Monthly Archives: July 2015

What is it like to learn a new language?

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I have had a lot of people ask me lately, what is it like to learn a new language? For the past three weeks, I have embarked on the journey of learning French. The last time I learned a language “from scratch” was in seventh grade Spanish class. To be honest, I was a little nervous about whether I was still capable of learning a new language. I have always heard that it is easier for children to learn languages, and it becomes more challenging as we grow older. Regardless, I decided that I have always wanted to study the French language and culture, so I decided to challenge myself in my international MBA program.

What have I learned from studying a new language?

I’ve described to my loved ones that I feel like a baby. I am absorbing every word I hear and every sentence I read. I smile when I recognize French words that people say or write. Just like a baby, I’m starting to “coo,” or say a few words and phrases here and there. Soon I am confident I will be able to say full expressions. The advantage of being an adult, though, is that I can learn to write quickly. I have been able to memorize vocabulary and grammar in order to write brief letters and blog posts. I am looking forward to the day that I can speak with correct grammar and vocabulary without having to write!

I am also reminded the importance of patience in my studies. Learning a language requires repetition and there is no getting around the time required to study. Every homework assignment helps with comprehension and every test ensure that I am continuing to develop my language skills.

The most interesting aspect is that learning a language teaches us culture simultaneously. As a travel bug and culture enthusiast, it has been very interesting to learn about French culture while studying the French language. One-quarter of my heritage is French, so I have enjoyed being able to understand why some of my family traditions occur as they do. For example, I learned that Christmas Eve is the most significant time for the French to celebrate Christmas, which explains why my French family celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve (rather than Christmas Day). The deeper cultural understanding help us be more accepting of and interested in the diversity in our world.

Overall, my French language studies have been a positive experience so far. I am relieved to know that I am capable of learning a new language again and excelling in class!  I look forward to applying my new language and cultural knowledge when I study in Paris next winter.

For all inspirNational readers – don’t be intimidated by learning a new language. It is one of the most rewarding experiences that our lifelong education can provide us!

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Summer Vacation: A Time to Reflect

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With exactly one year since I traveled to Hawaii, I can’t help but reflect on how that vacation has impacted me over the past year. Relaxing on the beautiful Big Island was one of my favorite summer vacations, as it gave me time to reflect on my future. While laying on a hammock, sipping a fresh coconut, I thought about how exciting it was that I would be moving into my first apartment by myself for a year of self-discovery in Cleveland. I was ready to create my vision for the future, including role models who would help guide me in my intended path. I was eager to experience my first long distance relationship. And believe it or not, with a little notebook I brought with me, I first started brainstorming ideas for this blog. I decided to create inspirNational to help others find international inspiration in their everyday lives. Looking back, it is amazing to think how a small break from my daily life (surrounded by volcanoes and the ocean breeze in Hawaii) prepared me for one of the most transformative years of my life.

At the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park with my mom!

At the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park with my mom!

Flash forward to now, I completed my first year living by myself, with milestones including writing this blog with features on Pink Pangea and One World 365, establishing my vision for the future, learning how to cook, advancing my yoga practice with crow pose and headstands, applying to and starting the top international business graduate program, and moving to a new part of the United States!

I am reminded of the importance of summer vacations and taking time to reflect, whether that means camping in our own backyard, traveling to a nearby city, or flying overseas. What makes a difference for me on vacations is to truly disconnect from everything I know, meaning no internet access, no phone calls, and no work. With a clear mind, we are able to listen to both our minds and our hearts. We can quickly do a “pulse check,” making sure that we are content with our status in life and improving different areas as we see fit. With this true disconnect, we can reconnect with the world after our vacation with a refreshed attitude and positive perspective to keep growing as individuals.

I hope that we all have had (or will have) time this summer to go on vacation. We all need and deserve time to be inspirNational and relax. Happy reflecting on your next vacation!

Top Reasons to Travel to and Study Abroad in South America

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With the growing economy, South America has become one of the most popular travel and study abroad destinations. In the past few years, I have studied and traveled in Chile, Argentina, and Brazil. I was amazed by the rich culture and history and look forward to continuing explorations of South America in the near future.

As you make travel or study abroad plans, why should you consider South America?

  • Vibrant culture: South America’s unique combination of indigenous history and New World impact provides an interesting melting pot of culture. Life is colorful, with diverse people, lifestyles, food, and traditions.
  • Beautiful nature and a diverse landscape: Within a few countries, you can experience coasts, mountains, desert and jungle all at once. I especially enjoyed Iguassu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina.
  • Wonders of the world: Experience two fascinating wonders of the world – Macchu Picchu in Peru and Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.
  • Inviting music: Whether you enjoy tango, salsa, samba, or merengue, you will hear music and be able to dance throughout South America.

What are some of the top destinations to visit and study abroad?

  • Santiago, Chile: As the capital of Chile, you will experience a growing modern metropolis in South America. Sparking innovation, the Chilean government is promoting entrepreneurship throughout the country. Some of my favorite sites include Cerro San Cristobal for the fanstastic cityscape views of Santiago. I also recommend wine tasting in the Casablanca Valley to learn about the significance of the wine industry in Chile. While you are in Casablanca Valley,you can watch a traditional horse show and have excellent Chilean food at Puro Caballo Ranch.

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  • Valparaiso, Chile: As a colorful seaport, you will find that Valparaiso is an education center. You can learn about Valparaiso’s significant influence, including Latin America’s oldest stock exchange and the oldest Spanish language newspaper in continuous publication in the world, El Mercurio de Valparaíso. After studying Spanish language and literature in college, it was exciting for me to see Pablo Neruda’s home for beautiful views of Valparaiso and great insights about Chilean literature. While you are there, indulge in fresh coastal Chilean food at La Stampa de La Negra.

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  • Buenos Aires, Argentina: Famous for its European-style architecture, Buenos Aires is a rich cultural and business capital of South America, with the highest concentration of theaters in the world. My favorite neighborhood was La Boca because of its bright colored homes and great artisan markets. I also enjoyed learning the history and positive influence of Eva Peron in La Reco. And, you can’t go to Buenos Aires without seeing a famous tango performance at El Viejo Almacen, where tango originated.

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  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: As the top tourist destination in South America, Rio de Janeiro is famous for its beaches, Christ the Redeemer, samba, Carnival, and Maracana football stadium. I was particularly impressed with the gorgeous views atop Sugarloaf Mountain. I also enjoyed relaxing and purchasing my first Brazilian bikini at Copacabana beach. For those of you making travel plans in the near future, Rio de Janeiro will be hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics – what a great opportunity to visit!

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Buena suerte y boa sorte as you plan your South American travel or study abroad adventure!

Southern Insights

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It has been a little over two weeks since I have lived in Columbia, South Carolina! I thought I would share some of my first perspectives of living in the south in the United States.

Conagree River Walk in Columbia, South Carolina

Conagree River Walk in Columbia, South Carolina

1. Southern pride is real and contagious. Locals in Columbia are proud to be from here and proud of what the south offers. Southern pride is both positive and negative, as it provides a sense of community, but it stems from the Civil War that divided the United States. The latest controversy about the Confederate flag at the Columbia capitol building has been interesting to watch, as it marks a monumental time in history for the south. Taking down the Confederate flag symbolizes the progression of the south and equality of all people.

2. Dress like you are ready to be seen. This could be influenced from my business school experience, but it seems that most people walking in the Columbia streets are well-dressed and well-manicured. This is refreshing as a graduate student, compared to my undergraduate experience which was very casual. Dressing well translates into feeling poised and polished at all times.

3. Sunshine is year-round! This is a huge perk for those of us from the north who are used to gray, cloudy days. I have really appreciated waking up to sunshine every day. I have also been reminded that with southern sunshine comes immense southern heat and humidity. However, just likely I have adapted to the frigid cold days of winter in the north, I have been able to adapt to the extremely hot days in the south.

4. Chivalry is alive and well. While in the north I often feared that chivalry was dying, particularly among the younger generations, I have been reminded that it still exists in the south. I notice that much more often men will open the door for me, offer their chair, and speak to me in a respectful manner (rather than with cat calls). It is refreshing to know that this traditional respect is passing on to the current youth.

5. The United States regions are much more assimilated than many of us think. I have realized that the south is not that much different from the north. I can still find the same conveniences, the same cordial behavior, and the same patriotism. I have realized that this is one of the beauties of the United States, which I am grateful to call home.

With all of these southern insights, I am reminded of the importance of keeping an open mind when moving to a new place. I am learning every day just by walking around with open eyes, open ears, and an open heart. I am now thinking of my graduate school experience not only as an opportunity to advance my career, but also to advance my understanding of the world, my surroundings, and the fascinating people around me.