Spring Break at Other Colleges

Over Spring Break, I had the opportunity to return home and visit friends who attend universities in California. I was able see into the lives of both those who attended public and private universities. These visits gave me a glimpse into the life I would have had if I had chosen to attend such universities.

When I was going through the application process, I did not have the opportunity to visit or stay overnight at many of the colleges that I applied to. The only college I stayed at overnight was Rice, and this definitely impacted my decision to come here. Visiting colleges, and specifically staying overnight, can give you a completely different view of a college and the ability to more personally judge the fit of a college for you.

However, when visiting colleges, there is often a great deal of importance placed on the food and the dorms. Take this information with a grain of salt. For example, when visiting my friends back home, some of them had very nice dorm rooms and great food but talked about how their classes had hundreds of people or how crowded the libraries are or even difficulty getting transfer credit.

When looking at colleges, it is important to look at the full picture, the academic life, the social life, and the personal life. Visit as many colleges as possible and talk to the students there. Get as much first-hand information as possible and gauge your judgement of each college personally. Things read or seen online may not necessarily reflect what you experience at a college.

Although I enjoyed visiting my friends, seeing their lives in their respective colleges reaffirmed my decision to choose Rice. I would encourage all of you that can to come and visit Rice and get a glimpse into our lives.

Spring Break at Rice

Spring has finally arrived to the city of Houston. After a rather cold and dreary winter, at least by Texas standards, the sun has finally decided to show its brilliant face. Through the stress of midterms and problem sets, we as a school have collectively survived. This has created bonds between each and every single one of us that are extremely difficult to break. And yes, I know what you’re thinking and the answer is no, not the covalent kinds. Within the eyes of each student, a subtle emotion of excitement exists. The academic year is coming to an end, summer is steadily approaching, and Beer Bike is only weeks away. All is good and all is right at Rice. As these positive thoughts fill our minds, another one begins to form. One that comes at a slow yet sure realization: “What am I going to do for Spring Break?”. The short answer is: there is tons to do both inside and outside of Houston during our break! Of course, I must acknowledge and respect the desire to stay indoors and simply relax for break. Afterall, allergy season is at full force. However, going out and exploring Houston and surrounding areas is a fun activity to do with the amazing individuals you meet at Rice. Here are my top three of the many things you can do during Spring Break:

Houston Rodeo

The Houston Rodeo is both a major fair of the city and the largest livestock exhibition of the world. It runs from the 25th of February to the 17th of March. Between then, be ready to experience near daily artist performances at the NRG stadium located about a 15 minute train-ride or 10 minute car-ride away from Rice. The NRG stadium sits around 70,000  people and can often host major performers like Cardi B and George Strait. This year, Rice’s Passport to Houston program offered free tickets for the Panic! At the Disco concert to selected Rice students.

Houston Rodeo

Visiting Hermann Park

Located a block from Rice, Hermann Park is a perfect place to escape the bustling city life of Houston. If you want to see even more trees and vegetation, this place is perfect for you. Dotted with sculptures and other art, Hermann Park is a 445 acre stretch of well gardened land surrounded by museums, golf courses, and a zoo. Inside the park, you will be able to find the Japanese Tea Gardens of Houston, the Miller Outdoor Theatre perfect for weekend performances, and the McGovern Centennial Gardens.

McGovern Centennial Gardens

Texas Road-trip with Friends

If you have the time, energy, and an amazing group of friends (which I’m sure you’ll make when in Rice), leaving Houston and traveling to cities like San Antonio and Dallas is a perfect week-long getaway that allows students to experience more of the proudly proclaimed “yee-haw” state. Bus companies like Greyhound and Megabus are able to offer cheap alternatives to cars for traveling to these places.

Tower of the Americas in San Antonio, Texas


Undergradautes Rule!

Undergraduates really do rule here, and that isn’t an understatement. When I was deciding between schools and whether to stay in state or not, undergraduate focus was the most important thing I was looking for. I didn’t want to go to an institution where I might get lost among the large populations of undergraduate and graduate students or one that is so focused on its own research endeavors that it doesn’t invest time in helping its new students. I have no regret in my decision on Rice seeing the attention, focus, and freedom in which Rice reserves for its ever strong undergraduate student population.

So many aspects of our daily lives are lie in our own hands. The residential colleges systems and college government puts the residential college community in the hands of its students. Students get to vote on what social events and physical changes they want to see within their college. Being from Martel College, our Fundeck Sundeck events get ever better with every legislation. But it doesn’t stop here. The Rice Student Association is the student government across Rice, creating important legislation at all times to change Rice as whole. Becoming more green, helping disadvantaged students, and supporting student mental health initiatives are some examples. And there groups like the Rice Programming Counsel that keeps things at Rice fun. Holding events like the Gingerbread building contest and Esperanza/Rondelet formals, the RPC keeps Rice students busy with social events to enjoy with their friends. All of this planned for and executed by Rice Students.

Overall, I was shocked and pleasantly surprised how easy it is for undergraduate students to directly have an impact on the Rice community. It’s empowering as a student and at the same time teaches us valuable lessons in responsibility, communication, and leadership. At the end of the day, undergraduates are just trying to figure out big life decisions; It’s just reassuring and exciting to know that the culture at Rice is centered around fostering that curiosity. A university built for the undergraduates, by the undergraduates.

Social Science Owl: Claire Noel

Most people think of Rice as a STEM focused school with most students majoring in natural science or engineering. I used to think the same thing and came into this university wanting to pursue a degree in natural science. However, I quickly found out that the people around me were not all studying science and a large amount of my friends were studying social sciences and humanities at Rice. Two of my O-week advisors, multiple people on my floor and in the campus band, and some of my closest friends are all pursuing a major in the social sciences. One of my friends, Claire, is a double major in political science and social policy analysis. Continue reading

The Weather in Houston

Houston is a magical place. Back in my home city, I would have been bathing myself in the coziness of spring for a while by now, yet being a Rice student, I have no choice but to check the weather forecast every twelve hours so that I don’t surprise myself with a 30-degree temperature drop or an accidental thunderstorm when I step out of my room. This habit just paid me off today: had I not checked the weather I would have gone out on tomorrow morning only to discover that the temperature had dropped from 72 to 40. A friend of mine was the one who taught me this lesson: she was wearing shorts and a T-shift on a fine, early November day but had to post on FaceBook to borrow a down jacket at night because the temperature suddenly dropped below 40 over just a few hours. A Texas native who nonetheless is not a Houston native, she apparently didn’t expect the temperature to go this low in the fall semester.

Not only does Houston have such a capricious climate, but it also, for the most part, has only two seasons—summer and winter. If you really think that you are going to experience spring or autumn here, I must sincerely regret your loss. As I struggle through my classes every semester, I would often find myself surrounded by the characteristic Houston heat and humidity on one day and freezing to an ice cube on the other. If you would like to have a taste of spring or fall in Houston, your best bet would be to put on all your winter clothes on a cold day so that what you feel might roughly approximate what you feel during those seasons in a city that has a more benign climate.

Therefore, to get the best out of Houston’s erratic climate, you should probably bring clothes for all four seasons: only so can you use clever combinations to experience whatever you want when there are only two alternating seasons. Also bring with you protective equipment such as raincoats and rainboots: after living here for a year, you would not be surprised when Houston transforms from a desert into a swamp overnight. Lastly, although I’ve said a lot of scary things about the weather in Houston, it does occasionally afford nice days that are good for field trips and hangouts, so definitely take advantage of them when such opportunities arise!

The Thing About Rice’s Courses

Walking out of Herzstein Hall Amphitheater with a cinnamon donut on my hand, I breathed in the cold air and let out a long sigh–the COMP midterm’s finally over.

COMP 182 is the most daunting computer science major requirement course for Rice freshmen as it has been regarded as one of the most time-consuming and difficult CS core course. Over the past years, creative students had made interesting comments about it: “It’s a good thing this course is offered in the Spring only. If it were offered in the Fall, some freshmen students might still be under 18, and then this course would be considered child abuse. (A COMP 182 student, Spring 2015).” With that being said, I had just had my COMP 182 midterm exam yesterday. Sitting in front of my desk last night, I couldn’t help letting my mind flashback to see how far I’d gone through this notoriously difficult class: I had been staying up late debugging my homework for three days without having a single clue what I did wrong, I had gone through multiple TA sessions in a week but still couldn’t think of the correct proof (yes COMP 182 covers not only programming, but also discrete mathematics), and I had to sacrifice all my leisure time studying at Fondren library for the midterm. It seems a little bit discouraging, isn’t it?

However, now that I had gone through the test, I realized how much I’d learned from this class. Not just Python or coding in general, but also how to write a rigorous mathematical proof and reasoning the correctness of the algorithms. Moreover, the coding projects that we did every two weeks are related to solving real problems in the world, like computing an epidemic outbreak in the hospital. They gave a great insight as to what computer scientists do and how they approach problems that seem unrelated to computer science but can be solved using computational thinking skills. It made me realize that computer science is not only about coding. More importantly, it is about the way we approach to problem solving–decomposing a major problem and coming up with solutions to sub-problems.

In fact, this is the beauty of most Rice classes. They are not designed to make you pass them easily. Instead, they are there to challenge you, to question you, to make you learn, and eventually to better you. Of course there can be some discouraging moment when you think you can’t keep up, but there are always people who are willing to help you: besides your friends and classmates, there are TAs (32 TAs in COMP 182) and professors who are there to answer your questions. In other words, the instructors don’t just assign extremely difficult questions and let you struggle alone. On the contrary, they want to help you learn the difficult concepts that will benefit you in the future.

With that being said, although I’m struggling at COMP 182, I’ll still keep on learning. It’s the spirit of Rice academics and the main reason why I love Rice.