Hundreds of University of Miami students gathered around Lake Osceola on Nov. 3 to watch Homecoming’s annual Hurricane Howl. For the hundreds in attendance, including seniors and alumni, the event was a time to reflect on what UM has meant to them.
Senior Noureen Ahmed has attended every Homecoming Hurricane Howl since her freshman year and said she sits by the lake and thinks about how much has changed every year. This year she was tapped into Iron Arrow Honor Society, the highest honor one can achieve at UM. She said as she sat by the lake for her fourth year and final year as a student, she thought about growth.
“It’s bittersweet … To reflect on all that the university has made possible for you,” said Ahmed, a double major in human and social development and sociology. “So to be sitting there four years later, and see how much has changed, it’s very rewarding. I’ve grown as a person … I’ve learned who I am … And what I feel my purpose is moving forward after college.”
Since 1926, the UM community has united for a week of events highlighting the school’s spirit and tradition. One of the last events to be held for the week is Hurricane Howl. During the event, there is a boat burning tradition during which a boat is burned on Lake Osceola. If the mast on the boat sinks before the boat, the Hurricanes will win the Homecoming football game. This year, the mast went first.
Before the boat burning and fireworks, there was a narration of the school’s history. From the 1920s to present, those in attendance heard about the ups and the downs UM has been through, from the inauguration of its presidents to natural disasters, such as hurricanes Andrew and Wilma.
This year’s Homecoming theme was the ‘The Magic in U.’ The theme was chosen by the Homecoming Executive Committee because some of the committee members describe Homecoming as a “magical time,” said Laura Thornton, chair of the Homecoming Executive Committee, to The Miami Hurricane in September.
Robert Castro, who graduated with his bachelor’s in business administration in 2004, said he remembers his time at UM, and homecoming week in particular, as one of his favorite times.
Castro said he remembers fondly the times where campus would be bustling with alumni and students interacting with one another and learning from each other. He said though the excitement surrounding the events throughout the week are important, it’s really about the connections fostered between alumni and students during Homecoming week that help UM continue to thrive.
“It’s great to see that possibility happen because really that special history and tradition that keeps the university alive for so many generations,” said Castro, who returned to UM for graduate school and earned his master’s in business administration in 2008.
Castro, who served as vice president of la Federacion de Estudiantes Cubanos from 2002 to 2003, said as an alumnus it’s important to return to events during Homecoming Week to give back to the community that gave to him when he was a student. Castro said he promised himself that when he graduated he’d return to campus to share advice with students and student organizations of which he had been a member.
He said when he was a student at UM, FEC was “not in the best state,” but with hard work and collaborative effort among members, they brought FEC back to its feet to become one of the most prominent groups on campus.
“I wanted to be back to meet the students and let them know, ‘Hey, you know what? You’re going to have your challenges as everyone does,'” he said. “‘But, you’re going to make it through like we all have, together.'”
Castro said Homecoming Week, specifically Hurricane Howl, is the one time of year when UM community members can come together even after years apart.
“As an alum, it’s a great time to reunite with friends, especially since you graduate college and you begin your roles in life,” Castro said. “Life has different journeys for different people, but this is the one time of the year where we come back to a place where we all had that common theme that brings us together.”
Even for Ahmed, who graduates in May 2018 and is planning on going to graduate and medical school, being a lifelong Hurricane and giving back to UM is already on her mind.
“It’s important to appreciate and also recognize all that UM has provided you with over the years and to really give back to the incoming generations of Canes,” she said. “Your journey doesn’t end after four years. It’s an ongoing experience.”