Akilan Murugesan, ’16, attends Tulane University in New Orleans and is double majoring in public health and philosophy.
Q: What classes did you take this year?
A:In the first semester I took General Chemistry 1; General Chemistry Lab; Ecology and Environmental Biology: Diversity of Life (EBIO); EBIO Lab; and Medical Ethics, Public Health, and Self-Care in College (a TIDES – Tulane Interdisciplinary Experience Seminar – course and a Tulane-specific requirement).
This past semester I took General Chemistry 2; General Chemistry 2 lab; Cell Biology; The Cell, the Individual, and the Community (the biological basis of public health); Philosophy; Mythology; and first-tier Service Learning (a Tulane-specific requirement).
Q: What is your favorite class?
A: Medical Ethics was my favorite class. It was a discussion-based course, and before each class we had to read a paper by a physician or ethicist. Some topics we covered were physician-assisted suicide, informed consent and social media’s impact on medical decisions.
It was an extremely practical and eye-opening class. I was able to gain some insight into difficult decisions that physicians have to make.
Q: Which was your least favorite?
A: My least favorite classes were Chem and Cell Biology because of the size; they had 180 students. To compensate, professors do their best to help through (supplemental instruction), TAs (teaching assistants) and office hours.
My other classes, which had 25-70 students, were significantly smaller.
Q: What’s your living situation like?
A: My dorm (Butler) has eight floors, and I live on the fourth floor. I love my floor; it has a very close community feel. Almost all of us share our belongings, and most of us don’t even lock our doors regularly. There is a great sense of trust on our floor.
I live in a double. My roommate is a business major from Dallas, and we get along really well. We have similar sleep cycles and levels of cleanliness. We are actually rooming together in an on-campus suite (Phelps) with six of our friends next year.
Q: How do you spend your free time?
A: Free time is a rare commodity. In our downtime my friends and I explore uptown New Orleans. There are plenty of good restaurants in the area, so we like to check out different places. One of my favorite uptown NOLA (New Orleans) spots is Audubon Park (right across from our campus) because it is so accessible and scenic.
For big festivals we head downtown. Fridays are awesome because the Jewish centers affiliated with Tulane host large, free Shabbat dinners for all Tulane students regardless of religion. The food and vibes are awesome.
There’s a lot of stuff going on on the campus itself, and Tulane makes sure to mix it up. We had an escape room set up in our student center one weekend. Other than that, I’m involved in some clubs and student organizations on campus.
Q: What clubs and organizations are you a part of?
A: One of my clubs is ACEing Autism, which pairs Tulane students with children who have autism. Every Sunday we coach the children in tennis and play games with them.
I work for the Tulane Well for Health Promotion (Campus Health) as a peer health educator. I became BACCHUS (Boosting Alcohol Consciousness Concerning the Health of University Students) certified as a peer educator this past semester.
I love working for Campus Health as they provide us with plenty of opportunities to expand our skill set through trainings such as active-bystander (for sexual violence prevention) and suicide-prevention programs. I also work in a research lab downtown.
Q: Are there any weird traditions at Tulane? Have you participated in any?
A: I’m not sure about weird traditions, but Tulane definitely has more traditions than I can list. One of my favorite traditions is Crawfest. It’s this absolutely massive crawfish boil that happens on campus every spring. Everyone pretty much spends the whole day kicking back with friends and munching on crawfish.
Another fun tradition is Fly Fridays. Almost every Friday after classes (starting around 2-4 p.m.) Tulane students head over to this spot on the Mississippi River called “the Fly.” It’s pretty much the start of the weekend festivities. The place is swarming with Tulane students on Friday evenings, and everyone is just hanging out with their friends and enjoying the end of the week.
Q: Do you spend much time in New Orleans? What do you do there?
A: The first thing you realize when you go to school in NOLA is that there is always something going (on). There are literally more festivals in New Orleans than days of the year.
Coming from Sacramento, it has been cool to see so much live music for so cheap (a decent amount of concerts are under $30 or free). There are also a lot of street performers, and I’m blown away by their talent. Oh yeah, and Mardi Gras is a blast. The few weeks leading up to it and Tequila Sunrise are wild.
Everyone stays up all night and watches the sunrise on Tulane’s campus for Tequila Sunrise. Tulane actually has a Mardi Gras break because it is kind of hard for both students and professors to get things done when the city is in Mardi Gras mood.
Q: Has Tulane lived up to your expectations?
A: Tulane has for sure met my expectations and more. The Tulane community is extremely inclusive and welcoming. It is definitely a work hard, play hard school. You are just as likely to find people up at 4 a.m. studying as you are coming back from a night out.
It is a competitive environment, but I wouldn’t describe it as cutthroat. Sharing notes, study techniques, and studying in groups are really common.
I also love the fact that Tulane is so geographically diverse. I have friends from all over America and all over the world.
Q: Were you surprised by anything?
A: The weather was a pleasant surprise. I’m not sure if it is climate change, but we definitely had more mild weather than I was expecting. It felt pretty much like Sac except a tad more humid.
I’m going to be spending the summer in New Orleans, so I’m sure I’ll experience a real hot and humid Southern summer. We have gotten a handful of tornado warnings but, luckily, no actual tornadoes.
I was also surprised by the amount of precautions Tulane takes in regards to weather. We have a Rave Guardian alert system that notifies both parents and students via phone call, text and email when serious weather issues arise and when they are resolved.
Tulane also has an emergency plan in case a hurricane hits so every Tulane student would be evacuated from NOLA (and either end up at a satellite campus in another state or at the airport to head home) well before the hurricane would hit.
Q: What do you plan on doing over the summer?
A: I have an internship with Campus Health at Tulane, so I’m continuing my work as a TUPHE (Tulane University peer health educator), focusing more on the research portion of public health this summer.
I also have a research opportunity in a breast cancer lab at the LSU Health Science Center.
Q: Finally, any advice?
A: Don’t hesitate to meet with your advisers and professors. Familiarize yourself early on with the available resources at your university. Trust me, you will encounter situations in college that you were not expecting or prepared for. Talking with your adviser makes it easier.
Also, if you end up being like me and go to a university far away from home, cherish the time you have at home. No matter how much you think you are ready for college and for adult life, I can guarantee that you will have moments when you are just craving home-cooked food, miss your family or just want a clean bathroom.
When you come back home from break, you are going to appreciate everything 10 times more. It makes your time at college and time at home more valuable.