Selçuk Demirel

Selçuk Demirel

Grad students sometimes complain that theirs can be a solitary existence, without the intense bonding experiences familiar to undergrads. Hurricane Irene changed all that. 

Stanworth, Hibben, and Magie apartments all lost power for three days following the storm, which arrived the night of Aug. 27. Overall, the University suffered only minimal damage; at least eight trees fell along campus roadways, but windows and roofs remained intact. The worst flooding was at the Boathouse (see story, page 13). 

For grad students who had moved into apartments just days before they lost power, however, the timing was unfortunate. “Many of us had gone on massive grocery shopping trips before knowing that the hurricane was going to be so bad,” said Jennifer Browning, a new Wilson School student who lives in Hibben. Browning and her neighbors shared their meals during the power outage, making use of a gas-powered stove and flashlights. 

Laura Nolan Khan, a first-year Ph.D. student in population research, didn’t want to be alone in her new Butler apartment. She ended up having a sleepover with another student, Zitsi Mirakhur, whom she had just met in class. The two became friends “quicker than we would have,” Khan said. 

Other students lent a helping hand to those they had met the week before. Sebastian Chaskel invited a fellow Wilson School student — worried about the prospect of a tree crashing into his off-campus house — to stay in an extra room at his Hibben apartment. Students at the old and new Graduate Colleges, who never lost power, offered hot showers and refrigerator space to those who lacked them. 

While no one was hurt, there were some close calls. George Gardner, a resident of the Old Graduate College, said a tree fell just outside his window. “If it had come any closer, it would have come right through,” he said.

Irene, however, did not dampen a sense of humor. The Graduate College’s DBar was closed the night of the storm “because of the potential danger to customers and staff,” said DBar manager Eric Mills. As a result, students hosted their own “hurricane party” in a college lounge as the wind and rain pounded against the windows. 

As academic life returned to normal in the wake of the hurricane, grad students offered a mixed assessment of the storm’s impact: some inconveniences, perhaps, but a stronger sense of community as well.