When Tulane University freshman JP Pacelli arrived in New Orleans Tuesday afternoon to register for his first semester there, he found somewhat less than he expected.
“They took the stuff out of my room and moved it somewhere I don’t know,” Pacelli said Wednesday. “I have to go wander around campus today to relocate my stuff and bring it back.”
Pacelli was one of 10 students from Tulane to enroll at Yale for the fall semester after Hurricane Katrina devastated much of the Gulf Coast in August. Under a directive issued by the Yale College Dean’s Office in early December, all 10 students must leave Yale for the spring semester, but some Tulane students said they had mixed feelings about returning to New Orleans.
Junior Isaac Riisness said it was not easy getting used to Yale at first, but he quickly grew fond of the University and of New Haven.
“Any time you start something two weeks late, you have a very brief orientation period,” Riisness said. “Thursday I received an e-mail that I was supposed to come to Yale, Friday morning I bought the ticket, five o’clock Friday I was at Yale, Sunday I picked my classes and Monday I was in class. It was one of the most difficult transitions I’ve ever had, because literally, you are just dropped in a new place.”
Despite the abrupt move, Riisness said he enjoyed a smooth transition with the help of Yale students and professors who made an effort to welcome him into a new environment. Riisness said he made friends at Yale with whom he intends to stay in contact now that he has moved back to New Orleans.
“The Facebook is great for that,” he said. “There are some people that I had to work with on projects that I got to know really well. There are a few people that I knew beforehand and I now know better who I think I’ll keep in touch with.”
Riisness, an engineering major, said that despite Tulane’s decision to keep parts of its engineering school shut down, he is looking forward to returning to his familiar, if damaged, campus.
But some freshmen said they are anxious about leaving the only university they have ever known and starting over in a new environment. Mark Macmurdo, who will travel today from his home in Baton Rouge to Tulane’s campus, said he does not know what to expect when he arrives.
“After the winter break, I was very apprehensive because there were just a lot of questions that weren’t being answered by the administration at Tulane,” he said. “The situation seemed very dire … But now that I’m going back tomorrow, I am very excited and I’m gonna see what it’s like.”
Macmurdo said he was worried about his friends and family back home last semester, but plunging into a bustling new environment helped to occupy him. Still, he tried not to become too invested in a place he knew he would be leaving soon, he said.
“I knew I had to move on and do the best I could to forget about it,” Macmurdo said. “Being at Yale really helped me do that … I’m going to miss Yale, but by the same token, I know that wasn’t really where I was meant to be going to school. I tried not to become too connected with Yale because I knew it was only for a short period of time.”
Macmurdo said he will consider transferring to Louisiana State University or applying to return to Yale as a transfer student if he does not enjoy study at Tulane.
Senior Kym Smith, who lives 8 miles away from Yale in North Haven, said she has heard stories about the extent of the damage to New Orleans and has mixed emotions about returning for her final semester at Tulane.
“My old roommate is there right now,” she said. “She went through the lower ninth ward and told me she could smell death in the air. It’s going to be weird going back down there. It’s been nice being at home for a semester, because I haven’t been home for a while, but I’m definitely looking forward to going back to New Orleans.”
Smith said she made friends in many of her classes with whom she intends to keep in touch. Her boyfriend, Gaurav Sajjanhar ’06, plans to travel to New Orleans to visit her this semester, she said.
The six remaining students will return to Tulane by Jan. 18, when the school’s spring semester begins.