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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Meet The College Student Who Took A Solo Road Trip Across The United States

With only a cooler, a bag of electronics, and a bag of clothes, Alex Kim embarked on the trip of a lifetime.

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Not many college students can say that they've taken a road trip across the United States. Even fewer can say that they've gone on that journey alone.

However, Alex Kim can say that within one month, he drove from the east coast to the west coast of the United States by himself. And he made sure to hit all the major attractions on the way.

You name it — the White House, Cloud Gate, the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, and Yosemite — Kim has been to all those places.

Kim is currently a senior at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, majoring in religious studies with a minor in human rights. He plans to attend law school in the fall of 2019. So, he knew that if he wanted to take a trip across the states, the summer of 2018 would be the perfect time.

Courtesy of Alex Kim

I had the opportunity to meet Kim when he briefly stopped by Lawrence, Kansas, near the final stretch of his journey. When he told me about his trip, I was baffled, intrigued, and impressed all at once.

To take a long road trip with friends is one thing, but to take a month-long road trip by himself is an entirely different story.

Kim said he simply wanted to meet people. He had the opportunity to meet other brothers in his fraternity, Pi Alpha Phi, and made quite a few friends (myself included!) on the way. He also visited family friends and people that he knew through Greek life.

Besides meeting people, this trip also consisted mostly of driving an 6-8 hours per day, listening to educational podcasts, and traveling to national parks, monuments, and memorials. He even bought along a burner and pot to cook ramen noodles in the national parks. Kim called these meals his "ramen adventures."

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Kim said this trip was extremely of out of his comfort zone, but it helped that he went alone because he was able to set his own schedules, plan his own routes, and do everything at his own discretion.

When asked about why he decided to go alone, Kim said "Going with someone else means that I will spend way more money than I should… If I went with another person, I also have to cater sleeping accommodations as well."

There were many times where Kim simply slept in his car because he didn't know anyone in the area, or he didn't want to pay for a hotel or Airbnb. But he didn't have to sleep in his car the whole trip. Half the time, he had friends or family members who were willing to house him for a night or so.

In addition, going alone gave Kim a lot of time to reflect on his past and what's to come in his future.

"I can't tell you how many times I thought of what my next chapter of life will be," Kim said.

However, going alone also presented its fair share of obstacles. Some difficulties included bad weather, over exhaustion, too much caffeine, and lack of sleep and nutritious food. One of the biggest problems that he faced was loneliness.

Kim admitted that there were periods of time where he felt extremely lonely. When he knew that he wasn't going to see people for a while, he would call his parents in the morning to tell them where he had been and that he was doing well.

There was one instance where he was first traveling to a national park, Yellowstone Park, and he internally freaked out. For the most part, Kim heard nothing but complete radio silence because there was no reception. Kim said that he felt scared because he wasn't in control of his loneliness.

Aside from those challenges, Kim was glad to say that the road trip went well, and he didn't have any car trouble.

For him, some notable locations were New York City and Los Angeles. Kim didn't really go to L.A. for sightseeing, but rather to pay his respects to an old mentor who passed away. Even though he explored much of nature and national parks, he said that the most breathtaking view was not in fact at a national park, but at a family friend's farm in Harlington, Nebraska.

Courtesy of Alex Kim

"I never thought I would say this, but I really enjoyed the countryside in Nebraska. Being away from the city lights, it was very peaceful and quiet. The sunset was breathtaking," he said.

Overall, Kim approximated that he traveled across the United States for a grand total of 9,700 miles, and despite some challenges, he really enjoyed this trip. He met new and old people and witnessed stunning views that he wouldn't have seen back in North Carolina. As a lone traveler, Kim practiced humility and now sees the world with a fresh perspective.

Kim also learned many lessons along the way and here are six that he shared:

1. Learn to rely on yourself.

2. Sometimes it's good to play it by ear. You'll have the freedom to do so much more.

3. If you can't play it by ear, always have a contingency plan.

4. The people who constantly kept up with you throughout your whole trip are you true friends.

5. Get out of your comfort zone; learn to be versatile.

6. Take time to yourself to reflect on your past, make amends if possible, and plan out your future.

After his trip, Kim returned to North Carolina, taking with him all the experience and lessons he gained from his travels. Nowadays, he keeps busy by studying for the LSAT in September and working towards getting into law school.

But would Kim take this extraordinary road trip again if he could? Most definitely.

See more pictures from his trip below.


Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

All photos here are provided courtesy of Alex Kim.

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Born, Raised And Living In The South, But Never A 'True' Southerner

The cover photo is a picture of me milking a fake cow at Mayfield — the most/only "Southern" picture I have.

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I grew up way below the Mason-Dixon line and my family on both sides are from very small towns in South Carolina. I've lived in the suburbs outside of Atlanta, Georgia, and in the rural town of York, South Carolina. Now, I attend the University of South Carolina where Southern culture is still heavily present, despite living in the state's capital and a metropolitan area.

My family drinks sweet tea, goes hunting and says "y'all." Actually, my family never said "y'all" until moving back to South Carolina. I used to pick up a Southern twang every summer when I visited family in York that my friends in Buford, Georgia, loved to hear.

Yet, I don't define myself as a "Georgia peach" or a Southern belle.

I'm not truly immersed in Southern culture nor do I completely understand it.

1. Country Music

It makes me cringe. I never spent time listening to it and I have never liked it. I don't enjoy the slow beats and the heavy country accents. Beer is gross and my idea of a good time is not standing in a field drinking beer. I can't relate to the lyrics.

2. Monograms

I don't understand why girls feel the need to put their initials on everything they own. Are they planning to lose it? Moreover, why is the last name in the middle? It's totally out of order. It's practical to put on luggage, but not the whole backside of a T-shirt.

3. Cowboy Boots

They look extremely uncomfortable and are not the prettiest to look at no matter how they are customized. They were designed for riding horses, not to tailgate in while paired with a cute dress.

4. Southern Sayings That Mean The Total Opposite

"Bless your heart" does not actually mean someone is blessing your heart. Southerners truly know how to deliver a backhanded compliment and how to be spiteful while still acting sweet. They, additionally, love to call someone or something "different" when they don't agree with it or find it bizarre.

5. Small Towns

Everyone knows everything, meaning everyone knows exactly what you and your family members are up to at all times. You're known by who you are related to and vice-versa. You will always be so-and-so's child or so-and-so's grandchild or even so-and-so's distance cousin twice removed. And you're judged by your family members' actions, as well. You're stuck with the same people you grew up with and don't get to experience much outside of your hometown.

6. Southern Cooking

It can be yummy, but casseroles that can be served for every meal of the day? Really? Hash brown casserole, green bean casserole, breakfast casserole, sweet potato casserole… the options are endless. It's not very exciting to attend a potluck where each person has brought a variation of a casserole, even for dessert.

7. The Confederate Flag

I never want to flaunt a flag from a war that was lost and for a confederacy that was never achieved or recognized. Not to mention, it is very controversial and is offensive to some groups of people.

8. NASCAR

Racing sounds cool and exciting, but driving in a circle for hours straight does not. And for those who love it, they say the most interesting part is the crashes — which is only a hazard of the so-called sport.

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