UNH Students arriving Sunday morning in St. Bernard Parish, LA, March 2007.

OK, I should be too old to get so excited by such things, but it is ten days before we all head down to New Orleans! After six years of spring break trips, it just doesn’t get old. And this year will be different enough to spice things up a bit.

I feel as though I’ve done this before, but  it is important to help prepare you for the adventure you soon will be undertaking. This will be an adventure. Even if you were driving to Springfield, IL, a 1500 hundred mile van trip with your classmates will likely be like nothing you’ve ever experienced. And as weird as it sounds: every year, I’m amazed at how energized students are following 25-30 hours in a large, white van.

For the trip. Plenty of snacks. Not enough beverages to force too many pit stops. Comfortable clothes, maybe a pillow, a fleece blanket or bag. And even though I’ve never experienced it; I know it will be fun. There will be stories.

We have talked New Orleans, all the time, but there are things in Southern Louisiana that a classroom cannot prepare you for. So, be ready to accept the following:

The weather is changeable — Chances are, it will be sunny and warm, but nights can be chilly and days often start out cooler than you expect. Wear layers. I usually bring a couple of long sleeved shirts, a fleece vest, and a windbreaker. I’ve been surprised with cold, windy weather, but most of the time this works just fine.

New Birth Brass Band, Preservation Hall, March 2007.

Absorb the sounds –There will be music. The City thrives on it. With food it is New Orleans’ life blood. Go with it. Swing with it. Bring it back in your heart. We have well-known musicians, Paul Sanchez and Dr, Michael White on our schedule, but there will be others. Whether in the clubs or on the street, there will be others. Three places to put in your sights: Frenchmen Street; Preservation Hall; and Rock and Bowl. Enough said.

Just eat it! — As iconic chef and restaurateur Leah Chase says: “if it taste good, eat it!” Go with that. People in New Orleans live to talk, listen to music and EAT!” It’s in their blood. And they know what’s good. And you have to try it. It’s fried, fattening, greasy, sometimes gross, but it is traditional local cuisine. It is real. It is authentic. And it will help your understanding of the people and area in which you are staying.

Be prepared to work hard — While the nights are ours, we’ll be starting out work days early. There will be hard work. Have close toed shoes. Be prepared to sweat and be prepared to be satisfied after a day’s work. And be prepared to reflect upon your journey. We are working with faith-based organizations and they will insist on starting the day with prayer and reflection. And regardless of your beliefs, we are all  working to same ends, so it must be a good thing. Go with it.

Slow down — We have all been through a stressful first half of the semester, and I know I have been complicit in that. But this is your chance to pull back, absorb it all, and enjoy. You are leaving the frenetic Northeast for place where time is relative, or maybe non-existent. People and events move at a different pace or none at all. Go with the flow and you’ll learn to appreciate the different rhythms of life.

Garden of the Beauregard-Keyes House, French Quarter, March 2008.

Take it all in — Cemeteries, shotgun houses, Creole ironwork, live oaks, alligators! etc. There will be things you’ve never seen, or at least noticed before. Place them in you memories, take pictures, and write about them in your journals. Along with that, take in the friendships you find and build during the trip and you’ll have memories that will live for your lifetime.

And most important of all — enjoy!