Now that I’ve lived in Albania for the better part of two months, I don’t consider myself a tourist. Clerks at the grocery store speak to me in Albanian, waiters and baristas alike greet me with Albanian pleasantries, and the men who catcall us on the streets yell at us the same as all the other women. (Trying to find the positives here, guys. Getting catcalled still sucks.) So, when I see groups of people who are very obvious tourists—cargo shorts, cameras around their neck, backpacks stuffed full of souvenirs, you know the archetype—I get a little bit haughty. I find myself thinking things like: “Come on, guys, you can cross the street when the light is red, nobody cares.” and “Taking a selfie in front of the Skanderbeg statue? (see above) Never seen that one before.” And yeah, a few short weeks ago, that was me too. So, it’s pretty hypocritical of me to judge these people for enjoying Albania, especially considering I work for a tourist agency whose main purpose is to increase tourist travel to Albania…
There seems to be a conflict of interest here.
But my slight annoyance at these tourists invading my temporary home led me to thinking about the upcoming school year. I’m going to be a sophomore, and my status as a scared little freshman has thankfully been revoked. I’ve served my sentence and done my time, and now I’m free from the shackles of orientation, signing up for every club imaginable at FestiFall, and pulling the yellow cord to stop at CC Little. I’m experienced now! Yet, I’m worried that my sarcastic annoyance at the tourists here in Albania will transfer onto the rising freshmen coming to campus this fall. I’ve always thought of myself as a good leader, and a person who loves to help others. What am I going to do if my own preconceptions about the freshmen prevent me from potentially making their first year at the University of Michigan a great one? Now, it’s not like any particular upperclassman made or broke my freshman year, but I sure as heck don’t want to be one of those people who calls out the first years on the Diag for wearing their lanyards around their necks. I mean, we’re the leaders and best, shouldn’t we treat every member of our community with the respect they deserve, no matter their experience?
The point I’m trying to make to myself here is this: Do not let your experience in something get in the way of your ability to be kind towards others who are new to it. You cannot become an expert in something overnight; it will take time, and you’ll make a lot of mistakes along the way. (And that’s okay!!) With a bit of luck, however, you might meet some people along the way who will help you along. And whether they have a camera strap dangled around their neck, or a lanyard, they both deserve to be treated with kindness, empathy, and respect.
So, to the class of 2021, welcome to UofM, and Go Blue.