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Breaking Out Of The Bubble

By: Caroline Nunez, Peer Success Leader, 2022-2023

Many Tulane students, myself included, chose to attend this university with the city of New Orleans in mind. There was something so alluring about it, whether you were drawn by the excitement of Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras or the world-renowned music and food. But instead of immersion into New Orleans culture, many of us find ourselves in a cushy bubble made up of on-campus and Uptown familiarities. It’s understandable, as freshmen we are overwhelmed and often anxious about being on our own in a new place. Being on Tulane’s campus surrounded by buildings and people we know is the safety net that helps us overcome many of the learning curves of freshman year. 

With that being said, I encourage you to step outside, figuratively and literally, of your comfort zone this semester. We live in one of the most interesting and important cities in the country, and making the most of your college experience means making the most of the community and city that you are now a part of.

Volunteering or working off-campus is one of the best ways to explore New Orleans in a structured, genuine environment. NOLA Ready is a great organization that always needs volunteers following natural disasters. After hurricane Ida devastated parts of the city, NOLA Ready volunteers provided much-needed public safety support. New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity is also an amazing organization dedicated to providing families with secure, safe housing. They are always looking for volunteers in terms of housing construction but there are also store and garden volunteer positions if that’s something you would be interested in. 

I have broken out of the bubble, today I work and volunteer in Gentilly and New Orleans East, I make a point to go out to eat at a locally owned restaurant each week, and on my free weekends, I pretend I’m a tourist and explore museums and parks. I have branched out and done everything the city has to offer, from day spas to swamp tours, and I can honestly say that it has made me a better student and person.

If you’re looking for ways to branch out, I got you!

Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

Sculpture
Karma by Do-Ho Suh
This is hands down the best museum in the city if you could even call it that. It’s an outdoor sculpture garden next to the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park, open 10-5 every day of the week and completely free. I’ve been here on my own, with a class, on a date, with my family, and with my friends, and every time is a 10/10 experience.

 

When you’re done perusing go hang out at the next-door Cafe Du Monde, there’s always some live jazz happening and it’s a great area to relax and picnic if you visit on a nice day.

 

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas You might know about the uptown Audubon Zoo, but did you know about the much cooler Audubon Aquarium downtown? Ticket prices can be kind of steep depending on how much you would pay to see some fish, but I love it there and if you have some free time it’s not a bad way to spend your day. Take the streetcar downtown and go shopping after! Make a cute little day of it. 

New Orleans City Park You honestly can’t go wrong with City Park. It’s an absolutely massive, beautiful space with plenty to do and some of the best nature views in the city. I recommend a picnic in the field behind Sir Cumference Playground, bring your dog or a date or a book, and enjoy the shade under one of the huge oak trees.  

Jade’s Nail Bar If your nails need some TLC and you’re in the mood for some pampering, Jade’s is the place to go. There are tons of nail salons in New Orleans, but this place is my forever favorite and really popular with Tulane students. The ladies that work here are so sweet, it’s not a bad walk from most of the dorms, and I always leave happy. 

Rue De La Course If you’re looking for a cute little coffee shop that isn’t PJ’s or Starbucks, Rue De La Course is an adorable little place on Carrollton with outdoor seating, an upstairs loft for studying, and delicious food and drinks. I have spent entire days in here. 

Mardi Gras World

Mardi Gras World Figure
Mardi Gras World Sculpture and Parade Float
At Mardi Gras World you get less of a museum experience and more of a “walk through this cool warehouse” experience. This is a building where they create and store Mardi Gras floats, and if you thought they looked cool during the parades you would be blown away by how detailed and massive they are up close.

 

If nothing on this list appeals to you, you might be one of the many students who would prefer to spend your time in New Orleans going out for food or drinks. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, it’s one of the best cities in the country to do just that! But some of my best nights and best meals have been far, far away from Bourbon Street or Uptown. Don’t limit yourself to the places that you and the students around you are comfortable and familiar with. Especially not when it comes to food and drinks in New Orleans!

If you’re interested in supporting small businesses but don’t know where to start, this StayLocal search feature is a godsend. Search by neighborhood, business, subcategory, etc. There’s also a great event calendar with some cute and fun things to do in and around the city.  

You are a New Orleans resident as long as you are here, and no matter how you choose to engage with the community you live in, let it be something that you enjoy and look forward to doing. The Tulane bubble exists because students are not comfortable enough to breach it, but I encourage you to break out of your physical and mental comfort zone and explore the city that beckoned you all that time ago.