My name is Gaia and I was born in Lecco, Italy but have lived most of my life abroad. For my junior year of college I have embarked on a year abroad in warm Oxford, Mississippi after having spent my first 2 college years in rainy and cold Edinburgh, UK.
5 weeks in my study abroad at Ole Miss and I can officially say that it’s starting to feel normal to be here. Coming from the University of Edinburgh and having a background of international and american schools abroad I figured that it wasn’t going to be as much of a culture change for me as it would be for other exchange student. Sure, at first the transportation system really confused me (why do you always wait at the bus stop on the same side of the road irrespective of which direction you’re going?) but now I know every bus stop and every bus line and I’m getting used to the bus times as well. I always say that getting around in Oxford is probably the biggest difference from Europe, because we are more used to walking around or taking the underground, whereas here everyone and their dogs have their own cars and if you’re seen walking around drivers will look at you as if you’re some sort of healthy alien. Ole Miss is beautiful, the campus is a mixture between modernity and semi-historical building and the vibrant energy is so contagious, especially on game days. Game days have probably been my favourite, especially the very first one: Ole Miss vs. Wofford. Tailgating is something that you need to experience in order to understand. I never thought of myself as an expert in American football but i’ve finally learned the rules and it’s really fun to be as involved as everyone else, cheer and be genuinely happy when we score a touchdown and screech the Ole Miss song in a sea of 66,000 people of all ages. One last thing worth mentioning that really struck me upon my arrival and which continues to pleasantly surprise me is the Southern hospitality. I’ve lived all over the world in four different continents but I’ve never encountered a culture that is so welcoming and so willing to go out of their way to help a stranger in the street. I had always heard of the Southern hospitality but seriously sometimes it’s almost overwhelming in the best way. The way people are so ready to give you a ride to the supermarket, to give you their number in case you need anything, and ask you if you’re lost the second you look a bit puzzled is honestly so heart-warming. I hope to be learn from them in this respect, and bring that back home with me. I’m really looking forward to explore more of the Southern culture whilst I’m here: New Orleans, Nashville and Dallas are definitely on top of my list, and then eventually expand to the rest of the country. One thing is for sure, with the presidential election going on, it’s definitely the most exciting time for me to be in the US.