Voices of Oxford
What does Oxford mean to you?
What are the challenges of living in Oxford?
What are the biggest benefits to living in Oxford?
I personally identify as an Alabamian and choosing to come to school in Mississippi was an interesting choice in my family. I do recognize that my experiences in Oxford are only based on the four short year that I have been here (and only in nine month segments at a time). As a student life in Oxford is different and while papers and class can be overwhelming in the end I go home to a different state. That does not, as I am often reminded, mean that what I do and what happen in Mississippi does not affect me or vice versa.
To me Oxford is primarily the town outside of the University bubble. When I think of Oxford I picture the community of people that have been here since before I was born. I think Oxford is a tight-knit community that has been permeated by the university on almost every level and as a student those are the parts that I am most familiar. Primary and secondary schools here in Oxford are some of the best in the state and, from the outside looking in, I would say that is a direct result of the Oxford community attracted by the University. On the other hand, this is Mississippi and there are poverty and other challenges here too.
The challenges of the area are not removed from the context of area history or regional commonality. Poverty, hunger, drugs, low socioeconomic mobility both in terms of class and geography are only a few of the problems faced by people in Oxford. I think that is why it is so important to capture the invisible Oxford, because the outside perception, at least for me, was of a thriving university community with wealthy benefactors. There is a lot of truth to that perception; however, it does not cover the Mississippians themselves as a whole. There is no one way to categorize an area that deals with racism, has such a wide variety of diversity, and contains individual of all backgrounds growing and succeeding in so many different ways.
The challenges that I have personally faced and witnessed in Oxford have mainly occurred from within the University, but so have the biggest benefits. The biggest benefit overall, for me, has been the range of experiences and people that I have been able to interact with at the University. College in general is where I believe many people have the benefit of experiencing diversity on a personal level and that is the biggest benefit of Oxford to me.
More specifically on Oxford as a place and space that I have occupied, I think that Oxford is both challenged and benefited by the small town size and the opportunities made available due to that size. For example, there is not a Target or a Michael's within forty-five miles of Oxford (which took some getting used to when I first became a student in 2013). The benefit of the town size has allowed many small businesses to flourish and, while your budget is going to have to grow a little, the comfort of having something unique is also worth experiencing. Networking and relationships within the community and at the University are another double-sided benefit. The community of Oxford both outside of and within the University are so connected it is hard to tell where one begins and the other ends. The amount of change, time, or challenges experienced in places like Oxford is directly correlated to the number of relationships fostered and nurtured. The ways in which that plays out in real life can be brutally harsh or wonderfully successful and because of the connections within the area references are never far out of reach.
- Martha Grace
Oxford is home. Oxford is where I created myself. Oxford has made me who I am.
Fresh out of high school at 18 when I thought I knew who I was and all I wanted in life, I moved 900 miles away from my roots in small-town Mechanicsville, Virginia. Boy, I was wrong but I invested in Oxford and Oxford invested in me. I’ve never regretted coming here but it’s a different than anything I could have expected.
I’ve only been in Oxford for three years and I’ve seen the challenges the town, and even the state, battle every day. I’ve heard people joke about “Well, Mississippi’s always the best at being last.” The state ranks poorly across the board: education, healthy living, economics, you name it. Oxford and Mississippi make national headlines regularly for “never moving on from a battle that was lost,” and sometimes it does feel like that. Equality in race, ethnicity, or gender is even close to being achieved.
Most recently, I’ve seen the economic struggle. I’ve been to town meetings and read newspaper clippings on how people’s houses are being ripped from under them because of the lack of affordable housing… the lack of affordable living in general, really.
At the same time, I’ve heard and read so many success stories of people moving here to begin new businesses or how we’re a thriving place for artists of all sorts. There is no denying Oxford’s got a charm.
This town will always be home but it’s not the same Oxford it was when I arrived in 2014 and it won’t be the same Oxford it is now when I depart in 2018. This town is an ever-changing place and that can be a scary thing if we let it be, but it can also be the best thing to ever happen.
The future is bright, though. There’s no way it isn’t. Locals who have been here all of their lives and people from across the nation alike are invested in making Oxford better. Locals may think very differently than students who are only here four (or maybe five six years…) about what should be done or how things should be handled but both groups genuinely care. I hope to see the day when the locals and students make it a goal to work together and make Oxford the best possible place it can be for everyone. I do think that day will come.
It took a long time to write the history that came before us and it will take a long time to write the history that is happening now, but nonetheless it is being written and I hope Oxford falls on a side it’s proud of.