You know it’s coming, but it’s still humbling

I’m kind of weirded out at how good Tulane has been at keeping track of me as an alumni. And no, I don’t just mean in terms of following up about donating money back.

Take a look at this interview one of the gals over in the Political Science Department did with me earlier in the week. I’m reaching new levels of alumni nerdiness over in this corner of New York City…

Check it out here.

Why I’m thankful every day to have “Tulane” on my resume


And yes, I really do mean every day. But especially on days that include interviews or meetings with people I don’t know.

I’ve only been in the workforce for about a year and a half. But I’ve had my fair share of professional encounters during that time. I’m a qualified graduate. Graduated with honors, won a few awards, have had my fair share of internships and experience. What I’m saying is, I have enough material for the standard cover letter/interview #humblebrags.

A few months ago I walked into an higher-ups office at work who I was meeting for the first time. I was nervous – and then I saw The Blue Dog. You know the one. I said, “you a New Orleans fan?” motioning to the frame. Turns out he’s close with the artist. Who knew? A few months later, in a not so dissimilar setting, a producer asked me “Tulane? How was it?” It wasn’t in that disinterested, killing time, kind of way. He wanted to know how it was.

Here’s the thing you realize when you leave New Orleans: it really is as interesting and unique as Tulane marketed it to be. The city itself is amazing, not just for what it endured and rebuilt after Katrina, but for the traditions, weirdness, and people it attracts. It is a city unreplicated anywhere else in the U.S., and I’d go so far as to say the world. Now, of course you can say the same about New York or D.C. or LA. Of course these cities have something special and cool about them, those certain traits that move millions to call them home. But not like New Orleans.

New Orleans has a je ne sais quoi. You can’t quite place what makes you love it, what makes you want to know about it should you encounter someone who has spent time there or even called it home, what makes you want to be around people who understand just what it means (both to miss her and to know her). It’s hard to put your finger on a tangible reason why your heart swells when you hear jazz through your headphones and you just imagine it for real at Blue Nile. And you can’t explain why plastic beads and the color combos of green, purple, and gold – or black and gold, for that matter! – make you feel a little drunk and a little nostalgic all at the same time.

So when my cold-meetings get New Orleans-warm simply because my resume lists me as a Tulane alum, or when a conversation with strangers leads me to say I grew into myself for four years down in New Orleans, I’m thankful.

Not that I wasn’t before. But it’s always nice to have a reminder.

Laissez le president rouler: Farewell, Prez ‘Scotty C’

Friday morning I received a typical post-grad Tulane Talk from Tulane President Scott Cowen. I usually click in, skim the subject line, and hit the trash icon, but today was different. Today was actual news: Our very own “Scotty C” was leaving Tulane, effective July 2014.

I came in after Katrina, so I won’t pretend I knew what it was to literally weather that storm, but I do know what I came into: school desperate to recruit students of the same, and higher caliber, that they had before the storm; an academic and extra-curricular structure that had a lot of holes due to cuts made in the aftermath of Katrina; a wonderful, vibrant city just re-acquiring its post-storm sea legs, and a university chomping at the bit to help.

Despite missing Katrina, I didn’t go un-hurricaned in NOLA. I was a guinea pig of sorts to Scott Cowen’s post-Katrina communication methods and implementation of new evacuation techniques in the wake of Hurricane Gustav, which ended up being not as bad as the subsequent Hurricane Irene. Go figure we evacuated for one and not the other, and ironically on the anniversary of the Katrina evac. But I have a worrier for a mother and I know she felt as comfortable as she could have been with her little girl leaving a strange new place because of a hurricane, and that was due in large part to the transparency provided by Cowen and his staff during that time.

Nothing is perfect – and that goes for Cowen’s 15 years as President. As is the case for most leaders tasked with making tough calls in times of crisis, Cowen received blow back for his decisions in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to reduce the School of Engineering and to co-opt, and thus eliminate, Newcomb College, into Tulane University.

Now, I’ve never been a science girl and engineering was never in my cards, but the choice to take apart an entire sub-sect of Tulane academia is never really a good thing. Tulane’s academic casualties due to Katrina in this department were: mechanical engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering, computer engineering, environmental engineering, and computer science, and also a bachelor’s degree in exercise science. The university’s recovery plan also outlines that the cutting of twenty-seven of its forty-five doctoral programs and suspended eight NCAA Division I intercollegiate athletic programs.

I have, however, always been a girl’s girl. What I mean by that is, I like the idea of Newcomb College and I like the idea of women helping to push, support, and foster the growth of other women. I’ve long denied the label of “feminist” but hey, maybe this is the time to call a spade a spade. Regardless, the merge and elimination of Newcomb College as an entity separate and parallel to Tulane was never something I had an opinion on, possibly because I never knew Newcomb as a separate entity as I know it was designed to be. I used Newcomb lunches as ways to learn and grow outside the classroom and enjoyed the gorgeous cottage that the program called home. Changing old traditions and vestiges of the past is difficult. But then, Katrina was a hurricane that devastated New Orleans in ways that many in America had never seen. New challenges require new, sometimes difficult, solutions. Scott Cowen made those choices in the Renewal Plan. While I understand the fight against the changes, I do not feel Tulane – from a student perspective – suffered for them. But then I only knew the “after” side of things.


In 2006, Cowen wrote:

For Tulane, Katrina has taught us to plan for the worst even as we pray for the best. It has taught us as an institution to stay focused on our mission and goals even in the face of financial and physical crisis. It has taught us the responsibility that comes with our role as the largest employer in our home city — a responsibility to help rebuild our city and heal its people.

I can only assume that it was this responsibility that spurred Cowen to found The Cowen Institute in late 2006 to benefit public education initiatives in New Orleans. I always loved how much Tulane stressed action in the community, and I appreciated being forced to interact outside the classroom in places and with people I may not have sought out on my own.

He leaves behind students – both current and graduated (me!) – who are grateful to him in some part for their success – even if they don’t know it yet. He brought Tulane back from what could have been a far-reaching, and long-term devastating event and he brought it back, to go all Thrones on you, harder and stronger.

My years at Tulane are without a doubt the best four years of my life. Words don’t do justice in describing the people I met, connections I forged, lessons I learned – both in and out of the classroom, and the friendships I now cherish from this wonderful institution. I stumbled into Tulane by chance but my decision to stay was deliberate. Since leaving, the school has flourished. Our rankings are far higher than when I initially chose Tulane – what my friends and I have come to call our choice to get in while the stocks were low – and we are now watching them soar. We’re very happy shareholders, to say the least. And as shareholders and former students, I just wanted to say thank you, Scotty C, for doing what you thought was right, doing it even if it was hard, and making strong once more a little campus in Uptown New Orleans that has nestled itself deep into many of our hearts.

Read the full text of President Scott Cowen’s letter below. (And for those of you without microscopic vision, I’d recommend giving it a click to enlarge it to readable size.)


“A Tulane education now means a New Orleans education.”

I’ve always tried to explain to people just how integrated and involved Tulane is in the vibrant, unique community of New Orleans and this article now does it for me! It’s true that one of the best parts of my Tulane education was my NOLA education. By partnering with NGOs and Community Centers in class and working with Habitat for Humanity and literacy groups through Pi Beta Phi, Tulane educated me in more ways than just Political Science and Communications. It’s sappy and cliche but I learned about life outside the Tulane Bubble, and it was the University that promoted and pushed students to have that kind of invaluable experience. This article cuts to the core that a good college isn’t just where polls rank it – it’s about the feel. And this recent alum feels particularly nostalgic and proud to read about her school in such a positive light – especially when it’s written by a fellow alumni! ROLL WAVE!

“A Tulane education now means a New Orleans education.”

Not just chickens run around with their heads cut off

So it seems that since returning all I’ve been doing is running in circles, head cut off, and just screaming for some time to breath and possible try to re attach my head – I hear they’re necessary, after all. And while abroad was breathless and  I was continuously on the move, it was simple. And so I think I get it now: I’m not screaming for time, I’m shouting for simplicity. In fact, I’m doing so at the top of my lungs. Here, things are cluttered – socially, there are ties we have to uphold, appearances that “need” to be made; emotionally, there are those people who you don’t realize make you emotional until you see them after 5+ months and all you can say is “dammit, really?”; physically there is a haggardness thanks to the countless appearances and emotions and school and pressures that make you look as though you’ve fought a war and trudged to class all in the same day. And with rush finally ending this weekend – some could say this is a social war in itself – I’m hoping to find the time to take a breath and rescrew my head to my flailing body. Until then, the chicken metaphor still stands. You’d think after years of overinvolvement my motivated, ambitious, “must do everything” self would’ve learned…alas, the cons of being so Type A.

“First Day of School!”

Fish and friends everywhere, it’s that time again: Day 1 of classes. And on this cold morning in New Orleans, I want nothing more than to pull up the covers, put on my hoodie and cuddle up for an in-home marathon of Vampire Diaries and trashy morning talk shows. I clearly don’t share Nemo’s enthusiam. *Sigh* I guess this means the vacation’s over…Happy First Day, Tulanians.

“First Day of School!”

“Prenez un peu de distance…”

And it’s when you look at things from far away that it’s easier to appreciate them. For me, it’s taken being far away from Tulane to realize just how many great things there are about it: the city in general, but more importantly the people that make it the wonderful, living, breathing thing I’m so in love with. Now, this is not a bearing on France – this place is wonderful and has done well by me – but I’m coming to see that there’s just something about a Tulane Student state of mind that is just impossible to recreate anywhere else and in any other group of people. And it’s for that that, while it’s going to be a tearful good-bye to Aix and the people who have lived it with me, I couldn’t be more excited to go back to a place where – no matter how tired you are – Thursday means F&Ms, Friday means Happy Hour, Saturday means any and all of the above and Sundays bring a day of PJs coffee, Favori’s, home work and the return to being a real human being for the next 4(ish) days (no matter what).

Holiday From Real: Paris Edition

I had a bunch of worlds collide during this most recent foray into the world outside of Aix – High School friends, meets Tulane friends, meets AUCP friends. Needless to say my triple lives all meshed together into one gorgeously harmonious trip to Paris. But this harmony was not without moments of dischord. Our initial train from Aix to Paris was cancelled on Thursday (less than 24 hours before we were supposed to leave!) and so I spent an hour scattering around on the Internet trying to find cheap plane tickets. Mission accomplished. We arrived at the airport for our 7ish flight and spent the next 3 hours on the floor near our Gate, drinking demi-bottles of wine and navette cookies. 4 bottles later and more cookies than I care to count (or publicly display), we boarded. (Picture to follow…)

We landed in Paris circa minuit and proceeded to take a bus and then attempt to walk to our hotel. 20 minutes in, my too-trendy-for-walking-but-still-adorable-booties decided it was time to take a cab. And good thing, too, because we would’ve been walking for over an hour more! But nothing can be easy and the cab driver, of course, didn’t know where our hotel was and – for some reason – didn’t think it necessary to use his GPS. I’m gonna go all Allegiance to NYC on you right now and say this would never happen in The City. Public transportation in Europe (and sometimes other US states, I’ll admit) just boggles my mind. Dad, I understand: I can never live anywhere but NY. Anyway, we arrived to our hotel at a whopping 1:30am. In NOLA this would pose no problem. In France, there is a law that bars must close at 2am. Thus, we made the executive decision to (grudgingly) change into PJs and wait to take on Paris tomorrow.  

And take it on we did! But we were not alone. In fact, there were over 25 fellow Tulanians in Paris this weekend. And while I (very sadly) didn’t manage to see them all. I did get to see a bunch of my favorite people who have also crossed the pond this semester and who are pursuing their studies (drinking habits) abroad.

Ramirez & I somehow finding perfect lighting in the strange High-School-Party-In-A-Parisienne-Basement-Club that we were at. Love it!

Yeah, we got a little fratty circa 3am!

There was even an appearance from another resident of the 914 area code who has relocated herself to France for the semester. She braved angry French strikers and police armed with battering rams to make it to my hotel for an aperatif before we cabbed ensemble to Montmartre for dinner with Tulane friends! This little “mush” will also be joining us in ROME in less than two weeks. jewagjewkjgfwigjawg – meaning to say, EXCITEMENT!
All in all, it was an amazing trip. I’m lucky enough that it was my 4th time in Paris but we still managed to hit all major tourist spots just by promenading along the Siene – thank you Ancient Parisiennes for making all of your monuments so easily accesible and tourist friendly. This was obviously their thought process when mapping out where to place the Louvre in relation to the Eiffel Tower in relation to Notre Dame.

I cannot wait to get back to this wonderful city – hopefully sans grèves – in December with my family and see even more of the wonders that Paris has to offer once you get up the courage to leave the sight of the Siene and begin winding your way up the weathered streets of the City of Lights. Until then, I leave Paris this time with (shockingly) no new purchases but an entirely new set of memories to attribute to this wonderful place – plus an complete set of photos for a potential Pi Phi Does Paris Abum (say that 5 times fast) and an array of choices for the Penthouse Photo Display that we’ll be putting up in our apartment come January. [Update for all of you Tulane readers: I will be back in NOLA January 5th rolling squad deep with Pange and Lyss and maybe even the Great Sweet Lou.]

Until then, it is currently midterm week here and while I am quite enjoying my time here – which can be described as nothing but a Holiday From Real – I have to stop “wasting my weeks beneath the sun” and actually remembering I have school (womp womp). Here’s to studying AND THEN MILAN ON FRIDAY!

PROST! (la la la la la)

Yes, readers, Oktoberfest. So you know this entry’s going to be….amusing. And not just any Oktoberfest. No, no, this fête de la biere was the 200th anniversary – and as far as I can tell, the Germans know how to throw a birthday party. I departed Aix with no real ideas of what to expect. Apart from Mardi Gras which utilized much more neon and spandex, I had never attended a European festival of binge drinking and lederhosen. And so other than the knowledge that pretzels come from Germany and the big beers are called steins (and 1 = about 5 regular beers), I set off on my Lufthansa flight to Munich with Audrey to my left and two free glasses of sparkling wine in each hand. Disclaimer: I did not ask for two glasses, our American excitement of the idea that drinks – let alone alcohol – was gratuit on a plane must’ve been obvious enough to warrant the, “you wanted another, right?” And who am I to say no to some good ol’ German hospitality?

We arrived in Munich to find our French cell phones worked only in France – go figure. But somehow managed to locate Sarah and, of course, have our first Oktoberfest beer in the Munich airport while we waited for Dana’s flight to arrive. Once all united, we set off for the Hostival. Yes, the name alone should’ve been a tip off. A youth hostel, at Oktoberfest, themed as a hospital and lovingly termed the Hangover Hospital.

If we didn’t realize we were in trouble then, we realized soon after entering the Munich night club district and walking “past the strip club, to the left, past the train (train!?), through the parking lot and under the over pass.” May as well wait in a dark alley with our wallets out. Let’s go! And so we did, the wheels of our bags crunching over the crumbling pavement and picking up god knows what as we plodded along the sketchy Munich streets to the soundtrack of Euro techno mixed with “Country Roads.” I was as surprised as you are. When we finally reached our hostel, I could not have been more rendered more speechless. The only words that came to mind were: “but of course this is our hostel.” The hostel was, in fact, a large white tent in the middle of a graffiti-ridden parking lot. We entered to find that this tent was unheated and the rooms were in fact sections of tent separated by bed sheets and themed as a hospital. Our unit, Family Planning, was located across from the ICU and next to the Abortion Clinic. Quelle chance! Pictures really don’t even do this place justice…

“Guys, we are all showering together” was my first reaction. One that, I thought, was completely warranted and logical – strength in numbers and all that. But considering those were the first words I spoke since basically departing the airport, my friends collectively decided that all these years of boys (and boy problems) were simply my way of saying, “Guys, I’m gay.” Go figure. And so us 5 weary travelers put the bed covers on our mattresses and hid our valises under our thin, scraggily excuses for blankets and did what any college students would do in this situation: went out for a drink.

The HB tent: my personal favorite and also the last place that we all saw our sobriety and dignity. If found, feel free to return.

But it was not until Saturday at a whopping 7:30am that the real festivities began. Clad in our jackets and high hopes, the 5 Tulanians set out for the Fest that we, being students of New Orleans, felt we had been made and trained for. We would soon learn that we were sadly mistaken. If this is starting to sound like an R.L. Stine “Goosebumps,” it’s right about now that I’m wishing I could choose another ending. But to continue, tents open at 9 and beer starts flowing at 10 – it was nice to see that there was some maintenance of classy drinking habits. Along with the beers, cheesy bread and pretzels were plentiful in the tents, as were men and women clad in Lederhosen and Drindles, both classic and modern. The ceilings were adorned with colors and tent name emblems lined the walls.

But above all: there were people, there were songs and there was beer. 

After meeting up with this crew and getting kicked out at 11am (that’s when the VIP reserved people got to go in) we managed to find, guess what, MORE TULANIANS along with lots of Germans, Italians and some very chatty Parisians!

Yes, it was a Tulane filled weekend in Munich. Most of you can probably recognize this sentiment, of walking into a bar – whether it be the Boot, Bruno’s, Rocco’s, F&M’s, you name it – and realizing with one look-around that you know 9.5 out of every 10 people in that bar. My statistics were so great at Oktoberfest, but there was one moment, while standing with my new German friend Linus on a table at Hofbrau tent, that I looked around and had that feeling that I was surrounded by people who I knew. And it was true! To my right was Linus (sans blanket but nonetheless awesome), to my left Dana and Christina, across the table: Audrey and (if memory serves) Sam Glidden and Scotty Jospin made an appearance, all while Trent and I prost-ed across the table and swayed to the sounds of the music that threatened to get so loud that the entire tent could burst with joy and musical notes at any moment!

It’s a strange feeling, the sentiment of feeling home simply by being around people who have a love for the same place as you do. But this had to be my favorite moment of Oktoberfest. Sure, there were other memories – stories of what you did the night before count as memories right? – And plenty of one-liners that defined the weekend, but as I sat on the plane coming home I couldn’t help but think of how that feeling of home manages to sneak up on you at the strangest of times in the strangest of places. That, and how bad I felt for the man sitting next to me who could clearly tell that just the sight of his free-on-Lufthansa beer made me want to throw up. All in all, this weekend was one of the most amazing, trying, intense, fun, beer-filled weekends of my life – and for anyone who’s been to Mardi Gras, you know that’s saying something. Also for anyone who has seen me during one of my “This-is-by-far-my-worst-hangover-ever” mornings, of which there have been a few (ah-hem Halloween, November Rain), I am serious when I say that this one was by far the worst. Enough so that it is officially Sober Oktober for me. Mom and Dad, I can hear your cheers from across the pond.

When I returned to Aix late Monday night after, probably the longest day of my life, my only answer to the question of “how was it!?” was: “I am so glad I went and it was amazing, but I never want to do that again.” This was followed by many stories, including the death of my Blackberry (I’m still in mourning) and Dana’s decision to become a Woman’s Rights major in Germany while living only off of chicken and pretzels. Stories of crazy Italians, random twin brothers, something about a mayonnaise fight and how I, apparently, am casting the fifth Twilight. (Men on the street in Munich, I’m sorry but the growling just didn’t cut it. Maybe next time.) Needless to say, the final scoreboard read: Ali – 0, Oktoberfest – 100,000 and I’m still here marveling over the fact that I can make it through 2 Mardi Gras with no phone issues but one night of rain in Munich can drive my Blackberry to suicide. Correction: Oktoberfest – 100,001. Well, until next time, Prost!

Ode to Irby 233

Everything old really is new again. Not that Irby can ever really be considered new, but the sentiment stands. I’ve recently been informed by the ever-so-reliable Facebook that my old room has new, “smelly” inhabitants. I do, however, know these rascals and happen to enjoy the tales of their antics, which I’m sure will continue in the spaces that I and my 7 roommates used to call our own. Still…to be blunt: this is insanely weird. I mean, it feels like yesterday that I was lugging box upon suitcase upon suitcase – correction, Matt and Foster were lugging box upon suitcase, but that’s just semantics. Besides, I encouraged from afar.

It seemed like some distant omen hearing Chris call “dibs, bitches!” on my bed for next year. By the way, good luck with that….

Well, either way you slice this pie the Irby corner suite of old has become new again. We’ll miss the jungle, the days of the hammock, the welcome (and unwelcome) visitors at all hours, the constant notes of Miley and some good ol’ country flowing escaping through our door, the acoustics of the bathroom (ah-hem!), The List, our coloring book display, the reliability of the railing as you heaved the nights drinks into the leaves and the sun soaked floors that we used to bathe in sunlight – whoa, did I just make Irby sound glamorous? Peace out, Irby 233. Good times, good music and probably more memories than we can even try to remember. Oh and if the new tenants are reading this: If you guys happen to find my blue Thing 2 wig, keep it. While it has sentimental value, I’m pretty sure it’s also decaying and may be a health hazard. Cheers!

And now a quick trip down MemIRBY Lane…

Love you girls!