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Love letter to New Orleans: Out-of-state students discuss good, bad, ugly

By Justin A. Baker
On November 1, 2019

NEW ORLEANS (October 31, 2019) – Relocating to another state can be difficult, but that’s what nearly half the student population here at Dillard has done and found the flip side to be fun and a totally new experience.

To say goodbye to friends and family in pursuit of something more takes courage. It can be daunting being in a new place – getting used to new customs, slang and people. Those who have moved here from their respective homes have come to find a new experience altogether in New Orleans.

Some 559 students, or 45 percent, enrolled this semester at Dillard are from another state, with 148 (12.1 percent) from California and 126 (10.3 percent) from Texas. Double-digits have arrived from Illinois, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.

Around campus, new students, transfers and those returning to education are settling into their new environment and finding a deep appreciation for it, along with some challenges. Interviews with some out-of-state students (including my own experiences as a transplant from Toledo, Ohio) offer a look at making the adjustment.

Southern hospitality is no joke

In the South, I’ve found that if someone says “good morning,” “good afternoon” or “good night,” you had better reply, or you can expect to be called rude. When you do respond and follow up by asking how the greeter is doing, you could spend the next five minutes turning a stranger into a friend.

Omari Allonso, a freshman business major from Phoenix, said he loves Southern hospitality and that it seems New Orleanians “celebrate almost all the time.”

Darius Wilson, a sophomore business administration transfer student from San Diego, said he loves the “creative values in art, music and food” in the black community here.

The food

And speaking of food, beignets, jambalaya, red beans and rice and, of course, grits are just the tip of the delicious food mountain to be found here in New Orleans. Out-of-staters like myself might get an introduction to fried catfish, fried oysters, fried clams and fried shrimp. Then you can discover po-boys and craw-daddies, and your world will never be the same.

Wilson said he likes most is the food culture: “There is food from different cultures…The opportunity to taste things from different places is amazing.”

The entertainment

Life never seems dull here. If one of the many festivals isn’t scheduled, you can always find something fun to do on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. A second-line seems ever-present; it’s not just the music, accompanied by laughter, dancing and drinking, but also the energy of a good time being had by all. (The tasty and colorful beverages don’t hurt, though.)

The New Orleans vibe got the biggest reaction from student transplants.

Imani Salter, a pre-nursing freshman from Oakland, Calif., said, “I love how the South still has culture, for the most part, in the black community. The vibe is amazing.”

Quenisha Sims, a business sophomore from Nacogdoches, Texas, said, “I like that music is played all times of the day; [I] like the creativity that is shown in the food and the atmosphere in general.”

It’s a different kind of South for the Texas transplant, who called New Orleans “active day and night.”

The weather and other challenges

There seems to be three temperatures here: hot, hotter and hotta!, interspersed with random thunderstorms/rain showers and the threat of tropical storms and hurricanes, a real adjustment for West Coast residents like Salter. Investing in rain boots and an umbrella is a good idea, especially the latter, since I find the weirdly warm raindrops on my head seems to make everything “hotta” afterward.

Allonso, coming from the dry heat of Arizona, mentioned the insects and humidity, but he also complained about a lack of punctuality here, along with the need to “speak and smile all the time.”

Two complaints with which even natives can identify came from Sims (crime/violence) and Wilson (potholes).

Wilson said, “The roads out here are filled with huge potholes and cracked asphalt.”

Despite the challenges, for this Ohio transplant, New Orleans is an incredible place where strangers can become family, hot weather is a way of life, and you can always count on cold drinks, great food made with love and incredible music that celebrates life.

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