So here I am in Oxford, MS. I don’t know if I ever thought I’d be saying that, but there you go. I arrived here about a week ago after a very long and tedious drive down from Iowa. Upon arriving, I was exhausted and sick of being in my car but at the same time sad to get out. I knew once I got out, my new life in Mississippi would begin. I had the same feeling when I arrived at Davidson four years ago. But now here I am in Oxford where the latest chapter of my life ends and a new one begins. The feeling is almost cyclical for those my age. Anyway, I arrived in Oxford optimistic and excited. I settled into my dorm and began those first few days filled with new places and faces.
Monday was my first full day here. It was Memorial Day and not everyone had arrived yet, but there were a few first years around. In the morning, I went for a run around campus to help familiarize myself with layout. I’m used to a very small campus where everything is less than a ten minute walk. Ole Miss is quite different. It’s very large, at least in my eyes, but it’s still a pretty campus. Later in the day, I made my first visit to the square which was quite an experience. A very stately white building was standing in the center of town. As I walked up, I felt like I was transported into Harper Lee’s southern town in To Kill a Mockingbird, and Atticus Finch was just bound to walk out of those courtroom doors. Oxford definitely has that small southern town feel that I’ve never experienced before.
It wasn’t until Tuesday when all of the first years had arrived and orientation officially started. Our morning was filled with introductions and those necessary annoyances that need to be taken care when first arriving on a campus like getting a school ID and a parking pass, and setting up a web ID account. We met our teachers and those in charge of MTC and we also got our first official tour of Ole Miss. I never knew how much history the campus had, especially involving the issue of race. Coming from Iowa, I have never experienced a place where racial issues were and are so prevalent. Iowa, on the whole, doesn’t have much diversity and as a consequence, we lack conversations about race. The tour opened my eyes to a world relatively new to me. I had experienced the south mainly through my college years in North Carolina, but the Mississippi south is quite a different world. It’s a very rich place, though, and I’m looking forward to my time here.
Wednesday was a rough day mainly because we were scheduled from 8am until 9pm. Granted, some of that time included social events, but still, I'm not used to having my entire day planned out. One of my favorite activities on Wednesday involved watching several videos profiling several MTC individuals. The teachers profiled were inspirations and their stories further solidified my decision to be a part of this program. We also watched several videos addressing fairly recent racial issues found on Ole Miss’ campus. Those videos again opened my eyes to a world otherwise unknown to me. I have to say, with some shame, that I wasn’t even aware that a KKK rally had taken place at Ole Miss within the past year. On Wednesday we also met our teacher for the summer. She’s a former elementary school teacher who seems to love what she’s doing. She definitely makes class time much less painful than I originally expected.
Towards the end of the week we met with the second year teachers that will be in our classroom for summer school. I was somewhat nervous for this activity, but after meeting the second years for my classroom, I was put at ease. They were all so friendly and knowledgeable about the entire process. I felt so much better after meeting with them. I already have the feeling that the second years, as well as our team teachers, will be such a great resource for us this summer. It blows my mind that come July they will be gone and it will only be up to us first years and our team teachers to run the summer school classrooms.
This first week has been quite the experience. It still seems so surreal. It was only three weeks ago today that I was walking across the stage to receive my diploma. In some ways my mind is still there in Davidson, wishing the time hadn’t gone by so quickly, but after this first week, I’ve come to terms with my current situation in Mississippi. I’m still apprehensive, and I'm still not quite settled, but with time everything will fall into place. All I know is that I'm happy right now, and that’s what’s most important. Til next time....