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Ah, Spring!

The ruffled skirts of Indian Summer have been swapped for stained, days-old running pants.

You have to stand on the bus at 6 p.m. because three pillows and a rolled-up sleeping pad took the last seat.

Shooters is so jam packed with drunk freshman girls during bid week that you don't even care that they're drunk freshman girls anymore--you just want to get out.

It must be spring semester. For those of you who're still feeling bouncy and energized at the prospect of being back, think about all the things you were planning to get done over break, when you finally would have the time. Now think how much of that you actually got accomplished. Doesn't bode well for this coming semester, does it?

Spring brings lots of new sights and sounds to campus, but by far my favorite new characters are the 'study-abroad-changed-my-life' people. A few upstarts arrive in the fall, but the real swarm shows up in early January. Dealing with these guys is one of the rites of passage in the American educational system. You have a friend who told you last Spring that they'd been accepted for study in Meck-suh-co for the coming fall, but then they come back from May-hee-koh foaming at the mouth about how the people in their residencia are like their second family and they went there not knowing a word of the language but now they're totally fluent and they even had a dream about it last night that was all in Spanish let them tell you.

The only thing worse than listening to someone talk about their boring dream is listening to them talk about their boring dream that shows how knowledgeable and cultured they've become.

Now I don't mean any offense to the helpful people over at the Office of Study Abroad--I did the Barcelona thing and the New York thing. (Yes, New York counts as study abroad because New Yorkers belong to a foreign culture. In their culture, I learned, social hierarchy is determined by a combination of the amount of black you wear and the number of holes you poke into yourself in painful places.) They were both great, but now that I'm back I promise you two things:

1.) You will never find a decent spot in the Blue Zone again.

2.) I will not bore you with stories of my travels unless they include extreme intoxication, explosions or intercultural relations, if you get my drift.

Too many people who spend time outside of this country think it gives them license to wax philosophical about life here in the states, or even life in general. The sorts of things that these people learn during their time in other countries are so shockingly simple and obvious that you, as the listening audience, are supposed to be tricked into thinking these lessons must be very, very deep. Most of these parables run along the lines of: 'Huddling for warmth under the rotting planks of an abandoned wharf in Guyana made me realize just how lucky we Americans are.'

I guess when I hear this sort of story I'm supposed to be nodding and realizing how lucky we Americans are, too, but the reality is that I've known how lucky we were for a long time. Instead, it gets me thinking about what kind of people need to be sent to another country and made to squat under a dock just to realize that we have it good. It also makes me wonder if these people could continue to learn simple and heart-warming lessons for the rest of their lives if we let them stay outside our country permanently. I don't think it would be morally defensible to deprive them of that, do you?

John Miller is a Trinity junior. His column appears every other Wednesday.


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