Tulane student adjusts to Middlebury College

10/03/05 12:00AM By Lynne McCrea
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(Host) Vermont colleges opened their doors this fall to students from the Gulf Coast, whose own schools were shut down by Hurricane Katrina.

Middlebury College enrolled nine undergrads from New Orleans. They arrived in Vermont in time for the first day of classes.

VPR's Lynne McCrea visited with one of the students, who are trying to absorb the big turn in his life.

(White) "To tell you the truth, it still hasn't hit me- it's still surreal at this point."

(McCrea) Eric White has been on the Middlebury campus for 3 weeks now. He's a sophomore from Baltimore Maryland who had returned to New Orleans for his second year at Tulane University. Eric was on campus for only one day when Hurricane Katrina started bearing down, and students were told to evacuate.

(White) " I just left everything took about 3 pairs of clothes "

(McCrea) Eric's family helped him quickly find another college where he could take classes for the semester. He says Middlebury made it easy to pull off the last-minute transfer.

(White) "They had a very fast admission process basically consisted of an email, and they had some kind of a board that decided you had self reported grades, because our transcripts were all on line and Tulane's servers were down and we still don't have access to our transcripts! So Middlebury was great enough to accept me "

(McCrea) Eric is a political science major, and he describes Middlebury's poly-sci department as "phenomenal". He says academics are going well, and that everyone has been welcoming here. But rural Vermont is a far cry from New Orleans.

(White) "Tulane is work hard, play hard type of school. City of New Orleans- the Big Easy- lot of culture, music, great food and the middle of Vermont - it's very nice here - great academics but there's not that culture that goes along with it. It's such a rural area."

(McCrea) Between classes Eric stops at the dining hall and skims through a newspaper.

(White) "It looks like the president of Tulane is a possible replacement as police commissioner of New Orleans. Not sure how that's gonna work!"

(McCrea) Eric looks for any news he can find about Tulane. The school has said it will open in the spring. But Eric is more worried about the long-term prospects for the school that it may not stay what he considers a top tier' school.

(White) "The situation is dire for Tulane. They're definitely in financial trouble. And the quality of the institution will no doubt go down academically. At the same time, other institutions are recruiting professors from Tulane, which is very disheartening. So I definitely need to keep my options open at this point. I'm just not sure how the college is going to end up being."

(McCrea) For now, Eric White goes to his Middlebury College classes, and plays rugby for the school. Beyond that, he lives with the uncertainty of how the rest of his education will unfold. As he says, at this point The big easy is a big unknown.

For Vermont Public Radio, I'm Lynne McCrea.

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