Oxford Stories: Some Out-of-State Students Experience Culture Shock In Oxford

The Lyceum on the Ole Miss Campus. Photo by Walter Lyle

Every year, students come to the University of Mississippi from out of state. Some come from bordering states, while others come from different ends of the United States.

For most out of state students, this is their first time ever living in Mississippi, and it can feel different than their respective home states. A couple of students offered insight about what it’s like adjusting to life in Mississippi.

Kira Bettineschi, a UM sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in sports broadcasting, is from Island Park, New York. She always wanted to go to a “big school up North,” but things changed when her older sister went to college.

About four years ago, Tonya, Bettineshi’s older sister, had not decided where she was going to college. Tonya’s mother was pressing her to apply to as many colleges as she could.

While watching “The Blind Side,” Tonya joked that she was applying to Ole Miss. Tonya later enrolled at Ole Miss, and Bettineshi soon followed.

“I’m basically here because of Tonya and ‘The Blind Side,’” Bettineshi said. When she visited, she fell in love with Oxford and Ole Miss.

“For me, coming here (Oxford) was kind of a culture shock,” Bettineshi said. “One thing I’ve noticed is that when people greet each other here, they normally hug. Where I’m from, we normally greet by giving a light kiss on the cheek. I have actually had some awkward moments with people when they try to give me a hug, while I’m just trying to give them a peck on the cheek.”

Another culture difference between Mississippi and New York that Bettineshi pointed to was the ways younger people address adults.

“Down here, everyone says sir and ma’am,” she said. “That’s really not a thing in New York.” In fact, some people from New York view being called ma’am as an insult.

The word “y’all” also took getting used to. “The word y’all,” she said. “I’m still not used to that word, honestly. I’ve actually caught myself saying it a couple times, and it just doesn’t feel right.”

Bettineshi said the biggest noticeable difference between Mississippi and New York is football culture in the South.

“Football here is just everything,” she said. “High school football here is bigger than college football was in New York.”

Bettineshi said she was surprised to find out no one really watches hockey at all. “I knew it wouldn’t be the most popular sport, but no one really watches it at all down here,” she said. “Coming from a place where hockey is probably the most popular sport, it’s weird to have nobody else be as passionate about it as I am.”

Despite the differences, Bettineshi said she still loves Oxford and does not regret coming to Ole Miss.

Mike Bitetto, 20, from Island Park, New York, is a sophomore UM computer science major. Bitetto chose to attend Ole Miss because of the intense college football atmosphere.

“The football atmosphere drew my attention to the South,” he said, “and then once I visited, I loved it. In New York, we don’t have football like the SEC does.”

Bitetto said there are a few things he misses about Island Park.

“Probably the thing I miss the most is actually the food,” he said, “especially the pizza. There’s nowhere down here where you can go and just order a slice. The only ‘homemade’ pizza I’ve had in Mississippi isn’t even close to pizza back home. We’ve got Papa John’s back home too, but that it is not real pizza.”

Much like Bettineschi, Bitetto said he was not used to hearing people say “sir” and “ma’am.” He’s noticed other small differences.

“I’ve never seen the Confederate flag flown before (in New York),” he said. “Down here, I’ve definitely seen it a few times.”

Bitteto said he doesn’t think people in Island Park smoke cigarettes as much as they do in Oxford.

“There’s a lot of little things that are different than back home,” he said. “Even the accents are sort of a mini culture shock within themselves.”

Although there are some distinct differences between Oxford and other towns, Bitetto said: “I couldn’t imagine not going to Ole Miss now. I love this place.”


By Jack Newsome. This story was originally published on OxfordStories.net before the end of the 2016-17 school year. 

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