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OPINION 2/18/14 5:40pm

Study abroad offers life-changing experience

This past week marks two months of being back in the U.S. since I spent this past fall semester in Senegal. Coming back home to Rice has been far more difficult than I ever imagined, in terms of re-assimilating to the American and Rice culture. But I’ve also never been a happier person. That’s because studying abroad was, for me, a life-altering period of time in which I challenged myself more than I could have ever imagined, and I have come back with a completely new way of examining the world around me. Now that I’m back at Rice, I want to make it my mission to encourage others to go abroad and understand new cultures and new ways of thinking. Studying abroad should not be the exception, but the rule.Studying abroad, for me, was never a question of “if” but rather of “where.” I had taken some French in high school and at Rice, so it felt natural to improve my proficiency in a second language. I realized, however, that I did not want to go to France and have a regular Western-European semester abroad experience. As a sociology major and Poverty, Justice and Human Capabilities minor, I’m constantly studying underprivileged communities and developing nations. Senegal fell naturally into place: It’s a former French colony, a developing country, predominantly Muslim, home to around twenty ethnic groups and characterized by a turbulent history of colonization, the Atlantic slave trade and finally independence. All of these aspects were things I had never lived through and experienced in my life. I was giving up everything and everyone I knew for a semester to live in a place that was completely foreign to me in every way possible.Studying abroad in Senegal was single-handedly the best decision I’ve made as an undergraduate student at Rice. I learned about the nuances of a new culture, what it means to be part of a warm, loud Senegalese family, explored the rich arts of another society and learned not just French, but some of the local languages as well. Being in Senegal was also extremely tough, and without my family and close friends around me, the challenges were that much more difficult to endure and overcome. As a white woman, I was constantly harassed: Though I got used to it and developed coping mechanisms, I was never completely comfortable. I dealt with intense heat and a new dress code, without any relief from air conditioning. I often couldn’t communicate my true feelings to others because of language limitations. I got food poisoning frequently and also faced a limited diet, with a lot of starch and meat. When I was most overwhelmed and anxious, I didn’t have a quiet space to myself at my host family’s home where I could have complete solitude. Many of these examples are little things we take for granted at Rice and in our home communities.I did not even realize how fortunate I was to have my experience until I was back home for just a few days and realized all of a sudden that I had a deep pit in my stomach: I burned to go back to Senegal, take another walk around my host family’s neighborhood, take another trip to the gorgeous beach, just a 15-minute walk from the house, and see all of those people – friends, family, neighbors and the regular passersby – who made my experience so meaningful. Not everyone at Rice has the opportunity to go abroad, particularly to a place like Senegal, where they can fully immerse themselves into a completely foreign living experience. But if someone does have the opportunity, I urge he or she to take it. I promise that person will regret it if he or she lets the opportunity slide by. Though I love Rice, a constant critique I have is the lack of adventure students have and their comfort and complacency with the Rice bubble. I love Rice as much as the next person, but my peers will not get to understand other cultures and places that make the world so beautiful and diverse unless they challenge themselves to go beyond the bubble. And when other students go abroad and come back, it’s important be an ear, listening to the challenges and triumphs they share. I promise they will have so many funny, unbelievable stories to tell, with so much to offer to the Rice community.Go abroad, and make it a defining life experience. I encourage students to push their peers to go abroad and expand their horizons as well: It will re-define the way they continue with their life.Heidi Kahle is a Will Rice College junior

OPINION 2/18/14 5:39pm

Baker lunch policy ignoring a larger problem

The Thresher staff hopes students will be respectful of Baker’s new lunch policy, which prevents non-Bakerites from entering the Baker College Kitchen at lunchtime until 12:15 p.m. (see story, p. 1). The heavy non-Bakerite traffic to Baker’s servery and commons intrudes upon the college’s social environment and culture. Compared to the commons of other colleges, Baker’s small commons exacerbates that problem, and the limited table space often prohibits multiple groups of Bakerites from eating together. Lunch is the most problematic mealtime, as many students might just want to grab a quick meal between classes. Allowing Bakerites ample time to occupy their own commons during lunch will nicely remedy this issue.However, selectively restricting the Baker servery to Bakerites does not address the fact that many students think Baker food is better than food in their own college’s serveries. Many students prefer the food of the Baker Kitchen over their own servery enough to commute to Baker, including those at north colleges. Serveries should adopt Baker Kitchen’s serving model in terms of ingredient quality and food preparation to diffuse the Baker bottleneck. The administration should determine why students so frequently prefer Baker Kitchen’s food and use that information to adjust other serveries to student preferences. Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the Thresher editorial staff. All other opinion pieces represent solely the opinion of the piece’s author.

OPINION 2/18/14 5:38pm

Students should invest more in the SA

The Thresher staff is disappointed in both the voter turnout and the lack of seriousness displayed by some voters during the SA elections. Though other commitments to clubs, sports and residential colleges might prevent many students from being involved in the SA, students should at least be informed of the SA’s actions, especially during the SA elections. Students should be aware of changes on campus that likely affect their life at Rice. We were worried by the number of students who put joke write-ins for their first choice in some positions like SA president. Elections for student government should be taken seriously, and the amount of humorous or offensive write-ins is reflective of the general student opinion of the SA. We hope this attitude will change, as the student government is an important and influential organization. In the future, we hope students will put as much effort into researching SA candidates as they did formulating witty write-ins for the ballot this year. Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the Thresher editorial staff. All other opinion pieces represent solely the opinion of the piece’s author. 

OPINION 1/20/14 6:00pm

Life's a Mitch

Look into my column and relax. Take a deep breath. Do not look away. Do not speak. Keep your mind on my words. Think of nothing else.

OPINION 9/23/13 7:00pm

Life's a Mitch: We are all pedaling this bike together

Hello, readers! My name is Mitch Mackowiak, I am a freshman at Lovett College, and I am the new Thresher opinions editor. You might find me slinging discs at frisbee practice, (joyfully) slaving away in Anderson Hall, or relaxing in that courtyard with the extremely photogenic tree outside the Humanities Building. It is my job to ensure your voices are heard regarding any issue around campus - I am essentially a suggestion box for Rice

OPINION 10/26/12 7:00pm

Baker Institute here for students

As Rice University looks ahead after its Centennial Celebration, another organization on campus will soon be celebrating as well. The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy will mark 20 years of excellence next year. During that time, we have built programs in energy and geopolitics, science and technology, space policy, health policy, public finance, Latin American issues and Middle East conflict resolution - all making valuable contributions to policy here and abroad. In the past two decades, we have also been fortunate to host distinguished statesmen, scholars and business leaders. However, throughout our development, our core mission remains to connect Rice, its students and the world of ideas on campus to the world of action on a global scale. 

OPINION 10/18/12 7:00pm

Optimism and pessimism living in harmony on campus

Author Gil Stern once said, "Both optimists and pessimists contribute to our society. The optimist invents the airplane and the pessimist the parachute." With that one quote, he perfectly exemplified the contrast between pessimism and optimism. However, this contrast can sometimes be so great that the pessimist is pitted against the optimist. 

OPINION 10/18/12 7:00pm

Is the public ready for legalization

"Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded." - President Abraham Lincoln. 

OPINION 10/18/12 7:00pm

EMS amnesty policy clarification a positive step for owl community

Clear and consistent standards, expectations and communication are necessary for a strong student-led community at Rice University - especially as they pertain to student health and safety. In the interest of clarity, the university's emergency medical services amnesty policy, as detailed in Article B, Section 4 of the Rice Alcohol Policy, was recently amended to better explain the violations to which amnesty applies, what amnesty entails, the requirements for receiving amnesty and behaviors that will result in the loss of amnesty.