You see them all over campus. By Nassau Hall. Near the fountain. On the Street. Outside dining halls. Inside dining halls. Confusedly circling Forbes. No, I’m not talking about the savage rodent-beasts that occupy every crevice of this campus.
I’m talking about foreign tourists.
They hail from all over the world but all show up the same way: in a giant charter bus. As a Wilsonite, I must admit that I don’t encounter them quite as often as my Rocky and Mathey counterparts (the perks of living in an ugly building). But, as someone who has been approached by and confused for them, I can attest to the fact that they are indeed a plague.
Let’s face it: No one wants to see troves of starry-eyed foreign tourists frolicking around his or her home as if they just stumbled upon a new land with undiscovered riches. Not only do they blatantly trespass this sacred place in which we live, but they take pictures, too. What we fail to realize, however, is that foreign tourists are an essential aspect of the University, and we wouldn’t be here without them.
Yes, just like peanut butter and jelly, Batman and Robin and Bonnie and Clyde, Princeton and foreign tourists have a magical, symbiotic bond that truly transcends both time and space. In a place of soul-crushing grade deflation and elitist eating clubs, foreign tourists are an indispensable tool for boosting the ego and sense of self-worth of each and every Princeton student. Nothing can replace the fuzzy feeling you get from knowing that there are hordes of people around you who want their kids, or maybe even themselves, to be exactly like you.
Imagine, for a moment: You are headed toward Firestone with your backpack in tow and laptop in hand when you casually pass a group of enthusiastic foreign tourists snapping photos of John Witherspoon’s stone figure (“Is that George Washington?!”). As you stroll by in all your awesome Princeton-ness, they immediately lower their voices and cower at your sheer perfection. You hear them (but not really, because you don’t speak their language) murmur amongst themselves about how incredibly intelligent you must be and how infinitely superior you must be to their own children or grandchildren, or that couple they met at the supermarket’s children.
Okay, maybe that doesn’t actually happen, but then again, it probably does. We all want to be admired from time to time and, to be honest, around foreign tourists, I feel like a freaking god, and you should, too. Other than providing us with a well-deserved self-esteem boost every once in a while, foreign tourists are also responsible for building up the reputation of this fine institution.
Contrary to popular belief, foreign tourists actually have a purpose for coming here. How else do you think Princeton gets mad street cred all over the globe? Forget U.S. News & World Report and Forbes rankings, the real indicator of the prestige of a university is the number of foreigners that know about it. They hear about Princeton from newspapers, relatives and acquaintances back home, and they make the trip here to investigate whether Princeton really is a school fit for kings. Once they have taken a sufficient amount of selfies in front of the tiger statues, they bring their newfound knowledge of Princeton back to their hometowns. If a miner in China’s Qinghai province has heard of Princeton University, you know that school must be good.
So, don’t tell them to “go back to [insert country name]”. First of all, they might not even be from [insert country name]—they could be from [insert name of country that is similar to previous country], and you could be stereotyping for all you know. And their flight probably doesn’t leave for another week. The next time you encounter a foreign tourist, think twice before you roll your eyes and laugh surreptitiously at the fact that they’re taking pictures of blue light phones.
My advice for whenever you happen upon foreign tourists is simply to take the time to appreciate their existence and then move on with your life. Though, if you have a moment, go ahead and talk to them. Learn about them. Tell them that they’re on the wrong side of Nassau Hall. They might try to take a picture of you, so go ahead and strike a pose or two. Really, it’s not weird.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/10/18/31535/