Name: Claire Hasley
For my STEP Signature Project, I traveled with roughly 20 other OSU students to New Orleans during Spring Break through Buck-I-Serv. We stayed in Slidell, Louisiana, and worked alongside people at various different service sites throughout the week. During our free time, we got to explore New Orleans by ourselves, which included several trips to Cafe Du Monde.
From the trip, I became more open to meeting new people and learned to love hearing about people’s backgrounds. Going into the trip, I knew no one. I was worried about spending an entire week without anyone I knew, but the first night of the trip, my fellow OSU students and I bonded so quickly. I found that I could be myself around people I had just met such a short time ago. Barely anyone on the trip knew anyone else, so we were all in the same boat. While staying in New Orleans, we stayed with students from two other colleges. The one thing my Buck-I-Serv group had in common was being from OSU, and this was a commonality that brought us all together in a very short time. Also, while in New Orleans, we got to interact with people from different backgrounds at the various service sites we worked at during the week. In doing so, I was able to see firsthand how everyone in the community can contribute to making it a better place.
New Orleans is still rebuilding after the horrible devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Throughout the week, I volunteered at various different sites with my subgroup, and we got to build relationships with the people of New Orleans. At the first service site, we worked alongside of people with disabilities who work daily to recycle beads that were used in past parades around New Orleans. The next two days, we created relationships working alongside the same people at a secondhand store called the Green Project. Their main focus is rehabbing building supplies to be used again. While there we got to pick our coworkers’ brains about things to do in New Orleans, how life has changed since the floods, and how people on the outside can really help this rich and lively community thrive and return to its former glory. On our last service day, we helped set up for a fundraising gala at the Audubon Zoo. Throughout the week, it became apparent how the everyone in the community of New Orleans works together to rebuild and sustain themselves. Several specific interactions really were the turning point of the change that the trip brought upon myself.
In addition to our interactions with our coworkers, we interacted with other people of New Orleans in a different fashion. In the middle of the week, myself and a few other girls from the trip stopped in a random cafe after grabbing dinner on Magazine St, and we found ourselves engaged in a conversation with the barista. He was so open and real about life in New Orleans and answered any question that we had. It was refreshing to connect with such a beautiful, genuine person.
Later on in the week, we went on a swamp tour. Our tour guide was born in the swamp and had such a passion for learning about where he lived. He had quite an extensive knowledge that kept us all engaged throughout the entire ride. He even had a great relationship with the animals of the swamp and knew just how to make them come out so that we could see them.
Following the swamp tour, we got to meet up with the Cajun Buckeyes, the New Orleans sector of the OSU Alumni Association. We got to pick the brains of recent alumni and got to hear about stories of success from OSU graduates who majored in an array of things. The interactions with the people of New Orleans was definitely the highlight of my trip!
Going forward, this trip has made me more open to the unknown. I didn’t know what to expect going in, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the entire experience and how it changed me as a person. I am now more open to putting myself in uncomfortable, new situations and hoping for the best. In addition, the trip opened my eyes to how people still suffer even when the story is no longer on the front page of the newspaper. Hurricane Katrina is remembered yearly, and updates are given to the general public. However, brief updates from afar do not compare to actually experiencing the turmoil that still exists as a city struggles to get back on their feet over 10 years later. The trip has made me more aware of ways that I can help communities in need from afar and up close. The trip was a positive experience and one of the highlights of my college years thus far.