Monthly Archives: October 2014

Transferring Lessons from Studying Abroad to the Working World

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Interested in learning how studying abroad as an undergraduate student influences your experience in the business world? My latest post for One World 365 describes how I have transferred lessons from studying abroad to the working world.

Now that I have made the transition from an undergraduate student to a young professional, it is interesting to think about what lessons I have learned that can transfer into the working world. With a few years since I studied abroad for a summer in Spain and during spring break in Chile, I continue to see the value of studying abroad and appreciate the lessons learned that help me in the workforce. Above all, I have developed a more global, open-minded perspective, which has been beneficial for me in all aspects of life.

I toured William Cole Vineyard in Casablanca Valley, Chile, which brought my University of Michigan Ross School of Business growth strategy coursework to life while learning about the wine industry and South American business.

I toured William Cole Vineyard in Casablanca Valley, Chile, which brought my University of Michigan Ross School of Business growth strategy coursework to life while learning about the wine industry and South American business.

What lessons from studying abroad still hold strong for me as a young professional?

Be ready and willing to adapt.

While studying abroad, we are forced to adapt to a new culture, language, and customs. For example, thinking back to my experience in Salamanca, I wrote in my blog, Spanish Adventures Revealed, that “People are meant to adapt to change.  I know how fast people adapt depends on their personality.  I’ve realized that it took me only a couple days to adapt to the Spanish lifestyle.  I’ve gone 6 weeks without ketchup, peanut butter, and more, and I’ve gotten used to it!  I don’t miss the food from home too much or my typical customs.  The main thing I’ve missed is access to WiFi because it has been my only way to communicate with friends and family (I have a Vodafone, but I avoid using it).  It will be weird having to adjust again when I return to the U.S.” In the real world, we consistently face changes, both in the office and outside of work. We need to learn how to adjust and make the most of changes that come our way.

Don’t stereotype.

Stereotypes are inevitable, but don’t rely on them.  While studying in Spain, I lived with a housemate from the United Arab Emirates.  Her primary language was English (not Arabic!), although she spoke Russian, Uzbek (she was born in Uzbekistan), Spanish, French and more.  She was Atheist (not Muslim!).  She was surprised when I did not drink coffee (because some foreigners think of Americans as always having a Starbucks coffee in their hands).  She was also surprised when I told her that not all Americans eat hamburgers and French fries or large portions in general (she decided to not study abroad in the U.S. because she thought she would get fat).  We had preconceived notions about each other based on stereotypes, but we were clearly wrong and learned so much about each other’s cultures. As a young professional, it is also important to not stereotype others based on age, background, work experience, etc. People are so much more than the labels that society places on them. We all possess unique characteristics and diversity that cannot be described through stereotypes.

Balance your work life and personal life.

While studying abroad, I was amazed by the European mindset to prioritize appreciating each day and enjoying life, rather than always worrying about work and achievement.  I began to recalibrate my priorities, switching my focus from purely achievement, to balancing achievement with enjoyment. As a young professional, I have transferred this wisdom and constantly think about maintaining balance in order for me to be productive, happy, and healthy both in and outside of work.

Live in the present.

It is so easy to get wrapped up in the future by constantly making plans and worrying about what will happen next or what consequences we will face as a result of our actions today.  Every day I have potential plans, but so many times when I think I’ll do something one day here, I end up saying “well, it depends what happens before.”  In my blog, Spanish Adventures Revealed, I wrote that “Enjoying each day for what it’s worth has been one of the most important things I learned while studying in Spain.  I think the siesta…time with family to eat lunch leisurely and relax…helped me appreciate each day more than I did in the U.S.  I bet that if the U.S. initiated a siesta, obesity, divorce, and heart attack rates would decrease tremendously.”

A few years later, I realize that a siesta is not realistic in the American business environment, but I do think it is important to live in the present. This is especially important with all the uncertainty and fast changes in the business world. Planning too far ahead can be a waste of time because there are so many variables that can completely change plans outside of our expectations. While I think that some futuristic thinking (such as visioning) is a wonderful part of business or life in general, I also think it is important to make the most of each day and take baby steps rather than overly focusing on big leaps into the future.

Conclusion

I will always remember my study abroad experiences fondly and am grateful for the lessons they have taught me and how they have prepared me for the workforce. I hope to continue to develop a global perspective by traveling, and reflecting on my daily experiences in my blog, inspirNational, which provides international inspiration for our everyday lives.

Read the original post,  Transferring Lessons from Studying Abroad to the Working World on One World 365.

Why Travel? Part Two

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One World 365 and Sun Gazing use imagery to provide great insights about the benefits of travel through working, volunteering, and vacationing abroad. Below I captured some of my favorite thoughts and images about travel that I have recently found.

This describes why travel blogging has become one of my passions.

This describes why travel blogging has become one of my passions.

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The premise of the inspirNational mindset. Beyond planning where you travel, think about who you travel with and how you help each other grow as people and travelers. This is also a metaphor for life- surround yourself by people who support you and help you be the best version of yourself!

The premise of the inspirNational mindset. Beyond planning where you travel, think about who you travel with and how you help each other grow as people and travelers. This is also a metaphor for life- surround yourself with people who support you and help you become the best version of yourself!

As I said in my first Why Travel? post, each of these quotes makes the wanderlust in me grow stronger. Don’t hold back- go on another adventure and be inspirNational!

Top Reasons to Study Abroad in Salamanca, Spain

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While most prospective study abroad students in Spain are convinced that they should study in Madrid or Barcelona, I would like to challenge them to think outside of the most popular cities in Spain. Instead, they should consider studying abroad in Salamanca, which was one of my most rewarding experiences as an undergraduate student.
283975_10150315819934524_8246675_nSome of you may be wondering, where is Salamanca? Salamanca is located in the western part of Spain, close to the border of Portugal, in the Spanish region, Castilla y Leon. It is considered a medium-size city with around 170,000 residents.

261623_10150297458359524_4969140_nWhy Should You Study Abroad in Salamanca?

I have thought of several reasons I enjoyed studying in Salamanca, and have captured thoughts from my wonderful classmates from the University of Michigan who lived in Salamanca with me during the summer of 2011.

  • It is the home of the University of Salamanca, the oldest university in Europe, founded in 1218. The campus combines architecture form the Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles, and proclaimed itself the “Mother of Virtues, of Sciences and of the Arts.” The city campus creates an atmosphere that is ideal for students, with adiverse student population from around the world and affordable studying and entertainment options (coffee shops, meeting plazas, historical sites, nightlife, etc.). One of my favorite legends is to locate the Lucky Frog carved into one of the university buildings, which will give you good luck throughout your studies at the university
  • It was declared the World Heritage City by UNESCO in 2002 as a European City of Culture. Everywhere you walk, you will find music, art, and dance performances. It is also known to be a City of Festivals, including Dia de los Reyes Magos, Semana Santa, Corpus Christi, and Feria de Salamanca.
My Spanish host mom and I attended a jazz concert at Casa Lis

My Spanish host mom and I attended a jazz concert at Casa Lis

  • It is the ideal place to learn and practice speaking Spanish. You will be able to speak traditional Spanish, less influenced by general European culture or tourism than in Madrid or Barcelona.
  • Given its medium size, it is walkablemanageable to navigate and therefore feels safe. This is perfect for those who like to walk or run around the city and those who want to experience nightlife and feel safe.
  • There are ideal meeting places for friends. La Plaza Mayor is one of my favorites in Spain, with beautiful architecture, exquisite restaurants, and exciting bars. My classmates and I especially enjoyed La Croissanteria Paris,  Chocolateria Valor, and La Chupeteria.
Enjoying lunch with my University of Michigan classmates

Enjoying lunch with my University of Michigan classmates

  • It is within close proximity to other popular travel destinations, such as Madrid, Northern Spain, Southern Spain, Portugal, and the Atlantic Coast. While studying in Salamanca, I was able to travel many weekends to Pamplona, San Sebastian, Toledo, Avila, Seville, Granada, Madrid, and Barcelona.

Like all places in Spain, Salamanca provides amazing rebajas (deals) for shopping during the summer. I will also never forget the delicious tapas that you I received with each drink purchase. And of course, the relaxing afternoons of siestas and family time were unforgettable. They reminded me to enjoy each day and appreciate the new friends I met throughout the trip.

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor

My experience in Salamanca gave me a true taste of the traditional Spanish culture and instilled un amor para Espana that I will always cherish. If you would like to learn more about my experience in Salamanca, feel free to post questions or comments!

Read the original post here on One World 365: Top Reasons to Study Abroad in Salamanca, Spain. Also, check out Top Tips for Exploring Europe on a Budget.

An Irish Year Abroad

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One of my best friends from high school, Crystal Dolis, recently returned from a year of graduate school in Ireland. Sounds like a fairytale, right? I admire Crystal for making this dream a reality.  She earned her Master of Science Degree from Trinity College Dublin and currently works in the remote prairie grasslands of Montana for Landmark, a part of Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation and the American Prairie Reserve. She describes that she “walk[s] transects in the reserve area (usually about 10 miles per day) and gather[s] data so they can make informed decisions in the future. This includes recording wildlife we see, and checking on the numerous motion-censored cameras spread out throughout the area.” Learn more about her Montana experience here. I was so curious to learn about her experience studying in Ireland, so I asked her a few questions in this guest blog post.

Exploring Connemara on the west coast of Ireland

Exploring Connemara on the west coast of Ireland

Describe why you decided to study in Ireland.

This past year I embarked on a journey to earn my Master’s degree in a foreign country, to help satisfy my growing need to learn about the biodiversity of the world and continue doing what I love, traveling! I decided on Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, where their MSc program in Biodiversity & Conservation caught my eye in numerous ways:

  1. It was a 12-month program, so more efficient than in the U.S.
  2. I would get a more global view on conservation and environmental policy.
  3. I had visited Ireland two years before and was impressed by the people and the city of Dublin
  4. There was a trip to South Africa built into the program, what more could you ask for?!

I would recommend traveling or studying abroad to everyone if I could.

What were your expectations for your year in Ireland?

I had many expectations before moving there on my own, friendless in a new city but with the English language and travel experience under my belt. I expected many things: the program would be filled with international students, I would share a quaint apartment with an Irish flat mate, the style of learning would be more difficult/different than I was used to, I would come away with a truly global perspective about wildlife and sustainability that I craved so much, I would be completely independent and confident after living on my own in a new country, etc… Although many of those things did come to fruition, the real thing is never exactly what you imagined.

What was your experience in Ireland actually like?
  • Diverse people: The program was filled with almost half Americans and half Irish, with one Hungarian and one Canadian. Although I was unprepared for the amount of other Americans that also had the same idea to study in Dublin, it made sense as it was an English speaking country, and not a place that you feel too culture shocked. Some of the Americans became close friends and reminders of home, and all the people in my program enhanced my world view and made me think in new ways. Outside of my program, I met people from all over the world, and knowing my time in Ireland had an expiration date made me try and experience all I could in my time there. My flat was wonderfully centrally located (albeit more expensive than I anticipated, like everything in Dublin), but I ended up living with a girl from China for the first nine months and later a guy from France, each with their own benefits and learning experiences.
  • Unique learning style: The style of learning of the program was different (more writing and no tests!) but I never felt over my head, and loved the freedom that comes with more independent learning.
  • Perceptions of Americans: It turns out my expectations of standing out in a foreign country were not as extreme as I imagined. Irish people, especially in Dublin where there are a lot of tourists and people visiting from all over the world, are used to Americans. Of course there were words I had to get accustomed to, my pronunciations of things were sometimes jokingly pointed out, and there were no Targets to go to when you needed that odd thing, but I easily adjusted and loved exploring a new country.
  • Global perspective: The global perspective did bloom as a result of this program, and I was given the opportunity to compare the U.S. to other countries throughout the world, realizing how we were ahead in many ways, but behind in many others. It forced me to get outside of my America-centered bubble and see how conservation is a global issue.
  • Several travel opportunities: And you might ask about South Africa…without gushing and word vomiting all over Brittany’s blog, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Traveling and having international friends visit was definitely a plus, and Europe’s accessibility and affordability allowed me to travel to London, Manchester, Madrid, Amsterdam, and Northern Ireland on top of my travels to South Africa and all over the Republic of Ireland!
St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin

St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin

What were some of the lessons you learned while there?

One of the main reasons I had decided to go abroad for my Master’s was that feeling you get when you live in a place – the feeling of belonging and being a local, which is often denied you when you travel somewhere for a short time. I got to know the streets and local coffee shops, where the most beautiful places to visit were, how to travel most efficiently and affordably, where to avoid the crowds. I made friends that lived in Ireland, and some I got to visit in their family homes. I was able to be immersed in a culture that I had never truly experienced before – one rich with history and stories and songs (and plenty of pints of good beer!)

It was a year full of new experiences and learning about myself, as I was truly on my own to figure things out. I now feel confident traveling by myself, meeting new people in a foreign place, and overall being an independent woman who does things because she wants to. Of course independence doesn’t come without its periodic uncertainties and loneliness, but it certainly is a rewarding feeling to know you can rely on yourself, and are unafraid to jump into new territory because you truly can handle it!

Crossing Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in Northern Ireland

Crossing Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in Northern Ireland

There is something transformative when you are thrust into a new place and culture. You become immersed in ways of thinking different from your own, and open your mind to the views of others you’ve never considered before. You grow more conscious of the world, and yearn to know more about these places you’ve only seen on a map. You, in the end, appreciate the comforts of home when away from it. The freedoms and amenities in America are truly something to be cherished (as well as your guilty pleasures, like mine for Mexican food so readily available in California, and the gloriousness of places like Costco).

Traveling enhances your mind and your soul, and changes you in ways you can never predict. I strongly believe in this quote I often find floating about the internet: “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” I may not have a lot of money, but I’ve never regretted spending money on experiences. It has created a lot of beautiful memories to keep, and what a gift that truly is!

Thank you, Crystal, for sharing your incredible story. I’m sure many of you, like me, are now feeling inspired to study abroad for graduate school. What better way to accomplish your goals, immerse yourself into a new culture, and travel at the same time?

InspirNational Music: I Lived by One Republic

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Next up my on my repeat playlist is I Lived by One Republic.

Every line is meaningful and powerful. The song reminds us to live life to the fullest and not hold back. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day life and think about goals, schedules, and what is coming next. Instead, One Republic challenges us to embrace every moment and opportunity that comes our way. They remind us to live in the present, as we never how long we have to live. My favorite line is below, and will be a constant source of inspiration:

“I owned every second that this world could give. I saw so many places and things that I did. With every broken bone, I swear I lived.”

Beyond the powerful lyrics, the music video brings the significance of the song to a whole new level. One Republic dedicated the music video to Bryan Warnecke, a teenager who lives with Cystic Fibrosis. The video features Warnecke biking up a mountain with clips of home videos of him growing up. Warnecke then reveals that he is only expected to live until the age of 36.

“It’s just one of those things that really makes you appreciate life. It makes me appreciate where you are, as a person,” he says. “I want to make the most out of my life and have as much fun as I possibly can and my biggest fear is not being able to do that.”

Let’s all listen to One Republic, avoid having regrets, and when our moment comes, feel confident at any point to say “I lived.”

Chicago from Two Perspectives: Growing Up There & Returning After College

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Last weekend, I got together with one of my best friends from college, Stacey Caplan. Stacey was one of my classmates at the Ross School of Business and one of my senior year roommates. She grew up in Northbrook, a suburb of Chicago, Illinois and then spent  four years in Ann Arbor, Michigan at the University of Michigan. Upon graduation, she moved back to Chicago, but this time, to Lincoln Park, so that she could experience the city life. She works at Nielsen, a market research firm. Reflecting on all the changes that have occurred since our graduation from the University of Michigan, I was curious to learn how her perspective of Chicago changed from growing up there to moving back after college. It seems that college graduates either do one of two things after college: move to a new city (like me) or return to their hometown (like Stacey). Stacey provides great insights about returning home, to one of my favorite cities. Read her story below!

It wasn’t until I moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan for college that I realized how blessed I was to grow up just outside of one of the largest cities in the world. Whenever I told other students where I was from, I instantly became a more exciting person. A year and a half after graduating and now living in Chicago as an adult, I must say that I have a whole new perspective on what living in Chicago is actually like.

I grew up in Northbrook, an affluent suburb about 25 miles north of Chicago. You may know Northbrook for several reasons. It’s the home of the high school where Ferris Buehler’s Day Off was filmed (my alma mater Glenbrook North High School). It’s also the unfortunate home of the infamous 2003 “Powderpuff” football hazing incident- Google it and you’ll remember it from global news stories.

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Let’s be clear, Northbrook is NOT in Chicago. Growing up, going to Chicago was more of an occasion than a regular occurrence. From Northbrook, it takes about 40 minutes to drive to downtown Chicago without traffic, which is rare. Northbrook is the stereotypical American suburb, yet people who live in Northbrook and the North Shore suburbs nearby call themselves Chicagoans. I was raised to be a fan of the Chicago Bears and Cubs, grew up going downtown to the original Marshall Fields store during the holidays to see the Christmas windows, and frequented the museums and other historical buildings on school field trips. Being “from Chicago” was a huge part of my identity growing up, even though I only visited the city about once a month with my family.

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When college friends started coming back to Chicago with me on school breaks or over the summer, I began to realize that I wasn’t even close to being a city girl. I had no idea how to get from point A to point B when I was downtown, got nervous trying to hail a cab, and didn’t know many restaurants beyond where my family had taken me for special dinners as a kid. Yet I claimed to be this “Chicago expert” because I “grew up here”.

Besides my family, who have lived in Chicago for generations, I honestly didn’t have many ties from my childhood that were leading me back to Chicago. But with each year of attending an out-of-state university and meeting people that grew up in rural areas in Michigan and all over the country (and the world!), my Chicago pride grew. I began to realize that growing up outside such a large city is special, and not something everyone experiences. Living somewhere else made it apparent to me that being from Chicago is a huge part of who I am, and is proudly ingrained in the culture of my family. I was determined to move back after graduation, and to actually live in the city of Chicago this time. 🙂

I’ve lived on the north side of Chicago for about a year and a half now in a beautiful apartment on a charming, tree-lined street. Living in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, I have learned how to use the Chicago trains and buses, I know how to confidently hail a cab, and I’ve tried restaurants all around the city that are on my “restaurant list”, not just ones my parents took me to on special occasions. I know places to show friends who visit for the weekend, yet am still overwhelmed by all of the things there are to do that I haven’t tried yet.

I’ll admit that despite being from the suburbs, my Chicago upbringing did give me an edge when I first moved here. My knowledge of the landmarks, streets, and city history was more extensive than those who had only visited Chicago for quick weekend vacations growing up. The difference was that now I actually felt like a Chicagoan. I’ll never forget the first day that I took the el (Chicago’s elevated train system) to my job in the Chicago Loop downtown. I couldn’t stop smiling because getting downtown used to be such a hassle, an event that required planning and ample time to sit in traffic. Now, I could step on a platform and be downtown within 20 minutes- despite being squished between a hundred strangers on crowded public transportation, I felt like I was living my dream.

Through the ups and downs since I graduated from Michigan and “became an adult”, the one constant in my life that has never failed me is the fact that I live here, and it would take a significant life circumstance to get me to leave. No matter where I have travelled, Chicago is always the place I want to come home to.

I hope Stacey’s story provides you helpful, inspirNational insights, as you make the decision to move to a new city or return home after college (or any stage in life)!

Top Tips for Exploring Europe on a Budget

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Eager to learn Top Tips for Exploring Europe on a Budget? Check out my first post on One World 365, a directory of meaningful volunteer and travel opportunities worldwide:

Exploring Europe is very common on travel bucket lists, but so many people think that they need to wait to travel until they are older, established, and have enough money to splurge on a luxurious trip. Over the past several years, I have wanted to “defy the odds” and travel as a young adult. I was convinced that it had to be possible, especially after seeing peers study abroad or work abroad and travel in Europe. While an undergraduate student, I had my first taste of studying abroad in Europe (at the University of Salamanca, Spain), and learned that travel is possible on a budget. I convinced myself that I would be able to continue to travel, whether studying or working as a young adult. I proved myself right when I booked a post-graduation trip to Holland, Belgium and Germany. Below I have outlined some of the top tips I have learned from first-hand experience in order to travel to Europe on a budget.

Consider your initial flight destination.

While you may dream to start your trip in a specific location, your initial flight destination may influence flight prices. For example, when I wanted to tour Holland, Belgium, and Germany, my first instinct was to book a flight to Amsterdam or Frankfurt (since they are two of the largest airports in Europe). It turned out that flying to Brussels, Belgium ended up being the best deal. When planning your itinerary, first consider how flight prices vary in each of the locations you plan to visit. Then you can rearrange your itinerary so that you are able to travel to and from this location. Speaking of itineraries, also plan your itinerary so that you can reduce travel distance and time (and therefore travel costs) between destinations.

Evaluate all accommodation options.

Hostels are not necessarily the most inexpensive! While touring Europe, I often found that hotels ended up having better deals than hostels (especially for private rooms). I have also heard great things about Couchsurfing and airbnb, where you can stay at someone’s home. This might give you more of a “local” experience, rather than a commercial experience from a hotel that you can have anywhere!

Plan ahead.

This is not to say that you should not be spontaneous at times, but at least plan the logistics in order to reduce stress and costs. Read about your travel destination’s history, cultural norms, transportation options, best sites to visit, and best restaurants. Also review a map of the city, where your hotel is, and how you will navigate the city. Consider booking tours ahead of time to avoid “day of” fees and long lines. Having the background information upfront will help you be efficient when you travel. You’ll also know how to prioritize your time and budget.

I planned a Rhine River Cruise ahead of time in Cologne, Germany

I planned a Rhine River Cruise ahead of time in Cologne, Germany.

Use public transportation.

For some places, this could mean a subway, bus, bicycles, or walking paths. Speaking from a United States perspective, Americans’ first instinct is often to either use a taxi or rent a car. Taxis are costly and renting a car involves learning the local driving laws (which may be very different from what you are used to). Public transportation is often the most affordable, is more sustainable, and gives you a taste of the local lifestyle.

hile studying in Salamanca, Spain, I walked everywhere—to and from class for 45 minutes, to and from the night life 30 minutes, etc.—which felt so healthy!

While studying in Salamanca, Spain, I walked everywhere—to and from class for 45 minutes, to and from the night life 30 minutes, etc.—which felt so healthy!

Go on free walking tours.

Instead of doing a formal tour where you are required to visit certain museums or venues, a walking tour gives you an overview of the city. You get to be outside to soak in every site, smell, and feel that the city offers. With a local guide, you will learn about all the highlights of the city and hear more personalized stories. Then you can determine where to focus your time and dive deeper at certain museums or venues. Sandeman’s offers free tours in 18 cities across Europe, the Middle East, and the U.S. I went on the Sandeman’s tour of Amsterdam, which was a 3 hour tour with an excellent guide who was an Amsterdam local. Not only did I get an overview of Amsterdam, I was able to determine where I wanted to spend more time, such as the Van Gogh museum and the Heineken Experience museum.

Shop for food at local markets.

This will help you experience the life of the locals, trying the food that people eat on a daily basis. You will be able to purchase the exact amount and type of food that you want, instead of too much food that you likely won’t be able to save (unless you are close to your accommodation and have a refrigerator). You will also avoid dining fees at restaurants.

Shopping at a local market in Amsterdam

Shopping at a local market in Amsterdam

Every time I travel, I learn something new about how to be budget-conscious and still explore new places. What other tips do you have to share?

Click here to see my original post on One World 365.