Wednesday, August 8, 2012
When I first arrived in Jackson two years ago to attend Millsaps College, I wasn't fortunate enough to know what Jackson had to offer. I had stepped out of my hometown of Tuscaloosa, Ala., and into what we on campus call the "Millsaps bubble."
Being inside the bubble is all about college--the friends you make, the classes you take, the teachers and the social scene. That first year is crucial to new students as they adapt to their new school and surroundings. Breaking through the bubble and getting to know Jackson is just as important. Stepping outside your basic comfort zones offers important new experiences.
When I chose Jackson as my new home, the first thing I heard about was how unsafe it is. Everyone from my grandparents to random strangers were telling me to be careful, and most of them had never even visited Jackson. The negativity didn't end there: Once I got to school, upperclassmen said it was unsafe, and even more people told me there was nothing to do. Talk about a deterrent to keep me from trying to branch out. I wouldn't have known where to start if I tried.
I still have those preconceived notions when I decided to spend my summer in Jackson for an internship here at the Jackson Free Press. I remember thinking the second I moved into my apartment, "What am I going to do all summer?" I figured I would get a lot of reading done.
My summer internship has not only taught me about myself as a writer, but it's taken those negative notions about Jackson as a boring, unsafe city and blown them to pieces. Excuse my geek-out moment, but Jackson is great!
During my internship I was able to meet an amazing group of people, not only in the office, but during interviews as well. Our intern class was incredibly diverse and large, with 17 editorial interns, and it worked. Most of the interns were Jackson natives, so they knew their way around the city much better than I did. Which leads me to the first and most important thing I learned here: As a journalist, and a new person to the city, it's important to get out there.
Sounds obvious, right? You would think so, but not many people are willing to go exploring, especially in a city with a "reputation." We were encouraged to get to know our city, because you cannot write about something you've never seen. Over the summer, I've shared some amazing experiences with my fellow interns, including putting together this entire issue. I conquered a fear of heights while exploring Mississippi from a hot-air balloon, listened to talented musicians and visited many of the museums Jackson has to offer.
The second thing I learned from my internship is to be fully present. In an interview, being present is crucial; you have to actively pay attention and engage in conversation to get a good story. It's the same with going out in a new city. Be present; be actively engaged in whatever you are doing. In a new town, that can only lead to great experiences and introduce you to new and exciting people.
Putting these learned experiences together are the most important part. Jackson has a wide net of culturally diverse opportunities. Stepping out of your bubble is just the first step to experiencing everything this city has to offer. Whether it's the Mal's St. Paddy's parade, the rodeo, a new museum exhibit or a band passing through town, the city of Jackson is constantly offering something interesting.
Our annual Jackpedia issue is generally dedicated to welcoming newbies, especially students, into our city. Throughout its pages, you can find helpful advice for being in a new town, the cheapest places to eat and a variety of great events to look forward to. We boast about the best things our city has to offer here, which, contrary to popular belief, is a great deal of exciting options, far more than we have room for in this edition (so visit Jackpedia.com for many more ideas, and add your own!)
Now that summer is over, I constantly get asked the slightly sarcastic question, "How was your summer in Jackson?" The satisfaction comes when I can seriously tell people that I had a great time here over my summer break. Whether or not they believe me, I know that if you get out there and venture past your comfort zone--whether it's your school's campus or your own bubble--you can have really great experiences. Try it.
Victoria Sherwood was an intern-editor of this issue. She studies communications at Millsaps College, enjoys watching soccer and hopes to one day own a huge orange cat.