The Flip Side: IIT vs. Rice University

I have been amazed how the academic systems and social cultures at Rice and IITB differ so greatly. It is not the content of the courses or the methods of teaching but rather the students that differ.  Students at IIT are much more relaxed and for them, academics do not always seem like the top priority. Instead they spend their time putting on amazing shows, playing lots of cricket, and organizing incredible festivals.

From what I have been told, IIT students work really hard to get here but once they are here they enjoy. Having the IIT brand ensures success in the future so rigorous studies here do not seem as necessary. This attitude creates an atmosphere, II have never experienced at Rice.  I cannot make complete generalizations but I have noticed a few things.

Debate on the Kyoto Protocol

At IIT classes always start 10 minutes late, half of the students seem to sleep or talk, and students don’t seem very passionate about the subject.  I was shocked to learn that while submitting assignments usually a few students do the work and the rest of the class copies and for exams cheating is almost a norm. Of course, not all the students I have seen are like this but this behavior at Rice would have met with serious punishment so I have just been amazed. I have been told that these actions are because most students plan to go into business or finance so engineering does not interest them very much. At Rice, since we have the ability to choose our major, students are often eager to come to class or at least enjoy the subject they are studying.

Mid-sems were a new experience as well because it has been more than three years since I took an exam in class. At Rice almost all my exams are take-home exams.  The professor will post an exam on-line with instructions such as “this is a closed-book, three hour exam due one week from today”. Students sign the honor code and are trusted to follow the rules of the exam. Cheating is rarely seen because the consequences could result in automatic failure of the course or being kicked out of the university. I personally prefer the IIT system though because I have much more free time. At Rice, every week in each of my courses I have an assignment that takes at least 15-20 hours to complete. When I return from classes and on the weekend, I am constantly trying to finish my assignments. At IIT, I only have to study for quizzes, mid-sems, and end-sems so I have lots of free time. I have enjoyed spending time getting to meet people, going to performances, listening to guest lectures, and exploring in general.

Enjoying Holi

On a social level, Rice and IIT cultures are very different. At Rice the mentality is “work hard, party hard.” Partying should not be taken as getting drunk or going to dance clubs every weekend because although this does exist, there is a lot more to the fun culture at Rice. Sports provide constant entertainment because almost every weekend there is a football, baseball, or basketball game to watch or students can play sports themselves. The whole university gets involved with the parties and supports athletics so there is a lot of pride for the university. At IIT, there are no parties per se but there are always cultural events, conferences, cricket matches, and hostel events. I have found it hard to take advantage of all the opportunities because there is always something going on. I know college students stay up late but at IIT I have been amazed to find students still roaming till 3 or 4 in the morning.

One of my favorite parts about IIT is that everything is so different. It is refreshing to experience something new inside and outside the classroom. Even the mornings when I have only barely slept for 3 or 4 hours, I am excited to get up to see what is in store for me that day.

Elyse Landry
Department of Chemical Engineering
Rice University

Disclaimer: The views expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of InsIghT, IIT Bombay. They are the personal views of the author.