A Photographic Ode to Hattiesburg, Mississippi

A Photographic Ode to Hattiesburg, Mississippi

I lived in Hattiesburg for six years, but it took me three years living away to appreciate the most remarkable thing about it.
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US Highway 98, Hattiesburg, MS.

Hattiesburg, Mississippi isn’t a place that engenders recognition by most people I talk to nowadays. I usually have to add that it’s in South Mississippi, and that it’s an hour and a half’s drive from Jackson. I also add that it’s about an hour and fifteen from the Gulf of Mexico, two and a half hours from New Orleans (two if you’re speeding), and no, it’s not anywhere near the Mississippi River. In a lot of people’s minds, Hattiesburg exists only in reference to somewhere else more recognizable. For me, however, Hattiesburg is a home.

Clouds over West Hattiesburg.

Longleaf Trace.

Scenes from the Pine Belt.

Longleaf Trace, Jackson Road Station.

After moving from Dhaka, Bangladesh – one of the largest megacities in the world – my family settled in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, a college town with somewhere between forty-six to forty-eight thousand people. I went to high school in Oak Grove, which is the more “up and coming” half of town. Afterwards I went to college down the road at the University of Southern Mississippi, where I spent four years getting to know the town intimately.

The Fountain at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Centennial Lawn.

The Student Hub on USM's campus. Hattiesburg is nicknamed The Hub City.

I enjoyed going to college at Southern Miss. I learned to appreciate the small-town feel and the quiet, oftentimes indolent rhythm of Southern life. I loved the fantastic food and the vibrant music scene downtown. I enjoyed the occasional trip up to Jackson, or down to the Gulf or New Orleans with friends. I got to see my family often, who lived only fifteen minutes away. I knew, however, that I wasn’t going to stay in Hattiesburg. I was born and raised in the city, and my true calling was and will be the city—wherever it may be. After graduating I moved to Washington, D.C. for two years, and then moved to Berkeley, California in the San Francisco Bay Area for graduate school. I visited Hattiesburg a handful of times during the past few years, mostly to see my parents and a few friends who I’ve kept in touch with. And in spite of loving city life, I find myself enjoying this place more and more as the years go by.

Mississippi Hall.

Scianna Hall.

I lived in Hattiesburg for six years, but it took me three years living away to appreciate the most remarkable thing about it. During all those visits it felt like Hattiesburg has stayed the same, and yet it also feels like it changed a lot. Hattiesburg one of those places where the old always coexists with the new, in that characteristic Southern way.

A new retail store might pop up where there wasn’t one before, but right next to it stands an old office building from the early 1900s. A new restaurant serving vegetarian/vegan cuisine pops up down the street from the barbecue joint serving meat by the pound for the past thirty years—and both are rolling in customers. The new College of Business building on campus stands newly finished just around the corner from one of the first college dormitories built back in 1911. Downtown in the historic district, there’s a new music school, a new pub, a new café. Within eyesight is the old post office, the old (and still operational) train station, the old antique store. On the surface, Hattiesburg is the same as it has been, but just underneath so much is changing.

T-Bones Records & Cafe, a popular haunt for Hattiesburg residents.

Looking towards the old part of Downtown Hattiesburg.

Hattiesburg Amtrak Station.

To many, Hattiesburg, Mississippi may just be another small town on the way to New Orleans, but to me every visit back to the ‘burg offers something new. It feels good to be here, and I know I’ll always have a good time when I visit. Never change, Hattiesburg. But keep on changing.

Cover Image Credit: Arik Shams

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To The Girl Who Hasn't Been Herself Lately

Your spark return, and you will shine like you were meant to.
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Life gets tough. Life gets too much to handle sometimes, and those times make you stronger. However, right now, it seems like you have lost yourself.

It’s difficult when you catch yourself not being you. When you do something or act a certain way and just wonder, “what did I do to deserve this? Why is this happening? When will it get better?” The way you’re feeling is not so much that you’re unhappy, you just feel weird.

Your day will come. I promise you. This is just a phase.

The day you realize how much you have grown from this point in time will be your reward. It is so hard to see now, and I feel your pain.

Your light will return to you. Your pure bliss moments, they are seeking you. Your laughter where your tummy aches is in your reach.

Our moods change far too often for us as humans to understand why, but the encounters you make every day have this effect on us.

You must remember the pure happiness you experienced before your first heartbreak, before the first friend became someone you thought they weren’t, before you lost your innocence. That was a time of true joy as you had not a care in the world for the things that would harm you. Better yet, you didn’t have the option to experience them because you were just a child.

The world can be an ugly place, and your attitude towards life can change every day. One thing is for certain: you did not lose who you are internally. We all put on a face for the world. For the people who we try to impress. For the life we want to live. For the things we want to achieve.

Your definitive personality is still in the works. Believe it or not, it always will be. Times like this change us for the better even though we can’t see it.

Your happiness will return. You will be a better, stronger version of you. In fact, you will be the best version of you yet.

Once this phase is over, you will be okay. This I promise you.

Cover Image Credit: Megan Sutton

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Host Families Are The Best When Going Abroad

Host families will get you closer to language, culture, food and fun!

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Have you ever thought about going abroad? Or maybe you've already decided to go and are dealing with all the paperwork right now? There are so many options to explore a different culture and various perspectives on life. You can go abroad and study at a foreign university. If you're not interested in studying, you can apply for a job and gain first working experience abroad. Also, you can do an internship in a different country, or work as a volunteer in a help organization. So many options. But they have one thing in common: A host family.

A host family is a family who takes in young people, who left their country to work or study abroad, for a certain time. Obviously, a host family is not a must. If you don't feel it, you can rent an apartment and that's totally fine. However, I would like to tell you today why I think a host family is one of the best things while going abroad.

First of all, you learn the foreign language a lot better. I mean, that's one of the reasons for going abroad, right? You want to improve that language you've been studying at home. And there is no better way than to speak it every day with native speakers. And that's what your host family offers you. Living together, communication is a necessity, and thus the best motivation to improve your language skills!

Second, when living with a host family you get to try the traditional dishes of the country. In my opinion, the cuisine is a very important part of a country's culture. It's thus a huge difference if you go abroad and keep on cooking your stuff from home, or whether you experience a new culture through their nutrition. Take the chance and get to know new recipes, new spices, and new dishes. It's so exciting!

Third, a host family is the best place to get to know the culture of a foreign country. You'll learn all about their holidays, celebrations and traditions not simply by listening about them but by living them! Your host parents will make you part of the preparations and you get to ask questions throughout the whole experience. There is no better option to get to learn about a culture!

Forth, and probably the most important one, a host family is a trusted friend in a foreign world. When you're leaving home you expect everything in the new country to work as easy and usual as you know it from back home. But that is often not the case. And very often you're ending up in a chaos of opening bank accounts, applying for new phone numbers, looking for apartments, figuring out a hundred things for your studies, … all by your own. A host family is there for you if you need help and assists you during your first days, weeks, sometimes even months of your stay abroad.

If you want to apply for a semester or internship abroad and didn't consider a host family at all, do it now. Those of you who already have been through the experience of going abroad and living with a host family know what I'm talking about. I definitely can say that my host families became friends for life and I'm infinitely grateful for the help and warmth they offered me.

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