Stranded by Hurricane Katrina

Tulance students find a home in florence

Editorial Staff
September 22, 2005

As part of the devastation caused in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, the campus of Tulane University was destroyed, leaving 12,000 students without a school to attend this semester.  These students don’t know when or if they will be able to return to the school at which they began the scholastic year.


The new Chancellor of Syracuse University, Nancy Cantor, was unusually quick to respond to the plight of Tulane’s stranded students.  In line with her vision that Syracuse University be characterised by its dedication to community outreach, to bringing together people from a variety of cultural and social backgrounds, she chose, within a day of the disaster, to open Syracuse University to all Tulane students.


Three hundred of them have taken up her offer and have been admitted, free of tuition, to Syracuse University’s New York campus, despite it already being over-enrolled.  With the willing and capable support of Syracuse staff, eighty other “campusless” students have found an academic home for the semester in some of Syracuse’s overseas study programs.


Twenty of these students have settled into Syracuse’s semester abroad program in Florence, and although they have assimilated well, the transition has not been an easy one.  Most students who choose to study overseas have ample time and opportunity to psychologically prepare themselves for living and studying in a foreign country.  Tulane’s displaced students, certainly expecting to be studying in Louisiana at least until Christmas, had to make some fast decisions and quick adjustments to secure the prompt continuation of their education.  Now they must deal with the typical “culture shock,” on top of all that they have lost at home.


Barbara Deimling, Director of Syracuse University in Florence, explains that although the students appeared surprisingly at ease upon their arrival in Florence, they have by no means left their problems behind in the United States.  Beneath their calm is both sadness and anger, and some of the students have a sense that they might be accused of “running away.”  By confronting a new culture, however, they are bravely embracing an opportunity to re-evaluate their own, as well as to rediscover themselves in the face of the tragedy they have suffered.


Many of Syracuse’s staff and faculty in Florence are US citizens who were feeling helpless at such a time of national crisis.  Chancellor Cantor’s quick-thinking generosity has given them an opportunity to contribute, despite being so far away, to the Katrina relief effort.  “I am proud to be connected to an institution that has so generously and spontaneously offered this help to the Tulane students who would have otherwise not had the chance to continue their studies,” says Deimling.

more articles