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The start of the spring semester brought 15 new students from Puerto Rico to Tulane. The Hullabaloo thought they deserved a formal introduction in our newest feature: Resisting the Storm.

Each week, The Hullabaloo highlights a different guest Tulane student affected by Hurricane Maria, which struck Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017. This week, Christian Mercado, one of the 15 Puerto Rican students who accepted Tulane’s offer of a tuition-free semester, agreed to share his experiences.

Mercado decided to continue his studies in finance at Tulane in hopes of finding professional development opportunities and facing viewpoints he’s never seen before.

Can you describe how your community was affected by the storm?

My urbanization was not affected much by the storm, but all the area surrounding it, the city of —, was flooded. An urbanization close by was flooded. I was always used to seeing everything and the field around my university as very green. When I went to see it for the first time after the storm, it wasn’t green anymore. Everything looked brown, all the leaves were deteriorated. The only thing left of trees were the trunks. And my community was left without light for 126 days. We were without light and electricity, a power plant to be able to function and power houses and everything.

How has your community recovered?

Like I said, after 126 days, the power came back and now the leaves are looking green and the tree trunks are looking better. They’ve picked up all of the fallen posts. Everything has been able to be repaired. At this moment, there is light in my community and things are getting better.

How did the hurricane affect your university?

I was without light for a very long time. I couldn’t attend class for, if I’m not mistaken, for a very long time, like a month. I couldn’t attend class. We returned Oct. 31 and the hurricane had hit on Sept. 20. I was without power for approximately a month and a half, and we couldn’t enter the university or go to class. We were focused on not only our studies but also repairing the community, that the lights would come back on, the electricity, doing a lot of work at home. It affected the University greatly but, thank God, it didn’t lose —. But we could ask for aid from the rest of the world. The university was opened, but we had to finish the rest of the semester. The first semester finished in the beginning of March, and it began in August. The University and the normalcy of the University were greatly affected.

Why did you decide to come to Tulane this semester?

I decided to come to Tulane this semester because it was going to be a great experience to grow professionally, as a person, see distinct viewpoints I had not encountered in Puerto Rico, better many things for my internship that I have with the PWC this summer. But the main reason was to finish the semester before summer. Because it has affected the normality of classes in the first semester and now the second semester, they’re trying to make the school year quarterly. The semester was very affected, and I had already lost the internship for a strike that had happened at the University in Puerto Rico, and I didn’t want that to happen again. After losing that opportunity, I decided to come to Tulane so I could finish the semester before summer and to keep my internship with PWC.

Has has your transition to Tulane been?

Well, it has been a little hard. What you’re not used to seeing is your family. We Puerto Ricans are always used to being with our families, with a lot of friends, we are very united with everyone. And arriving here and being alone is hard. But what motivates you the most is deciding why you are here because you want a better future, because you want to keep taking classes, you want to grow professionally and that is what motivates someone forward. The decision was hard because of that, but I have made many friends here and many relationships that will be with me always. And that is what counts the most.

Will you visit Puerto Rico during the semester?

During the semester I won’t be able to return to Puerto Rico because I’m going to be finishing my major in the University. But I hope that in August I will be able to return to the University normally, and I would hope that I could return to Puerto Rico. But things are how they are, it is really difficult to return, with how everything is, with how the economy was affected. I would like to stay here to grow professionally, and I know that in Puerto Rico, I would do the same but the factors are not on my side for me to have an effective education over there.

How will you spend the summer?

This summer, I will not be in Puerto Rico. I will be in D.C. in an internship that I already had pending and that was the reason I decided to go to Tulane, so I could finish the semester well and without any problems. So I can continue with my internship and be more professionally prepared, to see other perspectives and with more motivation than ever for my internship.

What has excited you the most this semester?

Well, yes. The festivals have been incredible, I’ve met so many people, Puerto Ricans, many people from here have been great. Many of the locals have understood what I’ve gone through, and it has been a tremendous experience to be part of this. I’ve never been to New Orleans. I’ve never made it here. This is my first time, and I love the city and the University motivates you to keep studying, to keep moving forward. I try to always be focused on everything. But yes, what excited me the most were the festivals.

Is there anything else you want to say?

Thank you. I’ve said it 1,000 times but thank you again to the Tulane administration for letting us enter this tremendous university. It has been a unique experience for all of us, and it will help us so much for the rest of our lives, and it has made us grow professionally, mentally, emotionally, and we all are grateful to the University in so little time, it’s been two months and however long is left. And I know that this experience will open doors in my life that I will be able to take advantage of.

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