By Andrés Feliciano, City Year New Orleans ’13
I grew up in New Orleans and moved to Atlanta when I was 12, so I didn’t have any relatives in the city when I moved back to serve with City Year. But I did have family friends who were able to help me out and offer me a sense of community when I moved back to serve. This was one of the main reasons why I chose to apply to serve with City Year New Orleans. If you are considering applying to a site that is far from home, I highly recommend applying to a city where you have family or friends in the area. Knowing that I had still had some friends from my childhood in the area let me feel like I could really go for it because I knew they would be there for me if I needed their support or advice.
For the first two weeks in town, as we started Basic Training Academy, I stayed with one of my sister’s childhood friends. I slept on an air mattress in an unfurnished extra bedroom while she looked for a new roommate. It was a nice place, and my sister’s friend welcomed me with open arms, while I searched for another place to stay. The fact that I had a family friend to stay with helped make my transition smoother because it allowed me to have some extra time to find a place that was the best fit for me.
Next, I moved in temporarily with six of my fellow AmeriCorps members. We shared a small three-bedroom apartment while we each looked for our own places. I won’t lie: it was cramped and uncomfortable—I slept in the hallway—but it was only temporary; and though it was difficult for us all (bear in mind, this was summer in New Orleans), we bonded and grew from it.
I’m glad we held out. Just as we finished Basic Training Academy and started training at our respective schools, I got into a beautiful, spacious three-bedroom flat with two of my fellow AmeriCorps members for $1,200 a month ($400 each per month). Because the three of us all lived in that first cramped apartment together, and because we all served at different schools, we were able to complement each other well as roommates.
I’m glad I could serve in my hometown. Not only did it mean I was familiar with the greater community I served with, had family friends and people I knew in the area, but it helped me serve my students better because I was already familiar with so much of the spaces, culture, and history of New Orleans. I had a great experience as an AmeriCorps member, and ended up staying in the city.