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Reflections on our trip to New Orleans

Posted from Cerritos, California, United States.

This trip was everything I expected it to be…and much more than I could put into words. At first I was a little skeptical about both how it would go generally and how the specific mix of activities we had planned would immerse us into it the city and landscapes. But the activities and content Dr. Anderson provided us was unbelievable. The culture, art, history, social and ecological aspects of Louisiana; we got to experience it all. Everyday was non-stop and best that way. There were so many things to experience that it seemed we would finish one lecture or tour and immediately begin one just as interesting and relivant to the city and Hurricane Katrina every day for two non-stop weeks.

The city, suburbs and swamp were all amazing. Running swamp transects for the Woodlands Conservancy was challenging and what seemed like a never ending process. But at the end of the day it truly felt as though we had collected some good, essential data. The materials and stories we explored were moving. While the Cajun cuisine was some of the best in my life (I’ll miss having it every night), it was the human element and the interactions with the people who were affected by this tragedy in our own nation that made the biggest impact on me. Between learning about wetland loss and the human element that led to defects in the levee system that was to protect the town from floodwaters, it was amazing to understand just how multi-causal the disaster of a decade ago actually was. I also can’t help but wonder just how much climate change will effect Louisiana’ s Gulf Coast. Much of that landscape will be underwater in my lifetime unless something drastic and incredible is done very quickly. It felt great to be a Service Learning student shown the appreciation we were given for just our small contributions to understanding and improving this region. I would recommend this trip to anyone who has the chance to go. Being a part of this experience has made me a more aware person and someone more willing to actively help others. It was a once in a lifetime experience.

-Robert Whitfield

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