O-Week draws to a close with Welcome Back Festival

All good things must come to an end, and O-Week 2013 drew to a close with a celebration befitting some of the nation’s happiest students – the 2013 Welcome Back Festival.

This year’s festival featured “some exciting changes,” said  Rice Program Council Adviser Julie Neisler.

“Based on the overwhelming success of the centennial picnic and feedback from last year’s Welcome Back Festival, we sought to expand the food offerings and giveaways and incorporate an A-list disc jockey into the event,” Neisler said.

The new students indulged in a vast selection of food donated for the picnic by Houston-area food vendors, including pizza, Mongolian barbeque, fried chicken, submarine sandwiches, cookies and gourmet chocolate desserts. D.J. Kap Slap spun records as attendees talked, danced, ate and participated in the many giveaways, which included water bottles, backpacks, phone cases, sunglasses, stickers, drawstring bags, gift cards and T-shirts. Students also had the opportunity to pose for photos in front of two green screens with various fun backgrounds.

“We hope the upperclassmen see the festival as a huge ‘we’re excited you’re back’ celebration and the new students will have an opportunity to feel united in the Rice spirit and culture,” Neisler said.

Laura Kranich, a new transfer student from the University College London (UCL), was just one of the new Owls enjoying her welcome into the Rice family. She called the Welcome Back Festival and the overall atmosphere at Rice “an amazing experience.”

“[UCL] has a very different system – there’s not nearly as much teacher interaction as there is here,” she said. “[Rice] is really one of a kind; it’s incredible – it’s such a community.”

Kranich admitted that without a doubt, the residential college system was the biggest factor that attracted her to Rice.

“Coming in as a transfer, you always kind of wonder if you can get in with a community,” she said. “The residential college system was incredibly appealing, because it gives you that automatic community and a smaller group within the large group of new students coming in. Everybody is super friendly.  I have never been anywhere before that people are just this insanely friendly.”

Shelly Patton, another new student transferring from Northwestern University, called the atmosphere at Rice “great.” She will be a member of the Rice Owls swim team.

“I love the coach and I love the team, and it’s such a great atmosphere, but what really drew me here is the community,” she said. “I was completely blown away by how open and nice everyone is,” she said. “It’s just vastly different than my previous experience.”

Patton described O-Week as a “great experience” that allowed her to easily integrate into the Rice family.

“Everyone has been so welcoming since the very first day,” she said. “It’s a really fluid transition into the community because of the way O-Week was set up and events like this.”

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is associate director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.