New Orleans is one of the most exciting cities I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know, and I’m proud to have spent my year abroad there. With Its laidback atmosphere and welcoming people it is infectious. I found straight away that anyone would talk to me and take an interest in my life, which made it easier settling into a new culture. Before I knew it I was yelling WHO DAT to support the Saints NFL team and ordering my poboys dressed without a second thought.
At Tulane I had an overwhelming amount of choice in terms of my classes – I could study anything, from the Arab-Israeli Conflict to the Anthropology of Sex. My workload was far heavier than at RHUL but I found that it is far easier to achieve an A+ in the States than it is to get a 1st here. My American professors really emphasise the importance of group work and oral communication skills, and presentations were expected pretty much on a weekly basis.
Outside of the classroom, NOLA is truly a foodie’s paradise and my life pretty much revolved around what to eat next. I loved going to Café Du Monde for beignets, and I fell in love with charbroiled oysters, alligator sausage and delicious crawfish étouffée. Saturdays saw with our bodies aching after samba class in Tremé, but a laugh with the waiters in Gumbo Shop and a huge bowl of their nap-inducing chicken and andouille sausage gumbo always seemed to make everything better. Jambalaya was another addiction – I’ll admit to polishing off 7 plates at a house party (no regrets!). But some of the best afternoons of my life were spent sharing 2 or 3 (maybe 4) pounds of crawfish from Soul’s on my friend’s porch. NOLA is basically the perfect place to not watch what you eat and be happier for it!
I spent some great nights barhopping and sipping on hurricanes on Bourbon Street, but it was way too touristy and flashy for me. I prefer Frenchmen Street with its colourful characters, charismatic musicians and beautiful arts market – you can take a break from dancing at the reggae club or drinking wine in dimly lit jazz bars, and wonder around admiring all the amazing handmade crafts in the moonlight. Halloween on Frenchmen was the first time I saw the city out in costume, DJs in the street, and people dancing on top of cars. In Tremé every Sunday there are second lines, which get the entire neighbourhood reveling in feathers, music and barbecues. I got to hold a snake that someone was carrying around! Even on a daily basis there are endless festivals and free concerts. You just have to find the time to do it all!
NOLA is just very special. Everyone from the gardeners in the neighbourhood to the shuttle driver became a part of my life and made me feel truly at home. Its unpredictability, ability to turn anything into a cause to celebrate, and its inescapable warmth (both literally and metaphorically), taught me how easy it is to live in the moment and enjoy life, but also how to make the best of any situation. Nowhere else in the world have I walked into someone’s sprinklers and then had lemonade and life advice shared with me on the porch swing. Nowhere else has the bus driver taken a break on a quiet morning to play me some trombone on the sidewalk. Only in New Orleans.