It all started in Jacksonville, Florida at the Bolles College Preparatory School. I was a junior in high school when the college-bound buzz began.
At Bolles, you begin having regular meetings with your adviser to discuss college, your interests, your location and financials. I think I was a nightmare to my college advising professor, and I thank her tremendously for dealing with me.
When it came time to apply to colleges, I was in all directions – different states, different sizes, different areas of study, and so on. I applied to 14 universities and was open to any that would take me.
As a Florida resident, many people stay in state where there are good schools, and it is cheaper. However, I was looking out of state mostly. I applied to two schools in Florida just out of curiosity, and just in case I suddenly changed my mind about moving.
I was ready for change and to see a new part of the country. I applied to schools such as University of California Santa Barbara, University of Wisconsin, Hofstra University, College of Charleston, University of Alabama and Ole Miss.
I remember people telling me: “You can narrow it down a lot if you choose close to home or far from home, and whether you want football or not.”
I heard this suggestion so much it finally got me thinking about how far I really wanted to be from home. I thought about how everything is only a flight away. My parents were all for me going wherever I was happy, and I thought it would introduce me to new things.
On April 29, the last day to decide, I chose the University of Mississippi in Oxford. Prior to this, I had only been to Mississippi twice for football games with family friends. I fell in love with the town, the people and the school.
For me, that was it, done deal. I was living here for the next four years. I had many comments about how far I would be from home. These comments really did not bother me because I was the one venturing out, and I was excited about my move.
Leaving Jacksonville early one morning, my mom and I embarked on our journey to Oxford. Ten hours later, I was in my new home. Oxford traditions made me feel like I was home away from home.
I remember the people being very welcoming and excited I was in their town. My mom recalls feeling good when leaving me here because she knew I was happy and in the right place.
Fast-forward three and a half years later – I am now a senior and will graduate in May of 2018. Looking back, I would not have chosen any other school.
If I could redo it all over again, I would do the same. The people I have met here are lifelong friends that I will have forever. The city of Oxford holds part of my heart. I have grown so much since first coming here in August 2014.
Being an out-of-state-student, I have realized I have grown to be a more well-rounded young woman. I have met people from all over the world in Oxford, and due to those meetings, I feel if I go anywhere, I will know someone in that place or have a good friend to meet for dinner.
Ole Miss has an eclectic student body, and many people are out-of-state students just like me. The school works hard to make all of their students feel loved and embraced by the community.
There are many things to be involved in and many activities to do in Oxford for newcomers. My friends in Jacksonville remain the same, and I have more friends that can visit. I have been to many different states to visit friends while I have been in college and have made lifelong memories in new places.
If I were to recommend staying in state for college or going out of state, I would 100 percent tell someone to go out of state. It is a great experience to expand your horizons and get out of your comfort zone.
I have grown more than I think I would if I had stayed in Florida. It has helped me adapt well in new places and made me feel comfortable talking to new people no matter where I am.
My experience as an out-of-state student has been amazing. Even though it is great to go home to family and friends once in a while, I gladly call Oxford home now.