Booze. Beads. Brass bands. Before coming to New Orleans for school, I had the same general notion of Mardi Gras that other people from out-of-state have: there's this Tuesday where a lot of people down south party pretty hard. It only took one Mardi Gras for me to learn that this conception does not nearly capture the the mayhem and magic of NOLA's celebration. As the fun picks up here with the days of carnival leading up to Fat Tuesday (on Feb. 13 this year), see what it's like to go to college in New Orleans during Mardi Gras.

Finger-Lickin' Good

Kate Parker

Mardi Gras calls for Mardi Craw. It takes like 100 crawfish to make me full, but you will always catch me paying $3 for them served with corn and potatoes straight out of a big bucket of boiling water posted up next to a parade-watcher. Sometimes you drink enough Mad Dog to remember how to peel the crawfish. And, there's always King Cake to count on. Some people have their sh*t together and manage to at least eat somewhere out of the way of the madness, but as a college student during Mardi Gras, you can count on many mornings of hungover solitude in the dining hall with the rest of the school.

Wild, Wild, Wiiiiiiiild

Sometimes Andre and more than a little vat fuels you through the night on Broadway into the next day, sometimes you wake up to a 1 pm phone alarm confused and covered in Cane's sauce. Your classmates are probably already downtown pushing around shopping carts full of booze for one another to share, or riding around in trucks packed to the brim headed to the party tents lined all the way down St. Charles.

Once you've linked up with the squad, snag a spot at the front for parades of Krewes like Chewbacchus, the self-described satirical space cult, and Barkus–that's right, a dog parade. They will give you experiences you didn't think were possible.

Good for the Soul 

Kate Parker

I always reply to parental advice on behaving during MG with the words of Bob Dylan: "Everything in New Orleans is a good idea." Part of why Mardi Gras is so magical is that everyone here collectively puts on a party that's big enough to inspire envy all over the world, but that also stays true to its inclusive, vibrant, stunning tradition.

You can duck away from touristy spots in the Quarter to check out all the things locals love, because this is the week to pop the college bubble you live in. Mardi Gras is able to unite the people who have been in NOLA forever with college students just starting their experience with this city, because we all share one thing in common: big love for the big easy and its culture.

A Beautiful Nightmare

beer, cake
Isabel Bowman

You have to be a tactful warrior to last all the way till Tequila Sunrise. The week before requires making time to thrift shop at Magazine (wardrobe-wise, MG is like an even crazier Voodoo) and buying groceries before the whole city just shuts down. Take collective action with friends to avoid a stress meltdown and head to Walmart for bulk-purchased food and drink. A well-stocked fanny pack for the day is key, and your mantra should be "hydrate or die-drate." Seriously, don't forget to drink water. 

Keep an eye on your friends, too. Having guests during Mardi Gras is fun in theory, but you have to be really patient to willingly take responsibility for another human this week. Things to avoid: the school's fee of $100 for a guest to sleep on the floor of your room and those nasty Uber surges. 

You Realize Mom Was Right 

Kate Parker

It's a marathon, not a sprint. Do not try sprinting the marathon. With school called off, we get to leave reality for a little bit, but know that after going out drinking, we have to get back to school. Coming late to an exam in an alien bodysuit and a doughnut fanny pack, covered in glitter and beads from the night before is only funny the first time! 

Knowing how non-stop the last few days of carnival partying is can give you FOMO, but keep in mind that everyone's Instagrams from Krewe du Vieux took a lot of good angles and VSCO and that you can't do everything. Close Snapchat and be present because if you get too caught up in what you're not doing, you won't appreciate what you are doing.

So, what's it's like to go to college in New Orleans during Mardi Gras? It's not like anything—it's a unique experience you wouldn't even imagine you could have on this Earth.

#SpoonTip: Please drink responsibly, always. Spoon University does not promote binge drinking or underage drinking. If you're celebrating, have a fun and safe Mardi Gras.