One morning, I was at Biggby Coffee on East Liberty Street working on a Spanish assignment. It was the midst of winter; most people ordered hot cocoa that morning to warm up. It was 9 o’clock in the morning — one of the most hectic times in an average American’s day. While I was stressing about my assignment that was due a few short hours later, I noticed a girl crying at the corner table of the coffee shop. She was sitting alone bundled up in her winter gear with her face nestled in her hands. As she was quietly whimpering, a middle-aged woman gently tapped the girl on the shoulder asking if she was all right. “Do you need a hug?” the woman asked. The girl accepted the offer, and they embraced for a few short moments as if they were mother and daughter. The woman lent the girl a few last consoling words and then took off for her day. A minute later the girl packed up her stuff and did the same. She wasn’t crying anymore. In fact, she walked out with a smile. It was in that moment I felt the world would be a better place if it were like Ann Arbor, Mich.

I thought about all the random things the city showcases that make me smile, like the violin-playing wolf. Or the guy that sits outside of the UGLi knee slapping and playing the harmonica. I learned last year that he’s actually a professor at the University. That fact alone makes me smile.

How about the fact that you can walk everywhere? Not only is it convenient for those of us who don’t have cars, but it also works off all of the unwanted calories, like the Amer’s frozen yogurt that we all so shamelessly indulge in. The city not only forces you to exercise when walking to places, but it also accommodates all kinds of fun and adventure. Take the Nichols Arboretum for example: the winding foothills and trails are a runner’s dream, where all the day‘s stress melts away. It’s even a great place for those who want to picnic in the fields away from the hustle and bustle of downtown. And if you’re lucky you might even be able to catch a Quidditch match or witness two lovers sneaking kisses on a romantic walk. It’s the hidden gem of the city that everyone can find a use for.

When you’re in the city, you may notice a variety of languages being spoken around you — you can hear everything from Mandarin to Greek, showing that Ann Arborites are exceptionally well-rounded and culturally aware. The worldly experience doesn’t end there. The city hosts multiple restaurants that serve various international cuisines. The best part is, it doesn’t eat away at your wallet. But if you are willing to splurge, Main Street is the place for you. The point is the options are limitless, and the beauty of Ann Arbor is you don’t have to go to Thailand to taste Thai food — you can do that just by walking a few blocks.

Also within walking distance are great shopping experiences for an entire family. From toy stores to sex shops, downtown Ann Arbor has it. It’s the perfect paradox exemplifying how conducive the area is not only for college kids, but for family life as well. Ann Arbor also has not only one movie theater, but two! Granted, some of the movies they play come out 5 months later than when they actually debut … but hey, who’s counting?

The farmer’s market is another convenient aspect of the city. Locally grown foods are cheaper and healthier for us humans, and they also decrease pollution and cut costs for imported goods from other countries. Being in Ann Arbor taught me all of that — admittedly, it also brought out the inner tree hugger in me.

Aside from the amazing sights, it’s the people of Ann Arbor, like the woman at Biggby, who make this city what it is. There’s a certain energy you can feel when you walk down the streets of downtown. Even the homeless men asking for money on the street are friendly. “You have a blessed day now,” they say, even when you can’t spare some change. The city is a perfect example for the world to model after.

So what does the world have to do to be like Ann Arbor? It’s a simple recipe really. It requires a dash of compassion, a pinch of exercise, a sprinkle of humor, a tablespoon of education and a variety of languages and cultures all blended together. Bada bing bada boom, and there you have it, the perfect recipe and most importantly, the world is saved.

Sara Shouhayib can be reached at

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