Do what you’re scared to do. It could be a good thing.

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I took Italian courses in high school for four years. The work and learning I did in these classes have proven to have prepared me for my time in Italy. I haven’t had a problem communicating with locals whether it’s asking for directions, recommendations, or on some occasions names and socials. It’s been fulfilling being able to put my knowledge of Italian to the test and confirm that I truly have a grasp of the language.

My ability to speak Italian has made me the go-to translator and dictionary. When my housemates arrived in Bologna they needed help running errands. They had little knowledge of Italian and their Spanish didn’t seem to help much either. I took the role of translator and accompanied them on their errands. It was astonishing to me how capable I was of navigating the city and it also made me glad that I was able to be of good help to my new housemates.

It’s now been a while since we arrived in Italy and instead of doing most of the talking myself, I like to encourage be it, my friends or housemates, to practice their language skills. It can sometimes be nerve-racking but I believe that one learns best from first-hand experience. I know when I first got here I was nervous when using my Italian. However, I realized the only way to get over these nerves was to jump right in and face this daunting situation. The result could or could not be what you were expecting but at least you gave it a try and now have some experience under your belt. I’ve also learned that the more one puts themselves out there and does the things that scare them situations become less daunting. It builds up your confidence making you become more sure of yourself in circumstances where you otherwise wouldn’t.

Just the other day, I was in a taxi cab that was taking my friends and me to a charming dance club in Naples. The taxi driver had a Cuban flag hanging from his rearview mirror. I thought, “Could this be another Latino in Italy?”. I took this as an opportunity to strike up a conversation in Italian. I asked if he was Cuban to which he replied that in fact, he wasn’t; the flag was a souvenir he had bought on his travels to Cuba three years prior. He asked where I was from and I said LA but that my family is originally from Mexico. We then continued to chat and he asked me if I had any Italian origins; apparently, my accent was native-like. I replied that I didn’t only that I had learned Italian pretty well in high school. He was impressed and we then continued to talk about his life in Naples and my reasons for being in Italy.

I say all this because it is by putting myself out there that I am able to chat up with locals and even make new friends. Conversations and experiences like this help widen your understanding of others, forge community, and expand the way you think about yourself and the world around you. My takeaway is: do the things that scare you. Often, these moments will be a time of exhilaration and self-discovery.