Transferring To Tulane: An Almost Love Story
By: Ruby Ianelli
Picture this: it’s my fifth day living below the Mason-Dixon line and my second day of classes at Tulane. My new, and first, apartment is completely unfurnished, so I drop more money than I’ve ever spent (except for tuition) on things like curtain rods, silverware, a hammer. I’m in my new kitchen trying to sort stuff into drawers, which I realize is strangely arbitrary yet compulsory, when my mom calls from my bedroom, “Ruby, I have to talk to you.”
I went in to talk to her and she looks at me with a little apprehension. Did she find that pack of cigarettes tucked in the underwear drawer?
She deadpans: “You have fleas. This house is infested with fleas.”
My mom went back home to Maine the next day, leaving me without a car and in an apartment that had about a quarter of the things we needed to live and a massive flea infestation. This was my new home.
I transferred from University of Vermont to Tulane as a sophomore for the fall 2018 semester. I didn’t transfer because I hated UVM, I transferred more or less because in Vermont I wasn’t original for wearing Birkenstocks, and I didn’t like the cold. UVM wasn’t very different from where I grew up, and I wanted my environment to force me to grow or change in some way. I applied and got into Tulane, was offered enough money in scholarships, and saw no reason not to make the switch.
Applying was easy but, naturally, I couldn’t accept the spot until there was pressure on me to make a decision, a day before the mid-July deadline. I told about four of my friends from UVM and I didn’t even tell most of my family that I was applying to transfer.
Tulane had no housing for us transfers, which was a shame considering how desperate I was to live in Irby. By now you remember how this ended: very itchy ankles from flea bites and two different exterminator visits. My roommate and I didn’t have a couch for months and used to come home at night and lay on the floor under the fan to dry off after the heat. As for food, we mostly just cooked home fries in our underwear. We like to give the neighbors a show every once in a while.
I got to New Orleans still not having processed the huge life decision I made. I dropped a ton of money, felt pretty good about it, and was just starting to feel a little settled as I watched the area fill up with students. They were so excited to be back and with each other that it made me realize that I could be experiencing that instead of the anticipation of starting something totally new.
Transferring is and isn’t like being a freshman again. Not knowing the buildings or anyone on campus brings you back, but people aren’t scrambling for friends or looking starry-eyed at frat parties as much as they were. The friend groups are more or less solidified. Living off campus during my first year at a new school made me feel consistently less engaged with the campus community and gave me less ownership of the college overall--something you develop by the nature and structure of being a freshman. I still haven’t been to Bruff, and I don’t have the wide net of acquaintances that I only know for reasons that we’d both rather forget. You get pretty nostalgic for that.
When I first got here, I found Tulane’s campus to be a pretty isolating place for anyone, transfer student or not. I assume it’s partially due to both the composition of the student body and the party culture, but Tulane students seem to make fewer genuine connections than what I saw at my old school. I often see and hear of people struggling with feelings of isolation or mental illness. I personally thought my seasonal depression would get better with more than five hours of sunlight a day in January, but was evidently wrong.
So obviously, UVM was never absolved of mental illness, etc, but it was never quite as cliquey or image-based. The first time I left Tulane for a break after arriving, on the plane back I was thinking about how I no longer felt the need to have a million friends if I could find five people that were really down-to-earth. This school, though one of the best universities in the country academically, has felt a little like high school for me from the beginning: students are not particularly engaged with their own behaviors and the responsibilities that come with them. Not to sound like my mother. Though, to be honest, my mother is less of a buzzkill than me.
I also come from a much lower income bracket than the majority of the students at this school and have struggled with my profound lower-middle class identity here more than I did at UVM, a state school. It’s hard to keep up and enjoy things as much as other people seem to be. I have had massive spending anxiety since I came here, but to be fair I have refused to take the streetcar and rarely walk anywhere over 0.5 miles away because I’m lazy. But still, from time to time, I have felt like I had to buy my way into an institution that I should already and automatically belong to.
Tulane’s spending habits should be looked at with the institution’s estrangement from the actual New Orleans community. The city itself is kind, exciting, and welcoming, with personality and cultural facets that almost make up for the lack of recycling. While much of Tulane is able to use New Orleans and look down at it on some level, it should be the other way around.
Tulane is a hard place to belong to, and that’s most of what transferring taught me because it put me simultaneously on the inside and outside of the school. At the end of the day, I don’t want to feel bad for not keeping up, I just want a goddamn education so that someday, maybe, I can afford all the stuff I’m currently doing. Welcome to Tulane, welcome to New Orleans. Watch out for the bugs.