It's been a year, almost to the day, since I've been back to Ole Miss. Last time, I watched helplessly as Cam Newton and the future (bastardized) national champion Auburn Tigers had their way with the Rebels. So considering that my visits to Oxford are fewer and further in between than preferred, it is nice to stumble upon a story on occasion that fully depicts the attributes of a special place that doesn't always get its just due. And perhaps most importantly, this review in particular is by an outsider who hails from the other side of the Atlantic:
"I had been dimly aware that the American South is famous for its hospitality, but was unprepared for a level of friendliness that would have been faintly nauseating if it weren't so seductive. Wherever I went, people smiled at me with their gleaming, perfect teeth. . . . The vibe on campus was such that one could easily strike up a conversation with a stranger. At home this atmosphere had just about lasted through freshers' week; here, it lasted throughout the year. . . .
"A laid-back attitude and general reluctance to sweat the small stuff became uppermost in my daily mentality, and I can say with complete confidence that this was a boon in my academic, athletic and social college life. This is not to say that my fellow students were slobs or lazy. Manners are important in Mississippi, and at big social occasions (namely football games) I have never seen so many students in one place all trying to look smart. . . .
"I spent my time at Ole Miss in a constant slight state of disbelief that the 'American College Experience' was living up to the myth – and then some. This brings me to probably the question most asked about my spell there, put bluntly: 'Is it really racist down there?' Hollywood's interpretation of the South is not exactly glowing. While also not incorrect, it does not take the form one would expect.
"There appeared to be little or no antagonism along racial lines, only a sense of 'mutual segregation'. White guys hung out with white guys and vice versa, with little or no interracial dating. Certain uncomfortable words were thrown around drunkenly in company, which I admit I found surprising. But these encounters were fewer and farther between, however, than I had been led to believe and, all in all, I left with nothing but good things to say.
"I arrived back in an unchanged Edinburgh with a load of work to do, a Southern accent than can best many a New Yorker, a year that I will remember for ever [sic] and dozens of friends I'll stay in touch with. It's good to be home, but I can’t wait to get back."
– from "My year at the University of Mississippi" by Benjamin Cumming, published in The Telegraph; October 20, 2011
In addition, here's a video tribute (w/ Kings of Leon providing the soundtrack) by a German fellow who also spent a year at Ole Miss. Have a look: