Adjusting to Louisiana Culture as an Out-of-State Student

BrandonBrandon Oliver is from Houston, TX and is a Senior majoring in International Studies and French. Brandon is an LSU Ambassador and served as one of LSU’s Parent Orientation Leaders this summer.

For every incoming student, college is a great adjustment. However, there are certain things out of state students must adjust to that in state students will never experience. While attending college out of state may seem a bit daunting, college is a once in a life time opportunity, and I strongly believe an individual should not limit their options for higher education to the boundaries of the state they live in.

I came to LSU from out of state, and I would not trade my experience here for the world! When I began my college search during high school, I looked at universities all across the United States. I lived in Texas during high school; even though Texas is the largest state in the contiguous U.S, and there were plenty of excellent colleges for me to choose from, I did not find the college in state that was the best fit for me. To be honest, I dreamed of attending LSU since I was a little kid, but after I went to a Kick-Off LSU in the Spring of my Junior year, I could not imagine myself going to any other school.

My first semester at LSU was incredible! No doubt, there were some things I definitely had to get adjusted to. Coming from five hours away I couldn’t go home to wash my clothes on the weekends, I had to spend my birthday without my closest friends from high school, and I to adjust from seeing my family everyday to hardly once a month. I was the only person I knew coming into LSU, but I came in with an open mind, and I met the most amazing people.

The fall semester is so much fun at LSU. The first week students arrive on campus, there are so so many activities going on. After this, football season starts! I believe everyone should experience at least one football game at LSU during their life because it’s amazing. Homecoming and Fall Fest were my favorite events I attended Freshman year. In addition to all these great activities, I LOVED the classes I took freshman year. I remember taking Sociocultural Anthropology, and I thought it was incredibly fascinating!

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Everyone is different, but I did not feel homesick until after winter break. I truly had blast my first semester, but after I went home for the break and hung out with my friends and family, it was hard for me to leave them all again. When I got back to campus in the spring, I kept myself busy with school and decided to join a few organizations where I ended up meeting my best friends to this day.

Culture-wise, I have met out of state students who have experienced a bit of a culture shock when they first came to Louisiana. I grew up in and out of Louisiana, so the culture was nothing new to me, but I met a girl from Houston who didn’t know Cajun was culture and ethnic group, she just thought it was a type of seasoning. Most people who come from the North are surprised by the friendliness of the natives here. I personally love the French culture here. French is one of my majors, and I have had multiple opportunities to practice my French with native speakers and attend French festivals, which I would not be able to do if I attended college in any other state.

The best advice I could give to an out of state student would be to have an open mind, and to GET INVOLVED. I literally knew no one on campus the first day I arrived, but by Sophomore year LSU was my home. People come to LSU from all over the world and there are plenty of resources at LSU to ensure the success of all their students.

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5 Steps to a Cajun Thanksgiving


danielleDanielle Ford is currently pursuing a dual Masters in Higher Education Administration & Public Administration and is a Graduate Assistant for Student Advocacy & Accountability.  
Danielle is from Baton Rouge, LA and studied abroad twice: Paris in 2009 and London, Brussels, & Paris in 2011-2012.

As a Baton Rouge native and LSU alumna, I know a thing or two about Cajun cuisine. As the President of the Thanksgiving Fan Club (not a real thing, but maybe I should invent it!), I’m positive I know a lot about Turkey Day. If this is your first holiday season in Louisiana, there is a lot you should know about how to celebrate a proper Cajun Thanksgiving, and as a self-appointed expert, I’m here to help you out!

1. Dressing, dressing & more dressing! In Cajun Country, we are connoisseurs of dressing of all types: we have cornbread dressing, rice dressing, crawfish dressing, oyster dressing, and andouille sausage dressing just to name a few. Your choice of dressing just might make or break your Cajun Thanksgiving.

2. Turkey does not reign supreme. In many Cajun households, turkey is just one of the many meat options served on Thanksgiving. Traditionally in my family, we prepare deep fried turkey, baked turkey, ham, roasted chicken or Cornish hens, and of course gumbo! It’s not that we don’t love turkey; we do! But when we cook a meal on Thanksgiving, we like to go all out!

pie3. It’s all about the sweet potatoes and pecans. For most Cajun households, we cannot live without some kind of dish made with sweet potatoes and/or pecans. You’ll often find a platter of candied yams, mashed sweet potatoes, sweet potato casserole (topped with pecans!) and an assortment of sweet potato and pecan pies – no pumpkin found here!

4. Thanksgiving is for college football. We all know that traditionally, the Detroit Lions play (and lose) their annual Thanksgiving Day NFL game. But in many Cajun households, the biggest sporting event of the year is the annual “Bayou Classic” featuring the Southern University Jaguars against the Grambling State University Tigers. Usually held the Saturday after Thanksgiving at the Mercedes-Benz SuperDome in New Orleans, the Bayou Classic is a staple. While many love to watch the longstanding football rivalry come to a head, even more fans salivate for the “Battle of the Bands” competition the night before the game. If you’ve never seen a HBCU’s band play, make sure to turn in during this year’s Bayou Classic Weekend for a real treat! #GeauxJags

5. We Are Family! Thanksgiving is all about family. But if you can’t spend the day with your biological family, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the day. Get a group of friends together and have your own Friendsgiving. If you’re from out of town, see if you can be the guest of a local friend. As long as you bring a few cases of Coke and an empty stomach, you’re sure to be welcomed in with open arms!


P.S.
Here’s a tried and true recipe for Sweet Potato Pie!

Pura Vida Mae! My Study Abroad Experience

ciCierra Burnett is a Memphis Native.  She is currently a Masters student in the Higher Education Administration program and works as a Graduate Assistant for LSU’s Office of Community-University Partnerships.

I never realized just how much studying abroad would change my life. My 10-day excursion to the rich land of Costa Rica was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had in my life. In those few, short days, I fell in love with Cumbia dancing, ate more plantains and gallo pinto than my stomach could hold, practiced my Spanish while chatting with locals, and stood at the edge of a volcano as the sun rose. I gazed in awe at the beautiful architecture of the Teatro Nacional and imagined the people who entered its doors hundreds of years ago.

ci2One of the moments I will always cherish most from the trip was a conversation that I had with a man hula hooping in Parque Central in San Jose. He said something so profound that it has stuck with me since: “Your comfort zone is your dead zone.” When he said those words, I was so moved by the meaning behind them. It was basically like saying that every moment spent afraid to step out of your comfort zone is killing you; And it’s true. I am so glad that I stepped outside of my comfort zone and decided to take on this adventure. I entered Costa Rica an apprehensive American, but I really do believe that I left Costa Rica as a Tica (a colloquial term for a Costa Rica native). I did everything that I could to embrace the culture, the people, and the language of Costa Rica, and that made all the difference.

I wish that every single student would make an effort to study abroad at least once in their college career. It was more meaningful and transformative than any other involvement opportunity that I took advantage of, and my life has been forever changed because of it.  I encourage your students to visit the LSU Study Abroad website at http://abroad.lsu.edu/ to gain more information on how they too could have a life-changing experience like I did.

 

Why STRIPES?

IMG_3286Bio: English major, Junior, from Marshall, Texas. Involved in LSU Ambassadors, served as a STRIPES small group leader for 2 years, currently serving on executive staff

STRIPES bio: extended orientation program focusing on history and traditions, spirit, and making students feel more at home and have a more personal or intimate connection with campus and with other future tigers. It stands for Student Tigers Rallying Interacting and Promoting Education and Service.

Take it from someone who heard about STRIPES and said “Ew. That sounds lame.” STRIPES is worth your time. Though I was never a participant at STRIPES, this program has shaped me and changed me more than I can express in 500 words or less. However, this isn’t about me, is it? It’s about you. And how STRIPES can change your life like it changed mine.

S is for spirit.

I don’t necessarily mean cheer camp or fired up spirit. While this program is fun and energetic, it instills a sense of pride for LSU that doesn’t have to be loud and noisy. Whether you’re more introverted or extroverted, there are parts of the program that can show you how sweet it can be to be a tiger.

Just an example, all participants get a little card with the lyrics to the LSU alma mater, and line by line, we sing it together. What a resource. I was mumbling those lyrics for a solid year and a half after football games, and knowing that it said “worth” and not “birth” would have been handy.

T is for tradition.

Did you know that LSU is one of the only universities with a land grant, a sea grant, and a space grant? Did you know that we have the Indian Mounds on campus, a landmark older than the Egyptian pyramids? Did you know that Death Valley started our as a residence hall and somehow was magically converted a football stadium by Governor Huey P. Long?

LSU’s history is full of wild, interesting tidbits, making it a unique university with tons of interesting fun facts. And while I might be a little partial, I think ours are more interesting than any other school in the SEC – two words for you Bama, GEAUX and TIGERS.

But I digress. All of these interesting tidbits are things that I learned from the STRIPES program.

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R is for respect.

There are 30,000 students on this campus and they all come from different walks of life. Aspects of the program focus on getting students to see from the perspectives of others, and to unite the student body. No matter our gender, racial identity, sexuality, political party, or economic class, we’re all tigers. That’s something we can’t forget when starting a new chapter.

I have seen STRIPES give students the pen they needed to keep writing that chapter. Students can leave with a respect not only for their campus, but for the 30,000 beautiful individuals that call it home.

I is for intelligence.

STRIPES works with LSU’s Center for Academic Success and the Olinde Career Center to give students resources to help them succeed for their first semester and beyond. One of my favorites is the Learning Style Preference Assessment, where students are given strategies that are individualized to help them learn to the best to their own ability. Also, students get to see the faces of the workers at those offices, opening doors for them to be unafraid to ask for help.

P is for people.

This is my favorite letter because the people at STRIPES are some of the programs greatest assets. STRIPES has over 60 qualified student leaders that come from every corner of campus. These student leaders take on the role of mentorship for participants, for the program and beyond.

Staff aside, students are put into small groups that go through the program together.   There is something special about watching groups go from painful small talk to camaraderie in four short days. I have no idea how it happens, but somehow I have found every small group I have ever had laughing while eating breakfast without student leaders  having to drive the conversation.

squad being cute

E is for eats.

Okay, honestly maybe this is my favorite letter. STRIPES is catered by some of Baton Rouge’s best restaurants and caterers – they believe and invest in the program and I thank them from the bottom of my heart and stomach. One new part of the program – GEAUXchella – is a Baton Rouge appreciation festival that will bring in restaurants from the Baton Rouge area to show students that Baton Rouge has cool things for students off of campus as well as on campus.

S is for stories.

Before my freshman year of college, I though STRIPES was lame. Let’s blame that on me being uncomfortable at LSU. Stripes showed me that whether LSU was my first choice (which it wasn’t) or at the bottom of my back-ups (which it was), there was something I could find on campus that would not only make me successful on campus, but make me feel like I belonged in the midst of 30,000 terrifying strangers. While this was comforting as a sophomore, it would have been a real life-saver as a freshman.

Thus ends my plea. As a group leader, I have seen this program do amazing things for students. And it’s my firm belief that it can do that for anyone. As a small group leader, I have met so many people and learned their stories, and those stories have pushed me, inspired me, and given me so much confidence that I am in the right place.

If you’re on the fence, give it a try. You might surprise yourself.

 

Happy Mardi Gras!

Meet MattheIMG_4883w Boudreaux, a Junior from Lafayette, LA. Matt is studying Human Resource Education – Leadership and Development. He also serves as the Orientation Team Leader for FOAP 2016, LSU Ambassadors, Greek Ambassadors, Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity.

What’s that I hear? Sounds like police sirens combined with a marching band but also little hint of Cajun music?!?!….Ohh its must be MARDIS GRAS season! Perhaps one of the holidays looked forward to by most Louisianan’s is officially upon us! During this time you can see a King Cake in every home and office, beads hanging from the electrical lines along the street and everyone rocking a green, yellow and purple Perlis rugby shirt! But how did this little holiday celebrated in the south actually come about?

Mardis Gras, otherwise known as Fat Tuesday, is a celebration of the Christian feast of the Three Kings. This is why we have we have things like King Cake with a plastic baby hidden inside (to represent Jesus Christ). We do everything BIGGER and BETTER in the south so that is why you see miles of parade floats and tons and tons of beads being throw because we just want to celebrate! During a typical Mardis Gras season, the average person will attend local parades in their hometowns and catch up with old friends and family. They will all get together along a parade route, visit, eat together and anxiously await the parade krewe, yes Krewe, to pass in front of them throwing beads, toys, cups and maybe even some more random items. IMG_3794

Perhaps if you are lucky enough, you will even attend a Mardis Gras Ball during the season. A Ball is a formal event put on by the heads of a Mardis Gras Krewe. Everyone who is invited to the Ball gets dressed up in a tux or a formal gown and have one big party! At the beginning, the court of the Ball is presented. This includes the King and Queen, the Maids and Dukes, and even some entertainment from the Court Jester! After that, it is time to party! Fun, dancing and music will carry on until the early hours of the morning for any good Mardi Gras Ball. I was lucky enough to attend my first Ball this past weekend with the Krewe of Olympus in Lafayette, LA! My best friend Megan was a maid of the Krewe and she invited me as her guest! It was truly an awesome experience and I can’t wait to do it all over again this coming weekend with the Krewe of Christopher in Thibodaux, LA!

Some of my favorite memories of the Mardis Gras season were when I was younger and back in my hometown. I lived right along the parade route for my hometown’s parade so I would be woken up by loud music and people every year. All I had to do was throw on my Mardis Gras colors and walk out the front door to join the party. I remember playing in the front yard with my friends and family as people would walk by and we would wait for the parade to get to us. There would always be a smell of gumbo, jambalaya and King Cake in the air and we’d always have the music blaring in the background. Then we would hear the police sirens…that was when the parade was officially here! By the end of the parade, I would have bags and bags of beads (one time even a truck load), enough cups to fill a shelf in the kitchen and also some other fun little prizes. Celebrating with my family and friends every Mardis Gras season is always the highlight.

If you’re not fIMG_3792rom Louisiana and are even the slightest bit interested in this “crazy” celebration…PLEASE book your flight now and head on own to the Boot because we would love to have you and show you what Mardis Gras is all about! And if you are from the great state of Louisiana, I can’t wait to see you walking the streets and yelling, “HEY THROW ME SOMETHING MISTER!”

 

Why Studying Abroad Was the Best Decision I Have Ever Made

HeadshotMeet Meagan Johnson. Meagan is a 21 year old junior from Hackberry, Louisiana. She’s majoring in Mass Communication with a concentration in Broadcast Journalism. She’s involved in multiple organizations such as LSU Ambassadors, Collegiate 4-H, and University Baptist Church Collegiate Group!

We all know that college is about self-discovery and figuring out what you want to do in life. It’s a time when you can try new things, meet new people and do things you’ll never be able to do again. The memories you make in college will stay with you forever!

However, there is one option in my opinion that sticks out more than all the rest… studying abroad. This is an amazing opportunity for young adults to have a life experience in another country that they may never experience otherwise. This can be beneficial for many reasons giving students something that sets them apart.

Studying abroad in Paris, France was the best decision I ever made at LSU. So I’ve listed different reasons why studying abroad will be the best thing you ever do!

1. Historic Places

One great thing about traveling overseas is getting to see so many great and historic sites the world has to offer. You read about the Roman Empire, gladiator games in the Coliseum and even the building of the Tower of London, but nothing compares to seeing the real thing in person. There are so many places that have been around for hundreds and hundreds of years and being able to see them in person is simply incredible. You can literally reach out and touch years of history with your bare hands.

2. Culture

It’s really important to know that there are many other types of people in the world who live and act according to different customs than our own. There are different cultures out there and it can be really beneficial for students to see the differences first hand. Being able to learn and exist in another culture can be a great life skill to have for the future.paris

3. Independence

Any college student will tell you that one of the best things about college is the new freedom you have. You get to make your own choices and decide who you want to be. By living in another country, you will find this new sense of independence that you never thought you would. It’s very satisfying to know that you can navigate through a country where you don’t speak the language or even go on an adventure through the city all by yourself. With that new self-confidence, you’ll have the courage to do things you never thought you would!

4. Experience of a Lifetime

The main reason and possibly the most important reason why studying abroad is so great is because of the once in a lifetime experience you will have. One day you’ll have a job, family and other responsibilities that may keep you from being able to take advantage of an opportunity like this. You will also never again have the chance to go to a foreign country with a group of your peers all experiencing the same thing. This experience will stay with you forever along with the amazing memories you will make!

I know the thought of this can sometimes seem a bit overwhelming, but I can assure you that if you decide to take advantage of this great opportunity LSU has to offer you will not be sorry. It was definitely the best decision I have ever made!

Love Purple, Live Gold…and Green too!

MG PhotoMeet Margaret Vienne, a first-year student in the Masters of Higher Education Administration program. She earned her Bachelors degree in English Writing from Loyola University New Orleans in May of 2013. She hails from Natchitoches, LA and is currently serving as a graduate assistant for activities for Campus Life. Margaret enjoys LSU football, eating pancakes at Louie’s Café, making homemade King Cake, and meeting new students!

Below you will find some of my helpful tips as you prepare to navigate the Big Easy and Baton Rouge this Mardi Gras season.

  1. Kneaux Your Stuff: Take time to learn a bit about this crazy thing we call Mardi Gras. Your time in the Big Easy will be much more enjoyable if you know a little something about what you are partaking in. New Orleans has a rich history that’s worth exploring. Some key things to learn about include: Flambeauxs, Mardi Gras ladders, history of the krewes, the story behind king cakes, the Mardi Gras Indians, and the meaning behind purple, green, and gold.
  2. “It’s a Potty in the N.O.L.A.”: So you put your hands up, they’re playing your song, and then realize you need to use the restroom. Bathroom lines can be long so it is wise to identity a nearby restroom prior to the start of the parade or buy a port-a-potty armband that allows you to use a nearby restroom all day. Now, with that being said, the necessary resources at these port-a-potty spots often run out so be sure to bring your own hand sanitizer and toilet paper.
  3. There’s an App for That: While cell service can be spotty, there are some great apps out there that are good to have during Mardi Gras. WDSU’s Mardi Gras Parade Tracker and Find My Friends are a few of my go to apps during Mardi Gras. Another tech tip: You will have little to no access to outlets while on the route so it is wise to invest in a portable phone charger.
  4. Early Bird Gets the Beads: Arrive early to the parade route to ensure that you get a good spot. Seasoned Mardi Gras goers and locals have this down to a science. Chances are their spot on the route while be staked out hours prior to your arrival. They know where to be and when to be there to ensure the best parade viewing. Arriving early also allow you to get to know the group next to you, identity the nearest restroom, and grab some sustenance while a friend holds down your spot. Arriving early has its benefits!HDRtist Pro Rendering - http://www.ohanaware.com/hdrtistpro/
  5. It’s Raining Beads and Doubloons: New Orleans weather can be unpredictable so be sure to check the weather the morning before you head out to the route. Comfortable rubber boots are ideal for rainy carnival weather.
  6. Let Them Eat King Cake: Restaurants will have long wait times so it is wise to access the local food booths at various churches and businesses along the route. The prices aren’t bad, the wait is bearable, and it is a great way to support the local community. Plus, you don’t want to spend the majority of your day inside of a restaurant when you could be outside experiencing the parades!
  7. Wear Watcha Wanna: Don’t be afraid to spice up your parade wardrobe with a tutu, fun leggings, a classic Perlis Mardi Gras polo, or any clothing item that gets you in the spirit of the season! You will see plenty of costumes along the route. Also, be sure to wear comfortable shoes. You will be doing a lot of walking.
  8. Don’t Take the Road Less Traveled: Always walk in large groups, park in a safe area, and plan your transportation ahead of time. Most major roads around the parade routes will be closed to traffic and it will be important for you to allow time for parking. In the event that you are separated from your group, plan a meeting place for your group. Also, be sure to keep your personal items on the front of your person. A fanny pack is a great Mardi Gras bag! It allows you to keep your items safe and your hands free for prime bead catching.
  9. R-E-S-P-E-C-T…the Police: The police are there to keep you safe. Do not run into the streets while parades are rolling. A bead or moon pie is not worth a crushed hand or foot. Also, be sure you do not relieve yourself in public or get into a fight. Not only do these acts go against the mission and values of LSU, but both will result in time behind bars and anyone put in jail during Mardi Gras weekend is not allowed out until the day after Mardi Gras. This is no joke.
  10. Pick a Side, Any Side: Someone may ask you if you are neutral ground side or sidewalk side. They are asking you which side of the street you will be viewing the parade from. People take this seriously and rarely deviate from their long-held tradition of watching parades from a specific side. As for me, I identify as a neutral ground side gal!

Happy Mardi Gras, Ya’ll!

New Orleans Parade Schedule http://www.nola.com/mardigras/parades/

Baton Rouge Parade Schedule: http://www.mardigras.com/parades/index.html?location=baton-rouge