By Samantha Stephans
I want to personally apologize to Mississippi. This paper is an ode to you and all the people who doubt your capability and the importance of your state.
The accurate definition of an emotional rollercoaster – senior year of high school. Not only did I decide to go to school in a completely different state, I was completely naive to the culture and lifestyle Mississippi, more specifically the town of Oxford, preserves.
Although an attribute I would soon appreciate, at the time, this concept of leaving everything I had ever known overwhelmed me. After once feeling so almighty as a teenager, wanting to prove that I was not dependent on my parents, I faced a huge challenge only I could overcome through my personal experience.
Before arriving, my perception of the South was filled with ideas of life being “far-behind” or “country.” I felt almost ashamed or confused when people constantly asked me: “What school are you going to?”
What made this decision even more interesting was the fact that I couldn’t answer that question myself. I had never visited. I knew NOTHING about the state. I couldn’t even tell people where it was located on the country’s map.
And on top of that, if I did hear someone talk about Mississippi it was never positive. “Oh Mississippi is a waste of space.” “Mississippi is the dumbest state in the country.” “Why would you want to live in such a racist state?”
Looking back, I guess I felt a sense of hope that, maybe if they were right, it would be the perfect time to change environments as I became an adult. There was a force of nature and a curiosity that drew me to such a different atmosphere and gentle countryside. I yearned to taste more than homemade sweet tea. I was thirsty to learn the history and grow.
My first year at Ole Miss was not an easy transition. I moved to Mississippi carrying the weight of all the negativity that clouded my own thoughts and opinions. Arriving on campus wasn’t horrible, though I wouldn’t call it amazing.
My family and I followed the usual “first day at college” routine. We found my residential building, moved all my belongings up six flights of stairs, settled in, then parted ways. From there, I rushed a sorority, made friends, hung out, studied (kinda) and lived.
Here’s where my freshman experience was different than most students. I never truly gave the university a chance. Don’t get me wrong. I loved college, but I was never satisfied because of my negative attitude about Mississippi. My one-sided opinion didn’t change because I refused to see anything else.
It is now my second year here at this amazing school, and I have no idea how I could ever thank Mississippi for blessing me with such a gift. This university doesn’t just represent the Velvet Ditch, it also represents all the wonderful things within the state.
I have developed an overarching and new appreciation of life and culture because of the genuine-natured, diverse, yet homologous lifestyle and impact Ole Miss and the town of Oxford have given me.
The way I would like to try and eliminate these judgemental rumors is through my marketing movement. This project is called Ole’ways Miss-Represented. This marketing campaign will show the true beauty within the state through students that came here from all over the country.
I would interview students and discuss their ideas about the state before coming to Ole Miss, then after living within the community, I will promote my campaign through film and photography. I will film each student’s interview, then post them to a blog that features each individual and their statements.
I was planning on using every social media platform (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc..) to promote the campaign. People will hear perspectives of those who fell for the same stereotypes, and how their state view changed because of the university.
By asking my friends and getting their opinions on my campaign, I got feedback that generated a stronger, more developed movement. I hope this idea will move people locally and nationwide. Who knows if it will grow into something much bigger than it is, but I’m hoping it will spark something greater than I could ever imagine.
This project has helped me find love for this state and better understand how Mississippi has affected me. I hope others will learn to be more open-minded about things they don’t actually know much about.