Smith College Admission Academics Student Life About Smith news Offices
Smith eDigest
Submit an Idea
Five College Calendar
News Publications
Planning an Event
Contact Us
News & Events

Gulf Region Students Find Home Away From Home

By Sarah Gauché ’08

After fleeing from her New Orleans apartment through the early winds of Hurricane Katrina, traveling through the night with a stranger to Baton Rouge, living with a friend for a week of uncertainty, and driving 26 hours straight, Shalane Loehn finally arrived at Smith.

It was Wednesday, September 7, the day before classes began. By telephone, Smith administrators had already helped Loehn, an undergraduate at Loyola University in New Orleans, sign up for classes so that she would not lose a semester to the hurricane that ravaged the Gulf region.

Loehn, of Williamsburg, Mass., joined five other students who attend colleges and universities damaged by Hurricane Katrina, in accepting an offer from President Carol T. Christ to take fall classes here free of charge.

“We offer our sympathy to everyone affected by Hurricane Katrina,” said Christ on September 2, the week Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf region. “By opening our classrooms, we hope to lessen disruption in the lives of displaced students.”

In addition to waived tuition, Smith is providing meals and books to the six displaced students.

Now as midterm looms, Loehn, Eban Broussard, Hind Bouachrine, Robert Davis, Lauren King and Janira Rodriguez are adjusting to the rhythm and routine of life on a different campus as their lives recover from a monumental interruption.

A Harrowing Escape

Loehn, class of 2008, had spent the summer between her first and sophomore years living and working in New Orleans. On Monday, August 29, when Hurricane Katrina moved aground and quickly advanced on New Orleans, Loehn recalls a surreal sense as hundreds of thousands of city residents abandoned their neighborhoods.

On Saturday, August 27, she missed the voluntary evacuation call because she was at work. When she awoke the next morning, the city had fallen quiet with an uneasy absence of people and activity. Loehn immediately sought to follow, searching for a way to get out of New Orleans as quickly as possible.

“I literally was waving $100 in the air, and still could not get a ride out of the city,” Loehn remembers. But leaving the city was nearly impossible so close to the impending storm. Cab prices went as high as $300, Loehn says, and were only available from the outer perimeter of the city. Many roads were closed.

Loehn managed to make her way to a bus headed for the New Orleans Superdome, but the bus would not allow her to take her pet kitten. Unwilling to leave her pet behind, she stepped back off the bus and returned to her apartment.

At home with her roommate, Loehn watched as the rain began to fall and the wind buffeted the exterior. As electricity died and water service dried to a halt, the roommates quickly became aware of the severity of their situation. They packed what few items they could carry and set out into the storm, looking for a ride, any ride, out of town. After several hours, they managed to get a lift with a man headed north.

Around midnight, they arrived safely, if shaken, in Baton Rouge. The next day, Loehn traveled to Lafayette, Louisiana, and met up with Broussard, a friend at Loyola University.

For the next week, Loehn struggled to ascertain the amount of damage to her apartment, as well as the status of her job, and the situation at Loyola. She learned that, though her school didn’t sustain any flooding, the campus was severely damaged and would not open for the fall semester.

Loehn’s mother informed her that week about Smith’s offer for displaced students of Hurricane Katrina to attend fall classes. After talking with Smith administrators and arranging their enrollment here, Loehn and Broussard set out for the 26-hour drive -- without interruption -- to arrive at Smith the day before classes began.

“It all happened very quickly, but Smith has been really great, helping us through this transition and making this difficult time more manageable,” says Loehn now from the comfort of a warm, dry Smith classroom.

She expects to return to Loyola University for the spring semester.


DirectoryCalendarCampus MapContact UsSite A-Z