Embrace New Orleans

Embrace New Orleans
August 20, 2010
The Tulane Hullabaloo

s the school year begins and I settle into yet another new home, I realize that the majority of Tulane students are coming from different states or countries. I know how hard it can be to adjust to a new environment because I myself have lived in five different cities and three different countries on three different continents. My best advice is to get involved and immerse yourself in the culture as much as possible.

You might wonder why you need to learn about your new culture when you’re just here to study and get a degree, but it is ignorant — and a wasted opportunity — to live in a place and not experience its culture.

My family moved from Korea to Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans, last year. I first heard about New Orleans in the context of Hurricane Katrina, and that’s pretty much all I knew. I didn’t know that it was the home of jazz, I didn’t know Tulane existed and I thought Cajun was just a way of cooking because the only time I heard the word was when getting some Cajun Chicken Salad. So when my parents told me we were moving to New Orleans, I was excited — being the sort of person who loves traveling and a change in environment — but on the other hand, I was worried. I knew very little about the city or its inhabitants, and Katrina had only worsened my fears. I had only lived in moderate climates, so the prospect of flooding and severe storms terrified me. Whenever I heard a storm alert, I would ask the locals, “Is it time to evacuate now?”

I had heard that New Orleans is where Americans want to visit at least once in their life. When I first arrived here, I wondered why. My first impression of New Orleans was nothing like my image of the United States. I was expecting liveliness and lots of skyscrapers. Instead, the buildings were low, I barely saw people walking around my neighborhood and there seemed to be nothing exciting happening. But as time went on, I realized I was wrong. There are so many things to do in New Orleans, from eating delicious Louisiana dishes like crawfish, jambalaya, gumbo and red beans, to watching live performances on the streets of the French Quarter.

So fellow students, do not be afraid to actively engage in your new environment. It is the only way to learn about this new culture in a short time. Enjoy the uniqueness of Tulane and of New Orleans. Try the regional foods, visit the swamps or drive across the Pontchartrain Bridge. Culture is not just something to be taught in anthropology class or to observe from the streetcar, but something to live and experience. If you do so, trust me, anywhere could soon be your home.
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