Skills From Florence

Living abroad, whether in an urban or rural area, requires a hefty amount of communication. This doesn’t just mean talking to or at someone, it also entails the act of listening. Although both are essential in effective communication, I would argue listening is more important. Throughout my time in Florence, I have realized how vital listening is. I am in a completely new country, living in another person’s house, all while learning a new language. There are so many unknowns in my day to day activities that I ask about a million questions a day (give or take). When asking these questions I have to listen to the answer with my full attention. Through talking to professors, my host family, and my local friends, I am able to piece together parts of Italian etiquette that are somewhat unspoken. There are so many things I don’t know or don’t understand. That being said, I think there is value in “figuring it out” by making mistakes (I tried to split a bill in a busy cafe) but there is just as much value in using your resources when you need help.


Not only has my listening benefited in Florence, but so has my speaking. When conversing with someone who doesn’t fluently speak the same language as you, it is important to be as concise and articulate as possible. What are you actually trying to say? Through speaking with Italians, I have realized I tend to use a lot of unnecessary language that convolutes the message I am trying to convey. I try and keep my conversations precise and easy to follow. This is actually harder than it sounds. I can’t speak for everyone but I have a lot of thoughts swimming around my brain and they certainly do not stop when I am trying to have a conversation. I believe this skill is transferable to all situations involving communication. I can’t tell you how many times I have listened to a speech or presentation and the presenter used a lot of words with very little meaning. I have found that simple and effective communication is best when trying to get your point across. This also helps build connections with the Italians I converse with. This is because we can actually have a conversation despite a language barrier. For example, my 14 year old host brother is learning english and it is a bit difficult for him to have a complex conversation. He is always trying to speak with me and his english is drastically improving with every conversation. When we talk, I always answer or ask questions in a concise and simple manner. I do not, however, “dumb” anything down. I am speaking to him like an adult in a way that clearly states the message I want to convey. Because of this, he understands me perfectly and takes his time to respond in the same manner. After many conversations, I have learned that we have the same favorite show (Breaking Bad) and he loves KFC more than any other person I know.