If I had to choose one characteristic that my trip to Italy has enhanced or I appreciate more, it would be understanding. Coming into Europe, I had taken three years of high school Spanish, so I could sometimes understand what two Spanish speakers would be conversing about. So technically, I only speak English fluently. In Europe, I never really experienced a language barrier so bad that the person I was talking to could not understand me in some way, shape or form. And I think in situations where I used my English for Italians to interpret is where I learned to appreciate understanding or where I learned how to understand those that are different from me better.

I guess I am the type to feel bad when I do not know the language of the land in which I find myself, but deservedly so. In the United States, for example, if someone came into this country not knowing a lick of English, then they would, for lack of better terms, be S.O.L. They would most likely be ignored, scoffed at, ridiculed, or actions of the like because they came into our country not knowing our language. However, when I see Americans try to communicate in Europe and they get frustrated because the people they are trying to communicate with do not speak English, they should empathize with rather than become frustrated with the people they are attempting to talk to. I am sure they would not like some foreigner back in the United States get mad at them for not speaking French, Italian, Swahili, and so on and so forth.

In this respect, I have learned to appreciate understanding, both in English and Italian (as best as I can), in order to gain a better idea of how things are in cultures different than my own. Though I still have some work to do, I think that experiencing Italian culture and trying to understand how things work over there has truly enhanced my ability to not only understand but also empathize more so than any foreign language or history class in the United States could have ever done for me. Because of this trip, I am a firm believer in the idea that the best way to learn about a culture is to live in it.

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