So, I’ve been thinking long and hard about what makes Rice special. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly. You can talk about the college system, the sense of community, the low student-to-faculty ratio, etc. But people can find counter arguments – does that really make Rice a better school? Does that really help people grow? Don’t they just seclude themselves in their own college and forget about university spirit, the Houston community, and coming out to campus events? They just party and drink at their colleges, they get sucked into college programming, they don’t get outside the hedges to learn how to live on their own.
This may sound quite harsh, but I have heard all of this. I’ve heard it from many different people, mostly from those outside the college communities, but also from within. It’s come from students, faculty, associates, and people outside of Rice. It might also be a lingering thought in President Leebron’s mind. Now, to be clear, this has come from a small group. Mostly from those outside the college system or outside the hedges whom have not experienced Rice. But I’ve heard it, and it started softly ringing a bell inside my head, a small alarm, making me think: what really makes Rice special? Why is our college system so good? Why do we rave about this system that supposedly develops a community but on the other hand seems to leave us unprepared for the “real world” or without the harsh experience of reality? Why does it seem like there are gaps, cracks, crevices that are slowly growing, or have never really been healed from the beginning of Rice’s inception of the college systems?
And the thought lingered on my mind. For weeks now, I’ve listened. I want to know the answer. I didn’t think I could answer it myself – it had to come to me, present itself, so that I would know it was true. I wanted Rice to prove itself to me, to prove that it IS the best university that has a community culture unlike none other.
And then today, I found it. I was sitting at the lunch table, and I suddenly realized, with a smile on my face, that I have nothing to worry about. The soft ringing bell in my head had turned off, gone silent, left in its place a reverberating silence that was as sweet as the morning dew. So beautiful, relaxing, calming. It all came from a conversation I had with a fellow peer after lunch. I was being my busy self, trying to cram lunch after a meeting ran late, while checking my email in the commons. And a fellow peer came up to me and asked if she could join me. Of course! We began talking, with all my previous concerns brushed aside. She talked to me, asked me questions about her future, her life, her goals, her dreams. And I talked about my own experience, my own life, and I gave advice about what paths she could follow to find happiness at Rice. I’m sure it wasn’t the perfect advice, and I probably missed a lot of important points. But I realized, as I chatted happily away, this is what I love to do at Rice, this is what we all love to do – share our ideas, thoughts, advice, and dreams with our fellow peers.
We are the happiest students in the nation. Some people may have said that this ranking was arbitrarily decided, but I think it’s true. We are the happiest not because of academics, music events, or the community service we do. It’s because on top of all of that, we care about each other. We care about an entire community, an entire college of 300 students, that we feel a connection with and build a relationship with. I care about my Lovetteers. I love to help them, talk to them, give advice, get advice, and have fun together. I grow with them, I learn with them. I cry, I laugh. And I learn about myself in a way I never could have alone.