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.

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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9 Things To Do When You Travel On A Plane

Are plane rides boring? Here are some ways to make it fun!

I hope everyone that was traveling to see family and friends made it to the destination and home safely. This article is an advice article for people that may not be frequent flyers and need some ideas for keeping yourself occupied.

1. Read a Newspaper

Often times I see men reading newspapers like the wall street journal to pass the time on a long flight. If you are used to reading the newspaper all of the time then make sure you bring a newspaper on the plane with you to keep yourself up to date on what is going on at home while you are away.

2. Listen to music

If you have an iPhone then buy some songs on iTunes and then you can listen to music even if the phone is on airplane mode. If not then I would recommend paying for Wi-Fi on the plane to allow you to listen to music on any apps.

3. Read a book

Download some books to your phone or bring a paper copy along and this could keep you busy for the entire flight. It's really nice to use your imagination when there is nothing else to do.

4. Play games on a mobile device

This might sound crazy but some game applications on your phone work on airplane mode too. My sister and I tried to play games like homescapes and gardenscapes and when it was loading we were like it's not going to load and then it did.

5. Take a nap

Napping passes the time really fast and when you wake up you are like this amount of time has passed already? Sometimes it is good to take a nap on the plane if you have a layover somewhere for a short period of time. I know the first time I was traveling with a layover I got sick on the second flight because of the up and down. I ended up falling asleep for a half hour and felt way better when I woke up.

6. Talk to the people around you

This sounds really weird and I am not saying to talk to them for the whole flight but sometimes you could have a really nice person next to you. One time when my sister and I were traveling together we had a CPA sitting next to us and we talked to him for a few minutes about our college majors and where we go to school.

7. Watch movies

Some airlines offer movies on the flights and sometimes you have to find ways to stream netflix on a device. If you are traveling with young people it is a great idea to have a plan for movies that they can watch so that they stay quiet.

8. Look out the window

The view can be really nice if you are traveling during the day because you can see the clouds if there are some in the sky.

9. Take pictures

Whether you are traveling alone or with other people, there is always time for pictures. If you are in the window seat make sure to take pictures of the view because different angles make for amazing pictures.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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A Thank You To The Exchange Students Who Changed My Life

It's the simplest things in life that give us the most joy.

With a leap of faith, an incredibly nervous Kristen set out on a journey to change up her pace of life and to meet someone new. A “why not?” question followed by an “are you sure?” question from my mother trailed my every move. My application, along with a hideous school photo, was sent with others to our partner school, Albert Einstein Gymnasium (their version of high school).

I had no idea that two people would change my life.

My first exchange student, Charly, was incredible. She was ambitious, kind, thankful, and bubbly with life. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I hosted Charly. I just simply thought about what I would want to see if I weren’t from here. I mean, there isn’t much to see when you live in the suburbs, but we made it work.

Charly shadowed me throughout my school day, just like an ordinary student. She was able to participate in class, and stunned my math class with her knowledge; (she got the highest score on our math quiz!). Charly spoke to multiple classes about Germany, so she was definitely busy.

Charly and I often ventured to the mall. We spent hours roaming the mall visiting Walmart and buying shoes from shoe outlets and “quality” jeans from American Eagle. I didn’t understand why these jeans were considered “quality” until Charly explained that jeans in Europe were very weak and ripped easily; thank God we bought her jeans that day, since her pair ripped when we got home!

We also traveled to the beach, also known as the Jersey Shore. She was so excited and amazed, since Germany did not have open beaches like we do. We walked the board walk and visited touristy shops, taking so many pictures along the way.

When Charly left, I was heartbroken. She made life exciting and interesting, it felt empty without her. I would end up going to stay with her in Germany that summer, but that’s a story for a different day.

Two years later, I convinced myself to host again. Showing my little slice of the world was really enlightening and fun. I didn’t want to break Charly’s heart –she will always be my exchange student. But it wouldn’t hurt to help another student see and experience America like Charly did. I went through the same application process, and Julia arrived the following spring.

Julia was also very kind and always asked if there was anything she could do for us, even though she knew the answer would always be “no”. She was always looking to do something, whether it was sitting on the couch watching America’s Next Top Model or doing homework together. We just enjoyed each other’s company. Julia loved to listen to music and showed me some great German artists that I still listen to today.

We traveled to school and hopped class to class. She bonded with my school friends and learned the art of eating in class, since I had a late lunch. She played soccer in Germany, so I snuck her into a gym class to play; she killed it, by the way. I showed her my little piece of the world and all the people in it.

We explored Walmart, where I had to explain the concept of marketing and why Americans insist on buying more than they actually need. Whenever I go to Walmart now, I always Snapchat Julia a picture of the logo to make her laugh.

I also took Julia to the beach, but it was very cold and very windy that day. We were both bundled up in sweatshirts and long socks. We tried to take a jumping photo, which proved very difficult in the wind! Despite the weather, that was one of the best days we had together.

When it was time for Julia to go home, I cried so hard. We were so distraught, unsure of when we would see each other again. When we finally had to let go, we parted with the memories and the hopes of returning to each other.

Reflecting back on my experiences hosting exchange students, they practically lit up my world. They both taught me something different. Charly taught me to always be thankful and to laugh at my mistakes and to just roll with life. Julia taught me to jump at life’s opportunities and support and love those close to you. But together, they showed me that the little things in life are truly wonderful.

Charly and Julia made me realize that though I may not realize it, America is truly unlike any other country. Even after recognizing the benefits of living in America, I still long to go to Germany now more than ever. I plan to travel to Germany in my junior year of college and visit both Julia and Charly.

Charly and Julia, you are no longer my exchange students –your’re my deutsche Schwestern (German sisters) and you always will be. I love you both with every bit of my heart and wouldn’t trade our time together for the world. It’s incredible how much you taught me about myself and life in general in such little time. I constantly dream of the day I can see you both in person.

Every little thing reminds me of our time together –Poptarts, hibachi, Chickie and Pete’s, Family Feud, ANTM, the beach, New York, even the high school! Though you have left, there are still pieces of you here.

I can never thank you enough for the impact you have left on my and my family’s life. I could not have asked for better exchange students –better friends –than you two.

No matter how many miles, kilometers, or hours separate us, I will always be there for you.

All my love,

Deine Amerikanische Schwester

(Your American sister)


Cover Image Credit: Kristen McBride

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