Carolyn Weaver works with students to learn more about her city. Photo belongs to Weaver.
It is truly bizarre how much your view of a place can change over time. I have only lived in New Orleans for a little over a year now, and it is unbelievable how this place is the same one I daydreamed about in high school classes after I made my decision senior year to come to Tulane. Especially in a tourist capital that is so advertised and stereotyped, my only impressions of New Orleans before attending Tulane were the two whirlwind college visits and what the media told me I had in store. Naturally, I pictured the drinking, music, street performances and characteristic funkiness, which in many ways the media portrayal turned out to be completely truthful about. But now New Orleans is not an abstract concept like it was before I attended Tulane, or a fresh and weird new culture like it was throughout freshman year. I have sweated through a sticky and beautiful New Orleans August, listened to more live music than I ever have before in my life, lived through my first Mardi Gras, and grown from this city in so many ways that suddenly it does not feel foreign or uncomfortable, it just feels like home. Interacting with locals, especially through a variety of service outreach in my time here, was a huge step for me in solidifying New Orleans in my mind as a real place with real people living here, not just some huge playground or experiment. New Orleans shifted from somewhere I felt like an outsider, to a place I wanted to fully submerge myself in, know the people of, and interact with to become more united with this city. I do not care if it is cliché to say, somewhere in the past year or so living here New Orleans has taken a piece of my heart that I know I will never truly get back if I move away after graduation.
[Editor’s Note: This reflection was captured as part of an English class taught by Luisa Dantas to explore place-based storytelling.]