Loyola’s Spider-Man Graduate Goes to Cambridge


Photo credit: Michael Pashkevich

I’ll succinctly state it: I love New Orleans. I was raised an hour north just five minutes’ drive post-Causeway but, for me, New Orleans is home. This is largely attributed to Loyola. From the kind university faculty and staff to the critical worldview I attained as a student, Loyola left an indelible mark on me that I don’t foresee fading. It follows, then, that – after four years in Uptown (and another ten years in southeast Louisiana) – leaving New Orleans this summer was heart breaking. But, even moreso, leaving was an exciting and appreciated start to novel adventures.

In mid-September, I moved to Cambridge, England to study for a PhD in Zoology. My research focuses on spider ecology in Sumatran oil palm plantations, and I’m kindly funded by the Gates Cambridge Scholarship. I’m ecstatic to be in Cambridge. The University is incessantly bustling with cultural and intellectual events. Yesterday, I left a talk on negative emissions technologies and, two hours later, was exploring the melancholic dispositions of Early Modern witches. I’ve met fantastic people here with whom I’ve shared what I can only describe as “Loyola-esque conversations,” i.e., ones focused on society at its most triumphant and reprehensible. When discussing the latter, we pitch means of fighting back.

Cambridge, like Loyola, inspires me to pursue unfamiliar endeavors. Academically, I’m laying the groundwork to conduct meta-analyses from systematic reviews. Socially, friends and I enjoyed a grueling boxing class, which was a fantastic bonding experience and my first arm-focused exercise in years. And, gastronomically, I consumed a four-course meal of insect-based foods and their proper wine pairings (take note: locust pecan pie and pinot noir are deliciously complementary).

After four years at Loyola, it is heartening to find familiarity in such unfamiliar experiences. Being a first-term graduate student is stressful (although worse academic stress is certainly forthcoming). In addition to navigating an intensive and new intellectual environment, I’m also forging novel friendships and adapting to a different culture (spotted dick is an English dessert, not a venereal disease). But unfamiliarity is what I sought after fourteen years in the Greater New Orleans area and, I suppose, unfamiliarity feels so welcome to me in part because of Loyola.

Loyola challenges its students to embrace the unfamiliar. This is evidenced in my postgraduate friends, whose activities since May inspire me. Here’s a brief snapshot of their lives: moving to South Africa to study sustainable agriculture; becoming a nationally recognized counselor for Crisis Text Line; and tutoring at-risk students in New York. They, too, were prepared as undergraduates to encounter the difficulties of new adventures and still press on.

I write now to current seniors: you will miss New Orleans. Within my Cambridge happiness, I still miss walks with friends in Audubon Park and anoles darting across impossibly cracked sidewalks. England woefully does not have fried shrimp po-boys. But post-graduate life is also thrilling, and 6363 St. Charles Avenue is only a beginning. I value so much that Loyola prepared me as a person for post-undergraduate life. This is far more important, I think, than academic preparedness (although, certainly, I received that, too).

So, if this old alumnus can offer one piece of advice: fall in love with Loyola and your undergraduate experience, but also embrace the unfamiliar and life will always be memorable.