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How do I get out of here!?

How do I get out of here!? That was the first question I asked when I landed in FCO airport in Rome. The first signs I saw were only in Italian and “exit” was not a word that I had learned. I knew how to say “Hello!” and “My name is Elizabeth.” Yet these words did no help in getting me out of this enormous building! I quickly learned that “uscita” means exit in Italian only because there was a sign with English. Looking back, I wished I knew more words about navigation than greetings. I took 2 semesters of Spanish in college, and yet I never learned direction (north, south, east, west) or distances (miles, kilometers, feet). I did learn up/down, street, etc. Yet if I had been lost in a foreign country, this would not have been enough to find my way back. Before traveling internationally, after “Thank you.”, “Do you speak English?”, and “Where’s the bathroom?”, it is extremely important to know how to ask “How can I get to …” Most people think Google maps can save them from needing to ask for directions, but in the case that you do not have international data, lose your phone/ battery dies, or get separated from the group in some way then Google maps can’t save you. That question suddenly becomes the only one in the world that an answer matters to. In Europe, there isn’t free WiFi in every building and most places close relatively early in the evening. If you get lost at 9 pm on a Friday night, you’re going to need to be able to ask someone walking down the street for directions. One of the most important things stressed on our trip was to always have a printed map of the city on you. In most large city hotels, there are free tourist maps in the lobby. Some people think its silly to carry around a printed map, but I’d rather carry a map than be lost in the middle of a foreign city. In summary, keys words to know- exit, entrance, train station, taxi, left/right, block, street, numbers 1-10, and distance/ direction words. Knowing around 20 words can save you from the embarrassment of an Italian policeman having to show you to the exit because you’re spinning in circles trying to understand how to get out of the grocery store…not that I experienced that…or maybe I did.

Gare du Nord Train Station- Paris, France

Street- Florence, Italy