Today, my little sister moves into her new residence for her first university year. Our parents will be helping with the move, and I know it will be a difficult day for them all. I wish I was there to help.
I remember so clearly how hard the goodbyes were when I first came to university five Januaries ago. I remember anxiety, and begging them to take me home. And I remember them wisely advising that it would get easier. As much as they wanted to take me home with them, they knew that it was neither the healthy nor the educated decision. I have faith that while the goodbyes will be equally hard this time around, my sister will feel more welcome than I did.
We humans have the propensity to want to “initiate” the newbies; the young’uns. As if they are not fully human until they have been humiliated, until they have suffered. Somewhere along the line, the phrases “it will make you stronger” and “it will make you bond” became acceptable reasons for making it difficult for newbies to feel welcome in a new setting. We know that suffering makes us stronger, but that does not mean that it is a prerequisite for entry to honoured situations. Especially not when such “traditions” have the potential for destruction. Not when they have the potential to make a young person, fresh out of school, feel utterly unwelcome in what is meant to be their new home.
Maybe we’re jealous. Maybe seeing these young students, children really, reminds us of who we were… and of who we no longer are. There is no doubt that even a year out of school disillusions us. We go from children with big hearts and big plans to change the world to – well, to somewhat more adult, and less certain that we can change the world.
Maybe it angers us that they can still have this childlike desire to change the world.
Well, you know what? Yesterday I had lunch with the His Grace, the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu (more about that later) and he said that his biggest dream was that we would not lose our idealism, that we would not stop believing that the world can be changed and saved and helped.
I like to think that believing it is possible is the first step. I like to think that if these kids continue to believe they can change the world, then they will. And I see that spark in my little sister, and if ANYBODY puts that spark out and takes away her enthusiasm, they will have me to contend with. I will be back soon enough.
Maybe it’s a little irritating to see those who are young and excited and uninitiated. But maybe the problem lies with us and not with them. My biggest concern about coming on Semester at Sea was that I would not be there for the first steps of my little sister’s university career. But I know that even though she is a baby to me, she is a strong young woman and that she will make that beautiful campus her own.
I know that a lot has changed since I was the wide-eyed and bushy-tailed first year, and I have faith that student leaders of my university – while I am not there to look after her myself – will make my baby sister, and all her fellow first years, feel most welcome in the City of Oaks.
Here’s to the newbies, the uninitiated. May they keep us inspired.