For most Rice students, their Rice careers begin during O-Week. For mine, it was a hot and sweaty week in the middle of July, filled with sleepless nights and some of the best memories I’ve ever made. Elated after my admission into Rice, it wasn’t long until I got an email about a cryptic summer program called “Urban Immersion”. Coincidentally, my birthday fell on the last day of the program- and I was initially just excited to spend my birthday with people from school for once.
I won’t give away too much about Urban Immersion- after all, so much of the fun was because we had virtually no idea what was going on until the night before- but I will say that it made me develop so much as an individual. For a general overview, Urban Immersion was a six day summer program that requires an application. 24 incoming freshmen are selected, and the experience is led by 3 current Rice students who have been planning and training for Urban Immersion for months. Over the course of the six days, we worked with various non-profit organizations and explore Houston, staying at a location off of Rice’s campus. From dawn (literally getting up at 6 AM) to the time we slept (usually 2 AM), there was hardly a single moment of down time. As grueling as it sounds, each activity provided indispensible knowledge. Even though I’ve lived in Houston for the past five years, I learned the most about my home in that one week.
The takeaways from Urban Immersion go so far beyond just the friends I made. Sure, it was great coming into Rice with a whopping 26 other students I trusted and had great memories with, but when I came to Urban Immersion, I thought I knew everything about civic engagement and being an ally to communities. It turns out that I only knew the tip of the iceberg. Urban Immersion didn’t just prove to me that I had so much left to learn, but also that becoming more civically engaged with your community is an ongoing progress. It’s just as possible to regress in the path to active citizenry, which is totally okay! What’s more important is the continual and conscious effort to grow and address social issues in life.
Urban Immersion acquainted me with not only some of the most selfless student leaders I have ever had the privilege of meeting, but also instilled in me a determination to take my experiences from the summer even further. Upon encouragement from my Urban Immersion coordinator, I applied and got accepted into an Alternative Spring Break. Though my journey into civic leadership has just begun, these past few months as a Rice student have already challenged my previous knowledge and spurred on growth in leaps and bounds.
When they talk about going outside of Rice’s hedges, let me tell you that each and every day here prepares me to maximize my impact on wherever I go.