Catarina’s English lesson

Note: Starr S. is one of four 2016 Honors Study Abroad Scholarship recipients who is currently studying in Europe.

This week, I walked into a liStarr in Italianens store in Sansepolcro to purchase souvenirs for my mother and my aunt. The store had many different tea-towels, hand towels, and scented bags. I fell in love with a hand towel-sized linen hanging on the back wall of the store.

The store owner was a middle-aged woman. Her daughter was sitting beside her, writing in a workbook. I tried to ask in Italian if I could have three of the towels I saw on the wall, but I could tell that my skills in Italian were terrible. The owner gave a look of confusion. I then asked if she spoke English and she said yes. After I was able to request the towels, she asked me if I was from the college and if the towels were a gift. I told her yes and looked down at her daughter.

Her daughter seemed to be really frustrated. The mother looked at me and told me her daughter was working on her English homework. I asked the little girl in Italian what her name was and how old she was. She was a little girl named Catarina, nine years old. I sat beside her and asked if I could help. I felt attached in some way to this little girl because as I am struggling to learn Italian, she is struggling to learn English. For her homework, she was learning how to say numbers and colors in English. Fortunately, I knew how to say numbers and colors in Italian and we were able to communicate using this knowledge. It was a mixture of two completely different cultures, but it worked so well, and I made a friend.

As we had finished up and her mother wrapped my towels, Catarina gave me a hug. Her mother put a small scented lavender bag that she hand-sewn in the bag with the towels. She told me it was a gift and that she could not wait to see me again. She told me that if I needed anything, she would come. I left the little store crying. Here I was in Italy, with not a clue in the world about this culture, but I was offered friendship and was accepted into the culture. I was accepted simply for tutoring a young girl about my own culture.

This story tells me that I care about culture and family. It shows that I value other cultures as my own, and that I am happy when I am helping someone else. This has made me so secure in my career goals because I wish to help people in whatever way I can, which is exactly what the purpose of a doctor is.

–Starr S.

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