During my final day as a student in Oxford, Mississippi, I exited Ventress Hall and stood awestruck. Aesthetically, the architecture of Ole Miss’s Liberal Arts College sits somewhere in-between Schloss Neuschwanstei and the mind of Walt Disney.
Perhaps the most peculiar quality of Ventress Hall is that, despite its diligent preservation and staggering form, it aligns perfectly with the attitude of Ole Miss, as well as the buildings that accompany it. Walking back toward the Student Union through The Grove, the ‘holy-grail’ of American college sport, I had to navigate the abundance of magnolia (the state flower of Mississippi and icon of Ole Miss) coloured chairs that had been meticulously placed for the weekend’s commencement ceremony. After passing the grandiose oak trees and possibly the most manicured blades of grass in the entire state, I entered the Student Union for the last time (and probably the 200th) and was met with the quote from Frank E Everett’s 1970s poetic ode to the University that sits upon one of the union walls.
“The University is respected, but Ole Miss is loved. The University gives a diploma and regretfully terminates tenure, but one never graduates from Ole Miss.”
The quote is prefaced with verses that wax lyrical about the Ole Miss community, but the crux of the message is that, after experiencing one of the most beautiful campuses in the United States, the passionate academic staff, the in-your-face loyalty of Rebels fans, the vogue-cover-worthy student body, and the exemplar of antebellum that is the entire town of Oxford, the University of Mississippi will be a perennial point in your memory.
I think I will remember my time at Ole Miss as one of the most eye-opening and exhilarating periods of my life. Studying overseas and acquiring a degree were my two goals when I applied to USC, and I’ll admit that studying overseas was, sometimes at the expense of my assessment, usually at the forefront of my mind.
If you are a USC student considering applying for the great opportunity USC provides us with the Study Overseas program, I can’t think of many reasons not to. The excitement I felt when the Study Overseas staff informed me I was going to be studying Semester one at Ole Miss was more than worth any application headaches.
Acquiring a US Visa was a bit of a costly endeavour, but it’s an excuse to head to the US consulate in Sydney or Melbourne, so even before heading to the USA you get the buzz of travel.
For me, Ole Miss was a choice I was fortunate in making. I was housed with the best group of international students imaginable, and the adventure started on my very first weekend when three other international students and I flew to Philadelphia and caught the bus to New York City to buy a mini-van (which was affectionately named ‘Bernie Vanders’) and drive it back to Mississippi. The international staff at Ole Miss made enrolment an easy process, and the week-long (rather tedious) orientation equipped me with all the knowledge and skills I needed to succeed at Ole Miss. The workload during the semester was definitely a little more than I am used to at USC, with 48 pieces of assessment over four courses during the semester. Still, the assessments, though frequent, are usually void of any stress, and achieving a 100/100 often just required fundamental literacy skills.
There was one negative during the semester, and that was the accommodation. Think of the Japanese internment camp in Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun and you would be exposed to conditions only slightly worse than University Trails (sometimes if I was quiet enough I swear I could hear a young Christian Bale singing Suo Gân). Still, the fun I had with the other internationals made up for the yellow bath tub, and the Ole Miss international staff have said that starting from this semester accommodation is going to be on campus, and that’s definitely an improvement.
Student life is great, there is a group, or class, or activity to suit the desire of any student. Writing groups, reading clubs, comic book clubs, acting opportunities, most sports (and a few you’ve never heard of). Every day you will be drawn to something occurring on campus, whether it is a dance troupe performing outside of Barnes and Noble, or a Christian preacher proclaiming that ‘fornicators are going to hell’. Spring parties took place most weekends, some are pretty exclusive but arriving equipped with a foreign accent or a friend inside is usually enough to have a beer (or bong) thrust into your hand.
The most exciting aspect of Ole Miss Student life though, is NCAA sport. Ole Miss is one of the biggest sporting schools in the entire country, and I was shown numerous photos and videos of The Grove tailgating (voted the best in the country many, many times) during football season and it looks like a massive fortnightly festival. Unfortunately I missed out on football season, but anyone headed to Ole Miss during fall semester is going to have the time of their life. Spring semester is basketball and baseball time, and both are extraordinary ways to spend your weekday evenings/nights. I went to two NBA games whilst I was in the US and neither compared to the experience of college basketball (and the Rebels aren’t even that good), or the choruses of ‘Hotty Toddy’ echoing around Swayze Field.
During my time in America I also got to travel to Daytona Beach for Spring Break, New Orleans for Mardi Gras, New York, Knoxville and Memphis, Alabama, Phoenix, LA, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Grand, Bryce, and Zion Canyons, Redwood Forrest, Joshua Tree, and ventured to Canada for a little while (and much more I’ve missed).
The Ole Miss semester I have just finished was the greatest university semester of my life, and introduced me to some of the best friends I have ever made in my life, as well as some of the most unforgettable experiences. Frank Everett might have proclaimed that no student ever wholly leaves Ole Miss, but I’d (less poetically) challenge the notion by being safe in the belief that Ole Miss will never leave me.
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