I was never a fan of my language classes at Fairfield. There were multiple occasions during class when I asked myself “When will this ever be useful?” Since I’ve been in Florence, I’ve come to realize that learning a second language has not only become useful, but also incredibly necessary.

Most people here speak English, but not fluently. I give the locals a lot of credit as they try to communicate to help us out.  Even though the people here are very nice and patient, communicating exactly what you need can be very difficult. Without searching for the translation of a word, communication can be incredibly time consuming. 

Junior Stephanie Galea, currently studying in Prague this semester, admitted that adjusting to the cultural norms has been a bit challenging for her personally.

“People in the Czech Republic are more reserved than people in the United States, so I’ve had to be more aware of my actions to avoid disrespecting their culture.”

This is Galea’s second visit to Prague, however she felt that because she was there as a tourist for four days, there was no real adjustment to the Czech Republic.

She continued, “Most Czechs don’t speak English and I’ve had many instances where I didn’t know how to communicate even in the simplest terms. I am grateful that I’m here with a big group of American students, it has made translation a lot easier, especially because they are in the same position as me.”

For many students studying abroad, help from friends who speak the language has been useful. This new adjustment to the language has been tricky for most students, including those who are familiar with the native language.

“It was hard the first few days adjusting to some of the everyday tasks such as taking out the trash, going to the grocery store, etc. However, I definitely feel like I’m finally becoming a citizen of Florence,” said Joe Tamburello ’17, who is studying in Florence, Italy.

For me personally, going food shopping is absolutely miserable at this time when I am still learning simple Italian. I dread it every week.

Knowing how to say something in Italian is crucial while shopping, otherwise the employees will look at you like you have three heads.

I never imagined that trying to find something as simple as teriyaki sauce to make stir fry would be so hard.

The language barrier really becomes apparent when you are searching for items that don’t exist in the country. Trying to explain to the locals what it is you are looking for is a nightmare. For example, small little convenient items like Tide pods for laundry and Ziplock bags do not exist here.

I must’ve spent 10 minutes trying to communicate these items. Aside from trying to find American items, understanding labels on bottles and boxes is also a headache. If I’m looking to buy shampoo, I want to know that I’m buying the right product instead of accidentally buying conditioner or body wash.

There’s almost no way to tell the difference due to the Italian labels. I’ve tried to use Google Translate to search for items, however employers at the market will still look at me funny.

Even for students who have taken courses in Italian like Chelsea Merse ‘17, communicating can still be challenging. “I always try to ask a question in Italian and then they usually reply back in really fast Italian and I can’t understand a thing they say. I like being immersed in the language because it really forces me to practice it more every day.”

With each day that goes by, students are expanding their knowledge of the language. They are not only learning about it like any other subject, but also hearing, living and breathing it.

“When I’m here, I feel like I need to be able to speak the language to accomplish everything. At Fairfield, if I don’t know the language, it doesn’t matter because I don’t rely on it to find my way around,” said Tamburello.

Whether the students studying abroad this semester had studied the language beforehand or not, everyone seems to have their own individual challenges regarding language. Junior Luke Fain believes that everyone who studies abroad should at least have a beginner level understanding of the country’s language.

“Even though many people know English, not everyone does and it’s smart to have a basic idea of the language. You never know if you’ll be in an emergency situation and need it.” 

To the Stags back home in Fairfield, my best advice to you would be to try to really understand the language courses you are required to take.

Despite how annoying or tedious the class may be, learning the language may one day be incredibly time saving or life saving.

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