Growing up in Colorado, I never imagined going to college or living in the South. When I was 16, my parents told me we were moving to Houston, Texas, and I thought that was the most Southern thing ever.
When I got to Houston, the city did have a Southern twang to it, but it was nothing compared to arguably the deepest South one can get, Mississippi.
When it came to choosing a college senior year, I always envisioned myself in New York City and California attending fashion school. But as my mom and I looked more into colleges, she decided staying in Texas or the South would ultimately be the best choice for me.
I can’t deny I was totally bummed. I didn’t want to stay in Texas one bit, because I love exploring new things, but I also didn’t picture myself becoming a Southern girl. Everyone I had met always told me I belonged in New York City, and not to settle for somewhere I knew nothing about, like Alabama or Mississippi.
I decided although I had little interest in living in the South, I would check out several Southern SEC schools. After touring various small towns in which the highlight of the entire city was the college campus, I was exhausted. I didn’t totally hate any of the schools I toured, but I wasn’t in love either.
I ultimately decided that because Ole Miss had a beautiful campus and the journalism school seemed interesting, I would attend college here. I was still pretty unsure of the whole thing and wasn’t even excited to go to college.
As the time came for my family to drop me off at school, it finally hit me what I was getting myself into. I was convinced I had made one of the worst decisions I have ever made in my entire life by trapping myself in some small Southern town in the middle of nowhere.
Now, after living in Mississippi for a full year, I can proudly say this place, and the South, is amazing, and coming to live in the South for college was one of the best decisions I have made.
To many outsiders, the South is racist, uneducated, country, and uninformed about events outside Mississippi. At first, these were my opinions too, but living here and experiencing it, the outside world has their views wrong.
The South is special. It has the nicest people I have ever met. When I first got here, I thought it was so weird how people that I didn’t even know were saying “hi” to me and smiling at me.
I also made friends super easily. People with thick Southern accents were constantly approaching me introducing themselves and complimenting me. I had never felt so loved and accepted before.
Due to the friendliness of everyone, I never felt lonely. Most of my friends are from Alabama, Georgia or Mississippi, so they knew many more people than me. Instead of acting superior and more popular than me, they tried to introduce me to as many people as possible. After my first couple weeks, I could genuinely say I was happy here because of all the love and friendliness spread around Oxford.
The town wasn’t as bad as I thought either. Although it was no “Downtown Houston,” it still had a lot to offer. I have eaten some of the best food I have ever tasted in Oxford, due to the authenticity of many of the restaurants. I found out that my favorite meal, mac and cheese, was actually quite popular down South. After ordering it at several different restaurants, I can conclude that the South truly does make the best food.
Much to my shock, the shopping here was the exact opposite of what I envisioned. Since one day I would like pursue my fashion dreams in New York City, fashion is something important to me. One reason I was nervous to come was the lack of shopping. Since I do not like online shopping at all and like to see clothes in person before buying them, this was not the best situation for me.
Much to my surprise, Mississippi has several boutiques with unique clothes and fashion trends that I haven’t even seen hit New York or L.A. Although many people might not understand this until they visit boutiques in Mississippi, I believe Mississippi fashion is just as relevant and competitive as New York fashion.
Mississippi actually helped me as a designer and style freak learn and improve my style. It helped open my mind to so many new fashion statements and combine West Coast style and Southern style to create my own.
By the end of this semester, I am in love with Mississippi and am having a hard time leaving for the summer. I believe this place helped expand my mind and creativity immensely.
There are so many amazing people in Oxford I have met through journalism interviews. Oftentimes, we get so lost in our fast-paced life, we forget to stop and enjoy the moment. After living here and watching how people in the South live, I can say this is something they never forget.
My hope is more people from big cities come down and visit small towns before judging, because what they will find is amazing fashion, good food, genuinely nice people and towns full of creativity and big ideas made by simple people.