During the summer of 2007, my family and I took a trip to Europe; we visited England, France, and Italy. Europe taught me many valuable lessons, including the importance of being bilingual and the difference between the American cultures those of European cultures.
Most Americans believe that people who move to the United States need to learn and speak only English. This mindset led me to astonishment when I learned that many Europeans are able to speak five or six different languages, including English. It was the English speaking Europeans who were able to help my family in many of our adventures.
One example begins in Milan, Italy. We were on our way back from dinner one night when we got lost going back to the hotel. We had been walking for an hour and getting nowhere. It began getting dark when my mom, little brother and I all had to use the restroom. Just when we thought things couldn’t get worse, it started to pour down rain. Thirty minutes later we found a pizza shop and were able to get directions back to our hotel because the employees knew how to speak English.
My appreciation for bilingual speakers was further reiterated in Paris, France in a train station. Unlike the United States, most European cities have a train that will take a person from one to another. However, some trains require the passenger to get off the train and find another station. My family was sitting in Nord Station, what we thought was, the only Paris train station. After about forty-five minutes of waiting, and still no sign of our train, we decided to ask for help. We learned we were at the wrong station and needed to be at the Bercy Station that was too far away to walk. Taxis were too expensive for my family of five because we couldn’t fit into one car. Luckily, we found a man who was able to speak some English. He showed us the way by taking the metro. We didn’t know how long this would take or where exactly we went, but we were able to get to the station with twenty minutes to spare.
Lastly the lessons I learned when comparing my native culture to different ones. Many people look at the United States and see us as spoiled, as a result, lazy. This is proven in obesity statistics when comparing the United States to Europe. I learned quickly in Europe that people overseas get much more exercise. The easiest way to get around is either to walk, take the metro, or the bus. In my family’s case we chose walking. In the United States, we hop in a car just to drive up the road.
In conclusion, traveling is a real eye-opening experience. Traveling has taught me how important learning a second language is; it is not just to get the good grade but to really know the culture being studied. It has come to my attention how much a person can grow when seeing places that differ from the ones to which they are accustomed to. Seeing The Sistine Chapel, The Last Supper, and The David allowed me to appreciate the great contributions that Europe has to offer. Before going on this trip, I did not realize the lessons I would learn. Traveling is a wonderful experience and allowed me to grow as an individual.
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