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Study in Mississippi

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This soulful southern state has a rich cultural history, and in fact markets itself as 'the birthplace of America’s music’.

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It's certainly true that Mississippi has produced many seminal musicians, among them B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Elvis Presley and Robert Johnson, who famously claimed to have sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads in exchange for his guitar skills.

Then, of course, there’s the Mississippi Delta Blues, a genre thought to originate in the singing of the plantation labourers working along the river banks, and which helped to shape the course of popular music in the 20th century.

The state is also the home of William Faulkner, one of the most important writers in Southern literature, and Mississippi provides the model for the fictional Yukattawa Country in which Faulkner’s most famous works are set.

And – covering all the cultural bases – Mississippi is also the birthplace of Tennessee Williams, one of the greatest playwrights of the 20th century, whose Pulitzer prize-winning works A Streetcar Named Desire (1948) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955) are still enjoyed by audiences around the world.

Today, many of those who visit Mississippi do so in order to explore the land that produced all these great musicians and writers, who have played such major roles in the development and representation of American identity and culture.

The state, like much of the US, also offers a host of outdoor activities, including hiking, cycling, horse riding, boating, waterskiing, fishing, and (a more modern innovation) ‘geocaching’ – basically an international game of hide and seek, in which players use GPS to track down hidden containers, whose location is posted on the internet.

Mississippi: Fast facts

• Located in southern US, borders with Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Gulf of Mexico

• The popular National Geographic magazine is printed in Corinth, Mississippi

• Famous people from Mississippi include chat show host Oprah Winfrey, singer LeAnn Rimes and novelist Richard Ford

• In a 2012 survey, Mississippi was named the ‘most religious state’ (Vermont and New Hampshire were least religious)

• In state capital Jackson, average winter temperature is 48°F (9°C); average summer temperature is 81°F (27°C)

Top universities in Mississippi

The University of Mississippi, popularly known as ‘Ole Miss’, has its main campus in Oxford, a city in Lafayette County. As of the 2011/12 academic year, the university had 20,844 students enrolled, of which more than two thirds were from within the state.

While not as internationally well-known as its UK namesake, Mississippi's Oxford certainly does not disappoint. It is consistently ranked highly in surveys and polls designed to identify the best college towns in the US, thanks to its southern charm, hospitality, rich cultural heritage and lively music scene.

In addition, Ole Miss students are known for being passionate about sports - even by US standards. Known as the Ole Miss Rebels, major college sports team include American football, baseball and basketball.

Mississippi State University (MSU) is located in and around the town of Starkville. Its student community is roughly the same size as that at Ole Miss; as of the 2011/12 academic year, 20,424 students were enrolled.

The most popular majors taken at MSU are in arts and sciences subjects, followed by education, engineering and business. Other subject areas offered include agriculture and life sciences, architecture, forest resources and veterinary medicine.

More states known for musical heritage:

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Written by QS Staff Writer

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