I waited in line for my morning brew as Conn students gossiped about the night before and the strong aroma of coffee beans flooded the room of Washington Street Café. The downtown coffee shops of New London are a staple for a Sunday morning.

Three men sipping espresso gestured their hands from left to right as their voices boomed over the sizzling espresso machine. A fragile woman, with her white hair tied back in a floral bonnet, approached the counter behind me.

“Scusami, posso prega di avere monete per questo cinque dollari?"

The purple-haired cashier stared at the woman in confusion: “I’m sorry, how can I help you?”

The old woman rubbed her fingers together but struggled to make out the words for “money” in English.

After a semester abroad in Milan, Italy, and my daily espressos in Italian cafés, I stepped forward and translated for the woman: Can she please have change for this $5 bill?”

The woman, with her little leather loafers, held her hand out as if she were a gypsy in the Palazzo Duomo, Milan’s city center. “Grazie bella,” she said as she grabbed my shoulder. It was as if I was transported back to my experience abroad.

My experiences abroad are incomparable to my past three years at Connecticut College. However, downtown New London is more than what it appears to be from the outside appearance of local shops. It is a culturally vibrant city.