man” by Josh Turner because of my deep voice.

After classes started, I happened to be reading in my residential college’s commons. Out of the blue, two strangers appeared behind me. Having scared the book out of my hands, one said, “One of your advisors told us you have a really low voice. Come audition for the Apollos!” Despite the incredibly awkward situation, I trekked across campus and nervously sang in front of several strangers. This wasn’t how I pictured college starting.

Having joined the group, I’ve learned to blend vocally, project my sound and perform with confidence. More importantly, I’ve found something I’ll enjoy long after graduation. However, none of this would be possible if my advisor had not suggested me to the group. Where would I be if I had not left my comfort zone?

My journey into the Apollos has opened me up to exploring opportunities, no matter who introduces them. Fortunately, Rice perfectly serves this mindset with its small undergraduate population and large variety of life-changing opportunities!

The Apollos after Acapellooza

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 rice.edu 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.