This week is the first set of classes for students city-wide, and for most Houstonians that means congested roads, surprise school zones and fewer yellow buses available for rent as party wagons.
Local reality TV star Erica Rose can relate. She's gone back to school too — at University of Houston's Law Center.
"It's definitely an adjustment," she tells CultureMap about her new five class load as a third-year law student. "It's a really full-time schedule, so when I'm not in class, I have a lot of reading. I'm acclimating myself to not having a lot of free time."
Among Rose's favorite classes is White Collar Defense, which relates to a summer internship she had in the field two years ago. She adds, "I'm enjoying Medical Malpractice, which is interesting because my dad's a doctor."
Erica laments that UH isn't offering a course on entertainment law this semester — her true passion. "My goal is to be a Judge Judy or Nancy Grace-type personality," she explains.
Arriving back at UH after the screening of this summer's VH1 reality show You're Cut Off! has presented its challenges. On the first day of her Criminal Procedure class, a fellow student snapped a covert photo of the reality star and posted the picture on Facebook. Erica recounts, "Later that night, my friend Vanessa said to me, 'This weird girl took a photo of you while you were putting your stuff together at the end of class.' "
Erica has observed a different attitude from classmates with her increased recognizability, but isn't fretting the attention. "At least I looked cute that day," she says regarding the Law Center paparazzi incident.
All across Houston, T-Erica Rose reports being stopped by strangers who were ardent fans of You're Cut Off!
"If I go to Bikram," she says, "people recognize me and I have to chat with them and answer questions because I don't want people to think I'm rude."
The attention has its perks, though. "I'm kind of happier at school now because people know who I am and are being nice," Erica notes. "I don't feel as bored as I was like a year ago."
"It's like I always have to be on," she says of her heightened celebrity, "I can't just zone out or come to class not caring how I look."
To perfect her "casual collegiate" look, Erica stocked up on jeans and polos at posh Aspen boutique Boogie's during an end-of-summer getaway last week.
As she hits the books, Erica's also catching her breath after a summer living in Beverly Hills, where she enjoyed such A-list events as the premiere of Inception, nights out with the cast of Bachelor Pad and Jersey Shore's Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino's birthday party in Las Vegas. She also reconciled with You're Cut Off! nemesis Gia Khay following a public dispute outside of Beverly Hills' STK.
After many shed tears and much spilt SmartWater, Erica and Gia have made up: "She invited me to a restaurant and served me dinner and drinks," Erica says, "Now we're friendly — she's been wanting to go to my dad to get her breasts redone."
Reflecting on her time on Cut Off, Erica says, "I'm a lot more adventurous now. Whereas I would usually fly, I road tripped back from LA, and now I'm doing my own grocery shopping," yet she adds, "I'm never going to enjoy cleaning. I wish I could say that I improved that — but I didn't at all."
The public reaction she received on the road back to Texas was overwhelmingly positive. She reports, "One girl said she was now able to wear less makeup, and another told me she decided not to fight physically, but with words instead."
She's balancing being a full-time law student with her evolving career in the entertainment industry. Just this week, she booked an appearance in October for Audi Houston Fashion Week.
"It's the first step in me making money," she explains, "and eventually becoming financially independent."
Erica's looking beyond the runway, though, and back to the TV screen. She's in talks with VH1 about a new dating reality show starring herself, "meeting guys from all over the country." Ideally she would shoot during the six-week interval between the fall and spring semesters, but the show's schedule won't be secured until mid-September.
As for her personal life off-campus, Erica says, "I'm trying to stay single right now. Of course there are people interested in dating me, but I'm not going to get involved in anything serious until I know about my new show."