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#HonorsProblems

#HonorsProblems: The Kindness of Strangers and Other Nice Sentiments for Finals Season

The following blog post was written by Peer Advisor Tori, an ESIA senior studying international affairs and applied ethics.

“You speak English like Americans; may I ask where you’re from?” After a long day of travel plagued by poorly planned logistics, my friend and I had just ordered our first meal in Malta when the elderly couple sitting at the table next to us asked the dreaded question. Having just finished a semester studying in England and, thus, painfully aware of our Americanisms, we answered with a “yes, how could you tell?” and a smile. They had just finished dessert but appeared to have taken an interest in us.

My friend and I explained that we were both Americans but met while studying abroad. The woman, Charmaine, and her husband, Nick, immediately proceeded to ask us all sorts of questions: Why England? What did you study? What brought you to Malta? How long will you be visiting?

This conversation lasted two more hours. We answered their questions and, as soon as they realized that we were willing to engage with “boring old people,” they opened up to us immediately. Charmaine was Maltese and grew up in Malta; she moved to New York City as a teenager and met Nick, a Long Island native, a few years later. They had been happily married for decades and, now retired, spend nine months of the year in Malta and three months Maine. They were very excited that we had decided to visit Malta and wanted us to have the best experience possible in our limited time there. After spending 45 minutes writing notes and outlining must-see places on a small map, Charmaine asked where we would be going the next day. My friend and I didn’t have a set plan. The next thing I knew, Charmaine and Nick offered to pick us up the next morning and drive us around to their favorite spots in Malta. My friend and I were absolutely astounded by their kindness and enthusiasm, so we agreed.

The next morning, Nick and Charmaine pulled up to our AirBnB in their tiny black convertible, palpably excited to share the island they loved so much. We took every scenic route we could, and Nick and Charmaine told stories of Maltese history, culture, language, family, love, loss, and life. Throughout the day, we hiked to ancient ruins, ate fresh strawberries on an oceanside cliff, saw places where Game of Thrones season 1 was filmed, and ate cake inside an old fortress overlooking the sea. When the afternoon was coming to a close, Nick and Charmaine invited us into their home for dinner and dessert, and we continued to chat. Feeling fulfilled and thankful, my friend and I were exhausted; Nick and Charmaine were exhilarated.

Absolutely touched by their kindness, Laurel and I gave them a card and expressed our endless gratitude for an incredible day. Before we left, Charmaine pulled me aside and told me that our day had meant as much to them as it had to us: “we both had surgery a few months ago, and we were feeling pessimistic about our ages. We were retreating. You showed us that we still have a lot of life left to live, and for that we will always be grateful.” When Nick dropped us off back at our AirBnB, he left us with a challenge: “I hope someday when you’re old farts like us, you’ll see some young travelers and treat them the same way we treated you. Think of us; we’ll be there with you.” And with that, our first full day in Malta was complete.

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Sometimes people enter your life when you least expect it. Everybody is struggling through their own personal battles, but everybody has something to share. If you’re feeling like deadlines are approaching but your grasp on what needs to get done is slipping away, remember that this too shall pass and that good things are coming your way. It’s easy to get caught up in the stress and deadlines of Finals Season without remembering that it’s also the Holiday Season. Remember to embrace each day this holiday season, and try to live each day fully. Nick and Charmaine would be proud.

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