This summer, I travelled to seven countries in Europe: Italy, France, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Ireland. Surprisingly, the countries I loved the most were the countries where I couldn’t easily speak English. I’ve been studying Spanish for years and was ready to use it since romance languages are very similar. I had a true test for my language affinity during our free day in Rome, Italy.

The Sistine Chapel contains a fresco called The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo. After going through several hallways, twists, turns, and rooms, we finally made it into the actual chapel. It was packed and chaotic in there and we did not know where the painting was. I decided to use this as an opportunity to speak Spanish. I went up to the guard and asked “¿hablas español?” He shook his head “no” and as I was about to walk away defeated, he said, “continue” in Italian. Hopeful, I proceeded to ask, “¿dónde está la pintura con los dedos tocando?” while motioning with my fingers. He understood that I asked, “where is the painting with the fingers touching?” and while saying “༏ahí!” pointed up to the ceiling. I exclaimed “༏grazie!” ran back to my group, and pointed up to the ceiling to they could see the painting as well.

All day and for the duration of the trip, I could not keep reliving this moment. I told everyone on the trip and my parents and friends back home. Throughout our time in Italy, I was able to read signs and translate menus. However, I never needed to speak Italian or Spanish except for saying thank you-“grazie” and asking for the bill, “il conto.” I was so proud of myself for not letting a language barrier hold me back that I even contemplated emailing my Spanish teachers about this day.

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo