My name's Maddie, I'm a British student who did a year abroad at the University of Southern Mississippi. August 2011-May 2012.

May-June I'm traveled around a bit

Here is the account I kept of it all, for the memories, my family and the people who get sent here randomly by a search engine. It was often typed quickly so the spelling, structure and grammar isn't always correct (sorry Mum).

To contact, leave a comment.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Ship Island, MS

So I returned and spent my last two weeks in Mississippi but they've been pretty fun filled, adventures have included
-Hitting golf balls across a large stretch of land (not playing golf, just whacking the balls. It's fun and as stress relieving as you'd expect)
-A quick trip to New Orleans
-Making beignets (I ate too many and think I'm beignet-ed out for a long time)
-Being all sophisticated and having a wine and cheese evening, complete with the Jazz music channel supplying smooth sounds. I actually drank white Zinfandel and sprite, as I have yet to develop a great taste for the ol' Merlot
-Watching Miss USA with scones+strawberry jam. The Americans enjoyed the scones a whole lot more than they did Pimms and Marmite
-Today (my last day) we're going to Landrum's Country, a small recreation of the Old South

A couple of weekends ago a group of us went to Ship Island, off the coast of Mississippi. I'd actually learnt about the place in my first semester when I took Mississippi History, as the island was used as a fortress back in the day when land was fought neck and limb for.

We took one of the two ferries that went out each day, it was a short journey and we saw dolphins and a lotta water. 

The beaches were sandy (and VERY hot, I felt like a cartoon character yelping as I tip-toed across the burning sand) ... we bought some kites with us and flew them in the slight breeze. Someone actually attached theirs to fishing rope and let it fly until no one could see it anymore... it took about an hour to reel in.

The when we arrived back in Gulfport, we went to the USM coastal part of campus and visited the FRIENDSHIP TREE!

all a bit beach-swept
So that's the end of my American adventure... I really have had the best time possible, met so many great people and am so glad I had such an amazing opportunity!

Thursday, 31 May 2012


I've been to Vegas once before and it is an extremely odd, intriguing and artificial place. A city that was founded by Mormons, constructed by mobsters, imports everything (even the tap water!), is devoted solely to unwholesome pleasures, has few laws and few locals, it is incredibly unnatural and it feels that way. I find the place fascinating and perhaps may use it as a cultural observation subject for my dissertation, but it is definitely not for everyone and I always feel uncomfortable seeing children there.

On this trip I had intended on seeing the other side of Las Vegas; visiting the Atomic Museum (as part of Vegas's small history; nuclear bomb testing took place nearby), the arts district, the Neon Graveyard (a lot where the massive broken neon signs are left) as well as a trip to the Grand Canyon... this isn't how it worked out.

It was a really early flight, 7am from Biloxi, where I had stayed a couple of days with my dear friend Jill and her lovely family. It was a very smooth flight, full of nap time. When I arrived and got the $2 bus to the hostel, some weirdo grabbed and ran off with my notepad... a notepad that had cost 50 cents at Walmart! While I appreciate that it wasn't anything valuable, I was annoyed mainly because I had written all my itinerary for the following weeks in it, including addresses, meaning I had to rely on the kindness of strangers in finding my hostel (it was only across a road but I got lost without knowing street names) I really am confused as to why anyone would steal a random notepad; maybe the street value of drugs has become incredibly low.. or someone mistook my identity?

Hostel Cat
My hostel was pretty cool. It was full of friendly people from all ages and walks of life but was also incredibly secure, which is all important when you're traveling alone. The neighbourhood was quite edgy; $10 tattoo parlors, Wedding chapels, adult stores, motels... it was in the art district so there were galleries and a Thai BBQ joint, creating an obscure balance.
I struck up a friendship with two girls in my room, Anna from Ukraine and Elaine from Australia, we all decided to explore the Strip together. Pretty much everything exists within the hotels that line the same stretch of road (they're so big they fit shopping malls, casinos and nightclubs inside) but they're all crazy, imitating Egypt, Paris, New York City, Venice, fairytale-ish castles... they're sugary, fake versions of each but fun.

Main sites we went to:
Circus Circus a 'circus' themed hotel, mainly aimed at families with a show taking place every fifteen minutes and arcade games for kids to enjoy/start 'em gambling young. We saw a group of acrobats from American Idol perform which was fun
Welcome to Vegas Sign a fifteen minute walk from where the bus will take you; you also have to jaywalk across the road to reach it which is dangerous and highly illegal- I'm not sure why they haven't created a crossing? It's pretty fun to see
The Luxor fake Egypt. Here we saw Cirque du Soleil Criss Angel show 'Believe' which was based around illusion and magic, there were some eyebrow raising tricks but I thought it seemed over-performed, poorly scripted and bit lackluster, I saw 'Love' the Beatles Cirque du Soleil show last time and was blown away. We also went to the Titanic Artifact exhibition which had items claimed from the wreckage in a recreation of the different cabins (One man cracked us up when he asked if the wooden stairs were actual set from the ship itself) I was surprised to discover how expensive the very cheapest ticket was in today's money- more than half an annual wage of a low income earner- I was taught something in Vegas!
Bellagio this is a rather fancy hotel which houses a botanical garden that looks like it has been dreamt up by a child, incredibly strange!

So... I had planned to continue spending time in Vegas, then in LA and NYC but I was sitting in the youth hostel watching Braveheart and thought, boy I miss the people & Hattiesburg- maybe it'd be best to do the travels with friends another time.. and so I returned back to Mississippi! But my adventures haven't ended just yet

I've uploaded further photographs on my Flickr

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Perdido Key, Florida

This week some American friends and I went camping on a beach in Florida. It was a national park so we had to walk a distance from where we parked the car and there were no facilities to use- pretty primitive! (And also tiring since we had to carry everything)

Perdido Key is a small island in Pensacola, we camped at Johnston Beach where the sand was white and the sea was clear and it was pretty close to the Naval Aviation base so we got to see the Blue Angels train every morning. There was heaps of wildlife
I saw
-a sea turtle
-a small shark
-hermit crabs
-fish jumping out of the water

The first time stingrays swam by us, only a couple felt/saw them, they screamed and ran out but the rest of us thought they were playing a prank and continued swimming. Later we saw around 35 swimming along the shore haha.

It was cool in the morning so I was stupidly lax about suncream and although I only went an hour before I started applying it, my face is red and really swollen, except where my sunglasses were, which has left me looking somewhat like a Thundercat. Unfortunately there was no shade so I think the lack of shelter made it a bit worse, but at least it'll fade!
look at the bird print next to my foot print :o

On the last night there was a sudden, large thunder storm that passed over us. Pretty scarey considering we were on a flat beach in a tent, after twenty minutes it had passed along and the sky above us was clear so we made a fire... it was really beautiful sitting under the stars, toasting marshmallows on the fire, seeing the sky around us lit up with great forks and clashes- felt rather mystical!

On the way home we went to the Naval Aviation Museum and saw lots of planes, blimps, space stuff and helicopters. I saw a bit of the moon, sat in some cockpits and stood in the Presidents helicopter (it was Pres. Nixon's/Fords, not the coolest presidents, but still a pretty swanky helicopter)

So overall it was a great little adventure!

Friday, 11 May 2012

As of Wednesday I'd officially completed my year as a USM student. Since then has been the mixture of
-relief that work is done
-frustration of packing, sorting things for third year abroad, making sure I'm organised etc
-stress of everything that comes with a year ending, let alone one abroad.

A friend took Anna and I shooting in the woods on Thursday, which was loud and not easy. I tried one shot and it blasted me backwards haha!

A lot of people have left or are leaving tomorrow, I've said many goodbyes in the past few years and I've fallen into the routine of sucking in all the emotion and just hugging someone as if I'll see them in a couple of months. Maybe it's the British in me not wishing to express any sort of feeling. It'll probably hit me at some point and I'll be a watery mess. But I am excited about my last year at Keele! But I have also started having nightmares about waitressing.

Looking forward: I don't return to England for a month and between then and now I am camping in Florida, going to Vegas, Los Angeles then finishing in New York... so a road of adventure.

Looking back: my year spent at Southern Miss has been beyond all my expectations. I've gained so much and changed in so many ways, I can't even begin to explain. In addition to learning a lot about myself and what I've been taught in classes, I've learnt a enormous amount about British culture and what it means to be Southern. Life in Mississippi has been great, interesting, weird... and I've gotten two different perspectives of college living on and off campus. I would strongly recommend studying abroad to anyone, it's the best opportunity I've ever had and something I will remember and talk about forever...

Some pictures of my favourite memories

Saturday, 5 May 2012

This week concluded my last ever class at USM which felt pretty emotional plus it's all getting stressful with finals and sorting stuff out so I'm quite exhausted all round.

Since my last update I have
Gone to a 'Crawfish Jam' (or crayfish if you're calling it by its non-southern name). Not as good as a crawfish boil where you pay a selected amount and eat as much as you like, but there was a fun cover band playing.

I went to a car show which was a bit rubbish but American. It was basically just a load of cars parked in a car park with their engines on show. Some were rather nice vintage automobiles, others were regular Honda's with flames painted on them...

 ....speaking of cars, someone entrusted me enough to drive (first time ever) around their car park. I was actually pretty good if I do say so myself.

Anna, Tanja and I went round an American friends house where we played with kittens and ate Southern food- beans, gumbo, cornbread mmmmm


My brother Joe and his gf Anna came visited me yesterday! It was really nice seeing them, I showed them round campus, downtown and Walmart (ha). We went in some strange doll shop that was creepy beyond belief and laughed at the odd . They've spent 2 weeks in the states and spend there last day here. Like me, they're both found people don't understand what they say easily, but then a lot of it is down to using British phrases such as "where abouts is this?"

So this week is my last week as a student at Southern Miss, although I don't have to technically enter a classroom here again (just essays to submit electronically) I've started taking books back (or leaving them in the library if the bookstore won't buy them back... I don't want to throw them out haha) it feels like I've been here for a long time but at the same time, it's gone by very quickly!

I'll probably do a summative post of everything later this week. Beyond the end of the semester and my return to England I have camping, Nevada, L.A and NYC to look forward to :D

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Ah the '4 weeks left of the semester' mark has passed, meaning a lot of work combined with the emotion of leaving :'( it's all getting busy and stressful!
I've booked the end part of my post-semester trip- LA and NYC.. I've even got tickets to a screening of Paper Moon presented by its director and Tootsie with Geena Davis introducing it- both shown in old Los Angeles theatres! As a film geek, this is very exciting for me.
But I still need to organize what to do the fortnight before...

So in addition to organising fun times there's been stuff a-happening.

For Easter my room mate Sybs and I donned our Sunday best, went to Church and cooked a Sunday lunch

my melted egg

This week also bought some other niceties- I'm being awarded the 'Ed Wheat American Studies Award'! There's a ceremony tomorrow/Wednesday (for people other than me, it's not that special) which is quite exciting- an award! For me! I've never been awarded anything much before.. except a medal of enthusiasm at a sports camp the parents sent me to one half term.

I rarely touch on the academic side of my year abroad but studying at Southern Miss has been a privilege- there are always interesting lectures available which I regret not having been able to take advantage of due to class clashes or deadlines. In the last weeks there have been a Supreme Judge given a discussion, a renown Psychologist visiting and there was a panel talk on The Help: really awesome opportunities. In my classes I have been fortunate to gain unique perspectives on my subjects. In Politics & Protests we've had people from outside given talks- such as a young women born in America who was moved to a Middle Eastern country and rebelled against the strict, sexist, corrupt rule by holding fashion shows which were deemed illegal (I did pay attention, I'm just being flaky on the details as I don't think I've got authority to publish them here), one of my post-grad classmates also worked for the Bush Administration during his election campaign, she's a noted liberal and involved in the Occupy movement so it's all very interesting and opening my mind- I'm learning a lot about the world. In Vietnam War we've had veterans speak and possibly may visit the nearby Camp Shelby to have an understanding of combat- all fantastic opportunities of education that I would not have necessarily gained in England.

Plus England is so tight with given people recognition- I'd never ever get praise in the form of an award there ;)

Thursday, 5 April 2012

I may have only heard of Hattiesburg once I was told I was coming here, and despite the fact it's a small town there's a surprising amount going on.

Last weekend hosted 'HubFest' where stalls were set up selling food, drink and miscellaneous items (including jellyfish in glass paper weights :/ ) and bands played. It was a really lovely sunny day and I had fun.

Eight Things I've Learnt This Week
  1. It's common in the south for people to call any soft drink a 'coke'
  2. Southerners also have a stronger allegiance to Coca-Cola over Pepsi due to the fact it comes from Georgia (though I imagine if you go to North Carolina this changes)
  3. Some swimming pools are salt water. I discovered this one thanks to Sybs splashing water at me whilst I was yapping away.
  4. The writer of Eddie Murphy films Coming to America and The Nutty Professor graduated from USM in 1972
  5. Cockroaches like hiding in cupboards and surprising European girls unfamiliar with them. Guys are no better at dealing with them then hysterical girls.
  6. USM has some really great study abroad programs. I've had two presentations in classes this week and they've managed to make me want to go to countries I've never had interest in haha 
  7. The reason American chocolate tastes so different is because it is made to have a higher melting point than European. Sybs and I discovered this through gifts we received (thanks to parents and grandparents)...all her Lindt bunnies look dead, then some investigation via google proved Hershey's is designed to stay solid longer. I'd rather have a wibbly wobbly Cadbury's bar
  8. American's, or at least a massive proportion on this campus, love Doctor Who. I'm not sure how they all discovered it but I think I've met more people who really love it here than I have back home. A crazy amount. Some with Doctor Who tattoos...