Starting over

Daphne Robboy had a freshman college dorm experience for exactly four days.

Robboy, a 17-year-old native Miamian, traveled to Loyola University New Orleans two weeks ago, planning to get acclimated to her new city during the week or so before classes for the fall semester were set to start. She met her roommate, set up her dorm room and bought her books before Hurricane Katrina changed her plans.

On Saturday, Aug. 27, as a strengthening Katrina approached the Gulf coast, Loyola students were told to find a way to evacuate the city on their own. If they could not leave, they would be evacuated to a Baton Rouge shelter the next day.

Robboy managed to leave with her mom’s best friend to Memphis, Tenn. She packed one bag when she evacuated, comprising two pairs of jeans, five shirts, a couple of changes of underwear and her laptop. Her other possessions remain in her fifth-floor New Orleans Garden District dorm room.

“Everything I use is over there,” Robboy said. “I’m going to have to go back eventually to get it all back.”

From Tennessee, Robboy bought a one-way, $700 ticket to fly from Memphis to Miami, with a layover in Atlanta. She expected to be home only for a few days, as Loyola students had originally been told that classes would resume Sept. 7.

As the images from Hurricane Katrina started appearing in the media, however, Robboy began to worry about her academic future. It wasn’t until Florida International University placed an ad offering enrollment to Gulf coast students in The Miami Herald last week, though, that she said she realized she was going to have to find a new school.

“I had all these amazing plans for college and nothing has gone through,” Robboy said.

After visiting FIU and being overwhelmed by the number of people looking for help, Robboy turned to UM, where she was able to enroll as a non-degree seeking commuter student taking nine credits. However, most of the classes she wanted or needed to take were full. Robboy, an international business major at Loyola, is now taking political science, finite math and a business-related computer course.

But, because she cannot enroll as a full-time student, Robboy’s Florida Bright Futures financial aid, for example, is not valid. She said her family is paying around $13,000 for her to take nine credits at UM. The tuition she had already paid at Loyola, as well as her $13,000 scholarship, does not apply at UM but will roll over for the Spring semester, when Loyola hopes to reopen.

Loyola stayed in touch with its students largely through the website of the Association of Jesuit Colleges, which listed the contact information of the other 27 Jesuit schools-as well as Louisiana State University-that were prepared to take in students like Robboy. Loyola’s tuition would transfer to these colleges, and the credits earned by students there would be easily transferred back to the university in New Orleans. When Robboy called these schools, however, she ran into one problem: housing. None of the schools could offer her a place to stay, and Robboy has no possessions to take to a new dorm room. Robboy said Loyola Chicago offered emergency funds, made available through charities, to buy sheets and other necessities, but neither she nor her family wants to depend on those funds.

Robboy hopes to get involved in activities at UM, even though she may only be here one semester. For now, however, she is more concerned with settling in.

“I signed my membership to the gym, and that’s about it,” she said.

She has spent the past few days canceling nonrefundable plane reservations and buying new textbooks.

Robboy said that, if students can’t return to Loyola by next semester, she will transfer to Loyola Chicago.

For now, though, she said she appreciates having somewhere to study.

“Even though I’m going to be two credits behind, I’m very lucky,” Robboy said.

Patricia Mazzei can be contacted at