New Orleans students arrive at GW

Even before Hurricane Katrina, Tulane University students were no strangers to hurricane-prompted evacuations.

And when they were told on the last weekend of August to leave their New Orleans dwellings as Katrina approached, they thought it was another false alarm that would give them a few days off from school.

“Everybody was looking forward to it, and then your school gets wiped out,” said Kati Milligan, a Tulane junior who took up the University’s offer to take classes here and officially registered Wednesday.

Milligan, from Jacksonville, Fla., is part of the diaspora of New Orleans students who are unsure when, if ever, they can return to their schools.

Many of the students, because they are not originally from New Orleans, are much better off than the hundreds of thousands of lower- and middle-income hurricane refugees that lost everything to the storm. Still, they have like-minded concerns, such as what happened to their abandoned belongings, their apartments and the city – Milligan left her beloved New Orleans with only a duffle bag and her dog, Stewie.

“I don’t feel sorry for myself because there’s people with a lot less than me,” said Milligan as she sat wit her mother, Millie, in the GW visitors center.

Since announcing Sept. 1 that New Orleans students could take classes at GW as non-degree students, the University, as of Wednesday, has received 40 to 50 applications and enrolled 35 to 40 people. The New Orleans students will not be allowed to earn their degrees from GW. Most of the students are from Tulane – which has a similar student population and urban setting – with others coming from the University of New Orleans, Dillard University and Xavier University.

“I’ve been surprised it’s been this many that have come forward,” said Timothy Terpstra of GW’s academic planning and development office. He was unsure how many additional students GW could accommodate.

With the University unable to offer housing to the displaced students, Terpstra surmised that many who have enrolled are staying with family in the D.C. area.

Milligan, who arrived in D.C. on Wednesday, is living with an uncle on Capitol Hill. She starts classes Thursday.

She said, “I wanted to try something new,” Mulligan said. “And I consider it a semester abroad, except it’s in D.C.”

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