A Guide to “The College Life” in Louisiana

(Let’s stop pretending you’re not just moving here for Mardi Gras)

Louisiana State University LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Welcome to college in Louisiana. No matter if you’re brand new around here or the Cajun’s in your blood, you’re in for a real treat.

To help get you all settled in and ready for the road ahead, we’ve put together this guide to prep you for a life around the state that puts the extra in extracurricular. So, let's get into it.

Chapter One: Louisiana Conversation Starters

Now, easily the most important thing to do once you get to Louisiana is make some new friends. However, in order to make friends with a real-life Louisianan, you gotta know a thing or two about 'em first. You can't just spout off a bunch of facts from the state's Wikipedia page on populations and state birds and all. You gotta go for a way, way deeper dive. 

When trying to assimilate to local culture, try out a few of these conversation starters:

  • “CHOP-i-TOO-lis.” Though the street is spelled Tchoupitoulas, it’s located right in New Orleans next to the Mississippi river. And it’s just one example of a lot of words around here that are super hard to pronounce by looking at them. It’s kind of an homage to all the distinct cultures that have called New Orleans their home over the centuries.
  • “He threw in a little extra Lagniappe.” It’s like a little bonus or a gift on the house, basically. The word itself speaks to the warmth of the locals around here who believe in paying it forward.
  • “When’s the crawfish boil?” This could be the most important thing you learn in this article. A crawfish boil is just about the greatest thing on earth where fresh-from-the-gulf crawfish are boiled with corn, potatoes, onions, and some andouille sausage. It’s often done in a social setting where all the cooked food is laid out on a large table for locals to go to town on.

Chapter Two: Where to Crash

If you’re not already set on living in the dorms, you’re going to need to know where to lay your ever-growing head at night. So let’s talk about the hot rentals around the area.

According to rentcafe.com, the home of Louisiana State Univeristy, Baton Rouge, has  one-bedroom apartments going for around $1,016/month. And in New Orleans, home to Tulane University, you can expect rent to be a bit higher — around $1,154/month. But of course that’s right inside the city, and you can always find lower prices out in a number of nearby suburbs or neighboring cities for a few hundred less.

PRO TIP: If you put two to three bunk beds in every room and grab a bunch more roommates, your rent will be dirt cheap!

Chapter Three: What's with These Locals?

To live among Louisianans, it’s best if you understand them. And the first thing to know is that this state is steeped in a rich, diverse history with the culture and people to show for it. The land occupied by this state was bought by then-president Thomas Jefferson from the French in 1803 as part of the much larger Louisiana Purchase. Louisiana became a state in 1812, and quickly became a haven for all types of ethnicities. By the 1840s, New Orleans had the biggest slave market in the nation, introducing the African population to the colorful culture that already had settled in the territory.

Today, not only people of Cajun and African descent, but also Creole, Spanish, and Native American backgrounds are found all over the state. While ethnically diverse, all Louisianans have one thing in common, a modest and laid-back lifestyle. The deep cultural roots of all these ethnicities transformed the state into a lively cultural hub for music, delicious one-of-a-kind cuisine, and a spirited social atmosphere. No city better represents this than New Orleans.

If jazz, jambalaya, and drinking aren’t your thing, you better look elsewhere. Louisianans are proud of their diverse heritage and take celebrating their festivities very seriously. There’s no need to look any further than the annual Mardi Gras celebration for evidence of that. 

Chapter Four: Where to “Study” around Town

Now that you’re getting all nice and settled into Louisiana life, it’s time to focus on those studies. But everyone knows how distracting roommates, video games, and fridges can be when you’re trying to focus. So why not try some of the great sights and local hot spots for a little study sesh? Here are a few places we recommend:

  • Nowhere: Seriously, good luck finding a place that’s quiet. Just embrace the liveliness of this state and all of its glory and grab some earplugs.

But if you have to find somewhere, you could try:

  • Café Du Monde (New Orleans): Originally opened in 1862 right along the Mississippi River, this place serves the most incredible beignets (French-style doughnuts) and coffee with chicory you will probably ever have in your life. It’s the perfect blend of sugar and caffeine to kick your studies into a higher gear.
  • Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral: St. Louis Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in the US, with the first church built in 1718 long before this country was born. It sits across from Jackson Square which is a National Historic Landmark because of its significant role in the city’s history. There are plenty of places right here to lay out and get some classwork done.
  • Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve: Both peaceful and wild, the park is filled with wildlife and flora, with swamps and marshes that visitors can take boat or canoe tours through. Just watch out for alligators. 

 Chapter Five: No FOMO Weekend Activities around Louisiana

One of the best things about college are the weekends. And Louisiana has plenty of incredible things to do, see, smell, and eat to rest your mind from all that studying you’ve been doing. Here are a few of our favorite local things to do:

  • Kisatchie National Forest: This is the only national forest in Louisiana. Its 604,000 acres are scattered through the central and northern parts of the state, and it features rare longleaf pine forests, flatwood vegetation, and is home to a bunch of rare plant and animals. 
  • Mardi Gras: Every February brings another Mardi Gras to New Orleans and it’s a must. It guarantees great music and even better food throughout the whole festival. 
  • Bourbon Street, Canal Street, and Frenchmen Street: All of these are worth a mention because they all offer something different. Bourbon Street’s 13 blocks straight through the heart of the French Quarter is where everyone knows to go for a good time. It has historic bars, jazz and burlesque clubs steeped in music and revelry that lasts all night. Canal Street is one of the main thoroughfares in New Orleans and a great starting point for any tour. Then there’s Frenchmen Street. It’s the heart of the city’s live music scene and only a short walk from the French Quarter. It’s more of a local hangout for those wanting an authentic New Orleans music experience.

Chapter Six: The Post-College Job Scene

Maybe you know exactly what you want to do after graduation or maybe you’re still undeclared. Either way, we’re so sure you’re going to want to stick around after the ceremony that we should probably talk about the local market and which careers are hot right now around town.

Louisiana is a state that has had its fair share of struggles in the past, but it’s seen growing improvement every year fueled in part by its raving nightlife and tourism industry. What can we say? The people love a good celebration. 

Ranked as the state 49th overall for best states for job and economic opportunities, the state has a 4.4% unemployment rate, which is only a few points higher than the national average. With a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, it’s a good thing the state is ranked 19th overall for affordability by U.S. News, and 26th for affordable cost of living. 

It’s predicted that through 2024, there will be a 7% growth in employment in the state. The industries experiencing the most growth are health care, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality. The state’s tourism industry alone accounted for nearly 9% of the state’s non-farm jobs in 2015, with $11.5 billion in visitor spending. A big chunk of that is from the annual Mardi Gras celebration (more on that later). 

For those who are curious, the top fastest-growing jobs include software engineer, software developer, and home health aide. The companies with the largest workforces in the state include CenturyLink, Ochsner Health System, and Odyssea Marine. If your heart is set on the Pelican State, those growing industries may be your ticket into Mardi Gras bliss. 

Chapter Seven: Pack Your Party Pants, ‘Cuz Here You Come

All right folks, there you have it — your supremely helpful, though far-from-complete, guide to the Louisiana college life. It's true that we can't pack in absolutely everything that's important to consider before making a huge cross-country move, but we hope we helped you get the ball rolling.

Good luck. And remember, jambalaya is where it’s at.

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