Lessons in service for new students
As I sat through many O-Week presentations this week, I began to realize that new students are given more information than they will encounter during the wretched introductory courses of Physics 101 or Economics 201.
Dean John Hutchinson told us, in the booming voice of a radio DJ, that we are surrounded by unbounded opportunities at Rice that we must take full advantage of.
President David Leebron, on the other hand, gave seven tips about transitioning to Rice, although most of us only remember his anecdote about forgetting his mother's birthday freshman year.
Psychology professor Mikki Hebl wowed us all with her fascinating revelation that people date within their attractiveness range.
We are also unlikely to forget the annual "Affirmation...Action" speech that sought to put us out of our comfort zone and ponder diversity.
This list contains only the major speeches in Tudor Field House, but all new students sat through additional hours of advice seminars and workshops.
Although all this advice is important, I have recently mused about what I would do differently freshman year if I had the chance. On Tuesday, during Lovett College's annual ATLAS challenge, three advisors and I talked about the things we wished we had avoided or done better our first year at Rice. After this deep conversation, I thought of a freshman year redo wishlist: Get to know myself better and serve a broader group of people more often.
Despite constantly hearing the adage, "To thine own self be true," very few of us actually follow this advice. Not knowing yourself is not inherently a bad thing, but not trying to know yourself better definitely is. During my own freshman year, I did not try to think about any unique academic interests that could be untapped. As a smart kid in a small town, it seemed like my only option was to be a doctor- or so all my high school teachers and friends told me.
So for all you pre-meds, engineers or poets out there, take a class completely unrelated to what you plan to study and talk to your friends in different majors. Merely talking to my friends about their classes and majors helped me to find my actual major, environmental engineering. In a small Texas town, my teachers and friends would never have encouraged me to pursue anything with the word "environment" in the name. I beseech all of you to challenge your interests and find out more about yourselves every day.
Serving others may not be the most concrete advice for freshman year. By others, I mean your fellow college citizens, your fellow Owls, Houstonians and those around the globe. At your college, help set up for Associates' Night, assist your college coordinator with the mail on a busy day, or teach your fellow students how to do a math problem that looks like Swahili.
Campus-wide, offer to help a graduate student with his or her research, coordinate a dance for the Black Student Association or South Asian Society shows, or pick up someone's books from the sidewalk after they drop them. Become engaged with the city of Houston by donating your time to volunteer consistently with any of our outreach based clubs. You do not have to be a leader in these clubs to make a difference in people's lives.
Internationally, you can become involved with humanitarian trips to India or join Engineers Without Borders (non-engineers can still apply!). Rice has so many ways for you to help, so you should constantly seek opportunities to serve. You might be surprised at how even a small favor can make a huge difference in someone else's life.
By proactively learning more about yourself every day, you will find the right major and career path, as if they were specifically designed for you. You will excel in any endeavor if you are able to enjoy it. If you enjoy analyzing electrical circuits, then a difficult ELEC class will seem less like work and more like fun. Serving others will also allow you to make a difference in people's lives on a daily basis. The joy you will get out of these large projects or small acts of kindness will be invaluable during some of your more stressful weeks.
To have the full Rice experience that you have all been dreaming about, take these two pieces of advice to heart: Know yourself better and serve others.
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