Summer Studies

The Duomo (Cathedral) in Florence. I literally walked by this each day on my way to class.

Welcome back to the Owl Admission Blog! As most of y’all could have surmised, I (along with the other bloggers) stopped posting for a few months because of Rice’s summer holiday.  Before the break started I promised myself that I would try new things this summer, and not end up working some part-time job that had nothing to do with what I really love: art history. So, what’s a girl to do?

Well, some of you already know. I decided to study abroad in Florence, Italy.  I decided to get out of Houston and live in a different country for an entire month– in a place that is just as hot as Texas yet doesn’t rely on air conditioning– studying Renaissance art history and painting conservation. If I could sum the experience up in a single word, it would have to be “hot.” It was hot outside of school when we walked to churches and museums, it was hot inside of school when I was bent over a 15th century portrait removing layers of varnish, it was hot inside of my apartment when I learned to cook (pretty much for the first time) with my five other flatmates, and it was most definitely hot when a group of friends and I escaped Florence and went to Cinque Terre for the weekend. In retrospect, the temperature is entirely irrelevant. Sure, the word “hot” preceded every single thing that I did overseas, but it certainly didn’t trump the amazing opportunities that I had been given.

Cinque Terre! (translation: Five Lands)


I loved my art history class because each time we met (which was three times a week, three hours on Wednesdays and Fridays, ten hours on Saturdays) I was able to see things in person that I had only ever seen on paper before. To actually stand in front of Michelangelo’s David is an incredible moment. My painting conservation class (ten hours each Tuesday and Thursday) threw chemistry and art together in the most intimidating yet gratifying way. I’m in no way a hard science kind of person; the only other major that I have dabbled in is economics (and even then I despised calculus). But, despite that, I still loved mixing solvents and cleaning the frames and canvases. It’s an entirely different form of art appreciation than art history, and it was humbling to actually touch something that was so old (okay, not necessarily that old in art history terms, but still).

Studying abroad wasn’t the only thing I did this summer, though. I also took a course at Rice University in May, and I was selected as a Mary Ellen Hale Lovett Traveling Fellow in the art history department. My next posts will cover those activities, and then you’ll (finally) get to see what I’m up to now!


“Welcome to Rice. Now go away!”

While that might normally sound like a rude greeting, that’s how Rice’s International Programs office eagerly greets new students in the hope of turning all owls into internationally experienced scholars.  What does that mean?  As International Programs will gladly tell you, “international experience” doesn’t just have to be your parents’ old study abroad anymore.  True, a lot of Rice students will go abroad like Allison and take classes in another country.  But universities have realized there’s a lot more other countries have to offer aside from their classrooms, and so now you can find internships, fellowships, research, and service opportunities in other countries.  Rice fully embraces this expanded view of study abroad, and has lots of resources you can consult to find the the experience that best suits you.  This post is about that expanded view.

What I love about this set-up is that it also makes it easy for almost any major to go abroad.  Four years ago (that went by fast…), when I was looking at schools, I had two basic requirements:  1) it had to be good at physics, but I could still be able to change my major (and man, how many times that almost happened at Rice) and 2) I had to be able to study abroad while doing something related to physics.  I quickly tweaked goal 2 when I came to Rice and learned about the other things I could do.  The sophomore after sophomore year, I got to go to Japan for 10 weeks to learn Japanese and do nanotechnology research through a Rice-sponsored program called NanoJapan, and it was an amazing experience. One of my friends liked being abroad so much, she decided to apply to go abroad the semester after she came back.

Or you can be like one of my more policy-minded friends.  While I was in Japan, he participated in a Baker Institute trip to American University Cairo where he got to meet Egyptian students through the Public Diplomacy and Global Policymaking program.  He enjoyed that trip and learning about public diplomacy, and this year he helped organize a student trip to Qatar to meet with Qatari college students and attend a science policy conference.

When people ask me if I’ve studied abroad, I always kind of struggle to answer with something along the lines of “Technically…”  While my friend and I may not have had the stereotypical international experience, I found my experience more valuable than just taking classes in another country.  And it definitely makes for a great spot on a resume.

Continuation of Study Abroad Options

As promised, I am continuing my explanation of Rice study abroad procedures! I understand that y’all may only have vague ideas about where you want to study overseas (or even if you actually do!), but hopefully this information will serve as a handy comparison for international studies programs at other universities.

Foremost, at Rice University, any student interested in studying abroad is required to attend a “Step One” preliminary information session; it is here that you will learn about application requirements and what universities offer direct student exchange programs with Rice and what other institutions provide Rice approved curriculums. Next, you are encouraged to verify your eligibility to study abroad: students must

  • Be a degree seeking undergraduate Rice student
  • Have completed freshman year
  • Be in good disciplinary standing
  • Have attended a Step One Info Session or watched Step One online
  • Have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 (some programs may require higher GPA)
  • Be in good academic standing

Now here comes the really fun part—researching and exploring your options! Before selecting to study for the summer session in Florence, Italy, I researched many other universities in many different locations, including Denmark, France, and India. Rice has a very helpful search tool that assists you in finding programs related to your academic goals; some colleges may allow you just study abroad anywhere you feel like it (and therefore your first thought may be “Fiji! Perfect!”), but Rice really narrows down your program offerings based on your intended major—not location. Thus, even though I always dreamt of spending an entire semester eating croissants in Paris, Florence better coincided with my interest in Renaissance art history.

Furthermore, students will talk with their Academic Advisor, Major Advisor and Study Abroad Faculty Advisors to ensure that their proposed courses abroad will complement their Rice academics. After exploring financial aid and scholarship opportunities as well as discussing your ideas with your family, you will be fully equipped to finally decide on a program. All that is left for you to do is complete the Rice study abroad application and the other university’s application!

 For more study abroad information, be sure to check out!

Next week I will provide an overview of the top questions I was asked during the Early Decision Admission Online Chat that was held this past Tuesday night. If you ever wondered what outfits you should bring, how the parties are, or if there is a valid reason that your parents should let you have your car on campus, be sure to check back next Thursday!


Study Abroad Options

As I have previously mentioned, I shall be studying abroad this summer! (And if my frequency in posts regarding this has failed to imply, I am super excited for this!)

It may still be too early for a lot of y’all out there to fathom the idea of leaving university and, essentially, your country for an extended period of time. However, for those of you that are interested in exploring the world/having a change of pace/studying something site specific, keep reading.

I will be studying at the Studio Arts Center International (SACI) in Florence, Italy for the summer 2012 term; this basically means that I am taking an entire month out of my summer break and trekking to Italy, where I know no one and don’t speak Italian. Yet, while this does seem as if I have put myself on a failing trajectory, fear not: I have been abroad three times, visited Florence twice, and am so in love with art history that I doubt I will notice that big blue ocean separating me from everything I have ever known. Also, the fact that I am receiving course credit for this adventure eases any anxiety I might otherwise have.

Now, what exactly will I be doing abroad? I have enrolled in two courses for a total of six credit hours at SACI: Renaissance Art History Survey and Beginning Painting Conservation 1. The first class familiarizes students with significant monuments and works of art during the Renaissance period in Florence and its surrounding area. I am most thrilled about the fact that all teaching is conducted on-site; at Rice, the majority of art history classes depend upon projecting slides which is effective, but can sometimes skew the proportions and coloring of the images. To finally be able to see the pieces in person will be such an improvement. The second course that I am enrolled in is an art conservation class; specifically, I will be introduced to the practice of inpainting procedures in order to repair a work damaged by loss of color and will also be given the opportunity to work on actual cathedrals (talk about once in a lifetime!).

I am attempting to avoid writing a terribly long blog post (for maybe the first time ever) and therefore will hold off on explaining the application process until next week. Hopefully this sparked your interest in study abroad programs and you will have a clearer idea on what you may want to pursue during your college career.


Outside the Uffizi Gallery in Florence which is home to The Birth of Venus by Botticelli.

Overlooking the Arno River in Florence.

A Personal View of US-Egyptian Relations

I hope you’ll forgive my lack of posts, dear reader; it’s a fantastically busy time to be someone studying Middle Eastern politics and policy, so classes and outside commitments have been intense in these past several weeks and only now on our (early) spring break am I having time for rest, relaxation, and a little bit of general catch up.

The story I want to share today begins back in June of 2010, when myself and nine other Rice students travelled to Cairo, Egypt with the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.  The program, called Public Diplomacy and Global Policymaking in the 21st Century (kind of a mouthful, I know) was one of the best experiences of my life.  We spent seven days in Egypt with ten students from the American University at Cairo which included six two hour conferences on topics ranging from economic development to women’s rights and interfaith dialogue to media bias.  Much of our time, however, consisted of touring around Cairo, getting to know the Egyptian cohort on a personal level.  I made some fantastic friends in that week and had an incredible experience—I had wanted to go to Egypt since I was a kid, and it was everything I had anticipated for the years since.  We published a report upon our return detailing the discussions we had and talking about some general reflections on the trip, which can be found here.

Fast forward to January of 2011 for the most recent installment of my efforts in US-Egyptian relations, when six of the AUC students that we met in Cairo came to Houston for a visit!  We spent four days with them doing a wide range of things, including visiting classes, holding private meetings with Ambassador Djerejian and Dr. Lindsay, heading downtown to hear a presentation by Exxon Mobil, and even attending (per request of our guests, of course) a typical Friday night party at Rice!  The highlight of our friends’ visit was a two night film festival at the Baker Institute.  On Thursday, we saw Days of Sadat, a famous Egyptian docudrama about former president Anwar al-Sadat.  Friday’s film was called Garbage Dreams, a documentary about the Zaballeen ethnic minority in Egypt and their evolving sociohistorical role as the garbage processors for Cairo.

All in all, both visits were a success; as a student of international relations, and in this case specifically public diplomacy, I am continually more convinced that every opportunity that an average citizen has to peer into the lives of another culture, the more educated we collectively become as a society.  My Egyptian friends are all safe and sound in Cairo despite the fervor of recent activity there, and most are optimistic about their beloved country’s future.  All in all, the Egyptians are truly a noble people, and I for one look forward to a continued partnership between my country and theirs as they lead the struggle for self-determination and true democracy in the Middle East.