Displaced students experience impromptu CI

With two tubs of ice cream, free pins and decorative balloons, GW welcomed displaced New Orleans students to Washington, D.C., Friday at the University’s impromptu Colonial Inauguration.

Organized in just a few days, the mini-CI featured more than 20 booths in the Marvin Center’s Hippodrome, manned by representatives from several University departments. Under a large banner that read “Welcome Home!” members of organizations including the University Police Department, Student Financial Assistance, Off-Campus Students Affairs, and the Community Living and Learning Center helped educate about 20 New Orleans students about the ins and outs of their new school.

“We’re all here to help educate, advocate and serve,” said Timothy Kane, assistant director of student activities at the Office of Community Service. “I’m really impressed with how the CI meets the needs of the students in such a timely and friendly manner.”

The daylong event featured group discussions, a “sprit dinner” with GW’s mascots and an evening walk to the National Mall and Kennedy Center. More than 60 displaced students were invited to the event, but as the day wore on, only a handful remained for the planned activities.

Despite the University’s best efforts, some students said they missed being in New Orleans and are still uneasy about life at GW.

“I feel like a freshman now,” Tulane University junior Lauren Ulf said, “I’m starting out with few friends. It’s hard not to get lost here.”

“I’m still getting used to not being in New Orleans,” said Tulane freshman Amy Plavner, who added that she had been looking forward to spending her first year in college in the Big Easy.

Members of GW Transfers were also on hand to offer New Orleans students advice on what it’s like to start over in a new city. They passed around a contact list to help the new students get in touch with each other.

“We’re just hoping to help get them acquainted and let them know they have friends here,” said junior Mora Ambrey, who transferred to GW last year. “We know what they’re going through.”

Students said they appreciate the open arms of the GW community.

“I like my classes,” Ulf said. “I’m glad the teachers here are so accepting and willing to cut some slack and let us catch up.”

The displaced said it’s hard for anyone to imagine the trauma of Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Gulf Coast last month and left New Orleans flooded, causing Tulane as well as several other area schools to cancel their fall 2005 classes.

“I don’t know the state of my house yet,” Ulf said. “I lived on the bottom floor, and even though it’s on high ground, I’ve heard it’s flooded and moldy and there are bugs everywhere. It’s probably going to be condemned.”

“It’s hard for me because I had just come back from a year abroad and I was able to spend a summer (in New Orleans) and experience it for a few months before I had to evacuate,” senior Laura Gaige said. “It’s been hard to keep in touch with friends.”

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