The Maroon

Letter to the Editor: A message for incoming freshmen

RYAN+MITCHELL
RYAN MITCHELL

RYAN MITCHELL

The Maroon

The Maroon

RYAN MITCHELL

RYAN MITCHELL

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Dear Incoming Freshman,

Like you, I walked onto Loyola’s campus one sunny day in April four years ago. I had received my acceptance letter and was glad to be visiting. I was skeptical and excited. What could Loyola offer me? Would I like Loyola? What would I learn from Loyola, and from New Orleans?

Friends and family informed me that I’d love New Orleans. Most of these people had visited. They had walked down Bourbon with “Huge-Ass-Beers” for a weekend or two. Maybe they had been to Jazz Fest with a bucket of booze and zinc on their nose. Maybe they stretched back and said, “I could totally live here!” They believed the city was somehow “made for” them, but were just too involved in “real life” to be able to take advantage of New Orleans’ sweetness. But they were wrong.

New Orleans is not a place that lives in the imagination. New Orleans is not a place that people should visit so they can hang out in some “alternate” reality. They should instead realize that this city reflects just how real “real life” can get.

These things I know: New Orleans is hot in the summer. New Orleans is wet-cold in the winter. New Orleans’ spring smells like jasmine and honey and pollen. It rains. There are hurricanes sometimes. There are live Oaks, and there are cracks in the sidewalk from the roots. There are parades. There is music on Frenchman street. There is music busting through broken windows. There are many broken windows. There are graves above ground. There are flowers everywhere. There are church bells in the morning. There are brass bands, dance floors, sweat and love.

At Loyola I learned that living in any city, displaced from the familiar, is difficult and painful. I moved here from Arkansas, but my friends at Loyola were from California or New York.

The culture shock did not stop at the new city. I felt like I was constantly missing the cultural boat, and like I wasn’t making the life-long friends people say you make in college. Every experience made me doubt myself a little. I wanted to go home. I thought New Orleans was supposed to provide something for me because of it’s perceived accommodating nature, and from what I had been prepared for by various tourists. I felt entitled to the characters I thought I would meet, and was resistant to anything else.

As soon as I let go of the fixed idea I had of New Orleans, I found myself letting go the fixed idea I had of myself. I realized the limitations of each perspective. I stopped clinging to the ideas I had formed in high school just because they were comfortable. At first I was afraid to give up my privacy.

I still saw the dorms as something like my bedroom back home, and I was not comfortable in such a public environment. I was also afraid of germs in the dorms – so afraid that I would bring a small bottle of Lysol to the bathroom every time I went, just to be safe. But I still got sick, and I still had to interact with people when I felt my worst.

I’m looking through my Loyola course files today. I see: Modern Poetry, New Orleans Review Internship, Women in Film Noir, Southern Literature, Buddhist Philosophy, American Romanticism, Experimental Fiction Workshop, etc. I see the essays I’ve thought were difficult to write, the exam outlines I’ve spent many a midnight library hour constructing. I think about how my classes have been challenging and invigorating. How I knew the professors actually cared about me and my improvement. I think about my first college class, and how I was too nervous to speak. Now that fear is gone. Through gaining the right knowledge, I gained the right confidence in myself.

Freshman, it won’t be easy to cast your high school upbringing aside right away. There will be those jarring moments; you will share the elevator with a professor that you are scared to speak to, but you will have to speak to them. You will wake up hungover and not want to go to class, but you will be obligated to go to class and struggle through it.

You will learn that Loyola is not one thing or the other, but that it is everything at once. You will learn that state lines don’t matter when it comes to friendship unless you make them matter. You will learn that New Orleans is more than you thought it was, and probably something totally different. You will learn that you are totally different than who you thought you were: you are strong, dynamic and infinite.

Cheers to your future four years. May they be the best ever – not because you can go to bars or eat pizza for breakfast if you want – but because you get this amazing chance to learn.

Sincerely,

Ryan Mitchell

English writing senior

Any member of the Loyola community may write a letter to the editor. Those interested in contributing can contact

[email protected] 

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Letter to the Editor: A message for incoming freshmen