Monthly Archives: October 2015

Be InspirNational = Be Culturally Intelligent


The common theme of all of my posts is to have an inspirNational mindset. I have defined an inspirNational mindset as curious, open-minded, and spontaneous. Those who are inspirNational:

  • Seek new opportunities
  • Try new things
  • Meet new people
  • Think global. Act local.

No matter where we are, we can live with this mindset, which helps us live life to the fullest and make the most of any situation.

Another way to think about being inspirNational is through cultural intelligence. Many of us understand general intelligence (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ), but cultural intelligence (CQ) has only recently been studied and interpreted (since 2003!). Studying international business has provided me with an interesting perspective about cultural intelligence and its significance in my international business career.

What is cultural intelligence? It is the ability to work with people who are not like you. It is the willingness to think broader than your individual, familial, and local norms. Many people assume that cultural intelligence comes from understanding others’ cultures. The most difficult culture to understand, however, is your own. It is important to learn when your own culture helps you and when it hurts you. Develop cultural understanding of your own biases and what opportunities become available in your life as a result of your background and worldly knowledge.

How do you develop cultural intelligence? Think about your core: your qualities, values and beliefs that define who you are and are non-negotiable. For example, my personal integrity, work ethic, and commitment to health and happiness are core to who I am. Then think about the components of your life that are flexible. For example, my clothing and where I live is flexible.The flexible components are where you can develop cultural intelligence. Consider learning from other cultures about how you can improve your lifestyle. While living in Spain, I learned how a laid back lifestyle helped me be more productive and healthy. Traveling throughout the world has enabled me to have a wardrobe and jewelry that always tell a story about my adventures. I am passionate about developing cultural intelligence and it is one of my lifelong pursuits in my daily experiences.

By becoming culturally intelligent, you are opening yourself up to a world of opportunities. You will become self-aware of your own biases and how they affect your daily decisions and behaviors. You will find it easier to connect with others throughout the world. You will be able to listen, understand, and appreciate the diversity of the world. You will have a competitive edge in both your personal and professional life.

Want to learn more? Check out this fascinating Tedx video about cultural intelligence by Julia Middleton.

How have you developed cultural intelligence? Have you noticed any advantages or disadvantages of being culturally interested and aware?


Best Places to Study Spanish


Check out my latest feature on One World 365!

With the growth of the Spanish-speaking population, particularly in the United States, many more students are seeking to study Spanish and find the best locations for studying Spanish abroad. Britanny VanderBeek has enjoyed studying Spanish in Spain and Latin America, utilizing her Spanish in Costa Rica, Argentina, Mexico and in some of the Caribbean islands. Through her travels and study experiences, she has lots of advice and recommendations for countries and cities to study Spanish where you will find cheap affordable courses, low living costs and fantastic tuition.

Are you researching language schools and destinations? If you are looking to learn Spanish on a budget some countries offer better value than other and if you want to not break the bank it is important to make the right decision. There are towns and cities in Spain and Latin America which have lots of excellent Spanish schools for international students and choose the right one can be a tough decision. Whilst most people might consider big cities like Madrid and Barcelona or countries like Mexico and Argentina as the most iconic and best places to study Spanish, it is important to take into consideration other factors like living and course costs, entertainment, lifestyle and experiences available.

If you are a student interested in studying in Spain, don’t be afraid to venture to towns and cities you might not have even heard of before. Usually the lesser known smaller destinations usually have cheaper tuition costs and also more affordable living standards. Also something to consider is that people in each location has a different Spanish accent. This is especially the case in South America where dialects and accents can vary dramatically from country to country. Generally, locals in Colombia, Costa Rica and Ecuador have the clearest accents to understand and talk relatively slow compared to other places like Peru and Argentina.

  • Salamanca, Spain: Salamancan inhabitants are known to speak “pure” Spanish. This will give you the opportunity to learn traditional Spanish, less influenced by tourism and general European culture than other cities in Spain, such as Madrid and Barcelona. Salamanca is the home of the University of Salamanca, which is the oldest university in Europe. 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. Check out my One World 365 post, Top Reasons to Study Abroad in Salamanca, Spain, to learn more!


  • Costa Rica: Throughout Costa Rica, you will find some of the best natural scenery in Latin America, including La Fortuna, Arenal, and the Monteverde cloud forest. The hospitable culture of Costa Rica will make it easy for you to practice Spanish and learn about all that Costa Rica offers. Check out my inspirNational post, Living La Pura Vida, to learn more about the Costa Rican lifestyle!


  • Santiago, Chile: Santiago places you in the middle of some of the longest stretches of pristine wilderness in the world, including Patagonia, the Atacama desert, and the glaciers of Tierra del Fuego. You will be able to learn Spanish while experiencing some of the most exciting outdoor adventures in the world. For those of you hoping to conduct business in Spanish, Santiago is the perfect place to be. Santiago is one of the fastest growing business capitals in South America, encouraging business people throughout the world to work and live there.  In addition, Chileans are very friendly and interested to help others learn Spanish. They also are proud of their indigenous heritage, as reflected by some of the indigenous words used in their Spanish vocabulary.


  • Guatemala: Guatemala is one of the cheapest places in the world to book a Spanish language courses in Central America and is also one of the most popular. You can find courses as low as $150 USD for a week of intensive Spanish classes including a full home stay. Guatemala is also very safe despite what you might think and there are some great places to book a course including Antigua and the villages surrounding the incredible Lake Atitlan.


  • Nicaragua: Still relatively undiscovered, Nicaragua is a fantastic country to study Spanish if you are looking for an authentic experience which is a far less touristy than other countries in the region. Nicaragua is also one of the best value destinations in terms of course and living costs whilst there are also some of the most beautiful sandy beaches in the continent here – all free to visit.


  • Tenerife: Would you like to learn Spanish in Spain whilst experience spectacular surroundings? Consider choosing Tenerife which has a warm climate all year round and is one of the cheapest Spanish islands to visit in terms of the whole package – flights, accommodation and courses. There are lots of Spanish schools on the island offering a range of different courses which are generally a lot cheaper than on the mainland. A 2 week beginners course with 10-20 classes per week and housing will cost around €280. All the main activities in Tenerife are free too like visiting the beach whilst public transport is also very affordable and you will get lots of free time to explore this spectacular island in the your spare.


  • Alicante: Studying Spanish in Spain doesn’t have to be expensive, you just need to choose the right location. Alicante is another one of our top choices, this is a popular tourist hotspot with both international tourists and also students seeking to study languages abroad. This city is very small, you can literally walk to all the major places which means you will get to keep transport costs down. There is also a huge local market where you can buy groceries and food at a fraction of the price of large supermarkets. Spanish courses in Alicante usually start from around €180 for a standard two week course which makes it one of the cheapest places to study Spanish in the whole of Spain.

Each Spanish-speaking country is different and each will provide you with a unique language and cultural experience. There isn’t one definitive perfect location to learn Spanish, you will need to weigh up your interests, budget, type of course you are seeking and also which area of the world you would like to go. I hope my insights and guide to the best and cheapest cities/countries for studying at a Spanish language school are a helpful start as you make the decision about where to study Spanish abroad.

Do you agree / disagree with the suggestions above? Feel free to reach out with any questions or opinions in the comments section below!


What Makes the Fall Season So Special in the United States?


Meeting people from around the world, I have noticed that they are often surprised by how much Americans love the fall season. To many people (at least in the northern hemisphere), fall means the end of summer and the beginning of winter. In the United States, fall is arguably the best season of the year. Why?

1. Throughout the fall season, tree leaves change colors for some of the most beautiful natural views of the year. Along with the brightly colored trees, the air is crisp and sweet, making it very inviting for you to go outside and explore.

Source: Picstar

Source: Picstar

2. Fall flavors are warm and comforting. In the United States, you will find pumpkin-flavored everything. Pumpkin pie is typically a family favorite, but you will find pumpkin-flavored coffee, pastries, and more! Apple flavor is also popular. The flavors of Thanksgiving are some of the most memorable, including turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and sweet potatoes.



3. Fall activities bring your family and friends together. Apple picking is a great way to get outside with your loved ones and pick apples that you can eat right off the tree or use in recipes, such as apple crisp or apple pie. Common in the Midwest and Northeastern United States is visiting cider mills, which serve fresh apple cider, homemade donuts and pastries. They also often have farm animals and outdoor activities for you to enjoy while eating your treats. Carving pumpkins is another fall favorite, as you can make a jack-o-lantern to decorate your porch and you can bake the pumpkin seeds for a nice snack!

My favorite cider mill in my hometown, Rochester, Michigan!

My favorite cider mill in my hometown, Rochester, Michigan!

4. Halloween (October 31 every year) provides the perfect opportunity to disguise yourself as your favorite character or silly costume that is guaranteed to make your loved ones laugh. Along with wearing costumes, you can eat your favorite candies with little remorse, visit haunted houses, experience hayrides, and go to Halloween parties. Children also have the opportunity to go trick-or-treating, where they visit their neighbors and ask for candy while dressed up in adorable costumes.

One of my favorite personal pumpkin carvings!

One of my favorite Halloween pumpkin carvings!

5. American football, played in the fall, has more spirit than any other sport in the United States. You will see football spirit at all levels, from middle and high school to college to professional football. Americans enjoy tailgating before football games, which involves eating barbeque food, drinking beer, playing games such as cornhole, and cheering for your favorite team. The spirit exists every weekend and has created tremendous rivalries across the United States. I have had an interesting experience with football having moved throughout the Midwest and now to the Southern United States – my loyalties have shifted, but I will always root for my alma mater (University of Michigan) first!

University of Michigan Football Stadium - holds the largest crowd (over 114,000 people) in the United States!

University of Michigan Football Stadium – holds the largest crowd (over 114,000 people) in the United States!

I hope this gives you a taste of all the special qualities of fall in the United States. Just writing about it makes me grateful that fall is here. I would be grateful to hear why fall is (or is not) your favorite season and how it compares to other seasons throughout the world!