Monthly Archives: February 2016

Why Travel? Part Eight

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Looking for inspiration to travel? Need to convince your budget or your significant other that travel should be in your future? Living everyday as a student in Paris with a traveler mindset, I am constantly asked why I like to travel. Below are some of my latest favorite quotes and images that demonstrate the value of travel throughout our lives:

As I have said in my Why Travel?, Why Travel? Part Two, Why Travel? Part Three, Why Travel? Part Four,Why Travel? Part FiveWhy Travel? Part Six, and Why Travel? Part Seven posts, there are SO many reasons to travel. Each of the quotes in these posts makes our wanderlust grow stronger. Start planning your next inspirNational adventure!

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25 Reflections of my 25 Years on February 25th

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On the 25th day of my birthday month of my 25th year, I wanted to reflect on 25 things I have enjoyed and not enjoyed about the world. This reminds me of the newborn baby posts we often see that describe what babies like and don’t like about the world each month. In some ways, I think it is interesting and helpful for all of us (not just newborns) to reflect on what we like and don’t like throughout our lives. The reflection process will help us do a pulse check on how we feel in the moment and will help us make decisions about the future. Below I have listed 25 things that I like and don’t like about the world. I combined both serious and light-hearted topics. I look forward to reviewing this again next year to see how my interests have changed and how I have grown over time.

25 Things I Like About The World:

Family, Friendship, Love, Travel, Mindfulness, Passion, Literacy, Social Media, Democracy, Running, Yoga, Fresh Air, Nature, Sunshine, Free Time, Winning, A New Outfit, Big Hugs, Naps, Hope, Faith, Trying New Cuisines, A Warm Shower, Certainty, Rewards for Hard Work

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25 Things I Don’t Like About The World:

Losing Loved Ones, Terrorism, Stress, Fatigue, Disrespect, Liars, Bullying, Pessimism, Inequality, Miscommunication, Gray Skies, Rushing, Poverty, Doing Laundry, Anxiety, Uncertainty, Cancer and All Diseases, Food Poisoning, Poor Hygiene, Itchy Sweaters, Laziness, Dirty Homes, When My Socks Fall Off My Feet, Self-Pity, Entitlement

Completing this exercise made me realize how difficult it was for me to find 25 things that I don’t like about the world. I believe this is a good sign, as I have a more optimistic outlook on the world at this point in my life and I hope to continue to be that way. I encourage you to try this exercise to see what you learn about yourself and if there is anything you would like to change about your life or the world!

 

 

 

 

Why You Shouldn’t Let Terrorism Stop You From Studying in France

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Check out my latest feature on One World 365! You can see the original post here.


 

November 2015 was one of the scariest times in recent Parisian history, creating immense sadness, anger, and fear among Parisians and throughout the world. On a personal level, November 2015 was when I was applying for a visa to begin my winter 2016 language immersion in Paris. I, too, felt sad, angry and fearful about the events in Paris and whether I would be able to study there.

Following the news attentively and speaking to my university in the United States, I went back and forth in my decision to follow through with my original plan to study in Paris. I imagine that many of you have felt the same way when deciding whether to study abroad in potentially dangerous areas throughout the world. A few key thoughts encouraged me to still go to Paris and have stayed with me now, three months later, as one of Paris’ newest study abroad students.

  1. Living in fear is enabling terrorism to control your life, and that is exactly what terrorists want. They want to disrupt our lives, to make us think of them regularly as we enter public places, travel, and go about our daily lives. I have reminded myself that there are many risks in the world. Of course I should be cautious, but I also need to live my life and pursue my passions.
  2. Terrorism and disasters can happen anywhere at anytime. If we lived everyday trying to prevent these occurrences in our lives, we wouldn’t be able to do anything or go anywhere. If we are aware of our surroundings, follow government alerts, and watch the news regularly, we can stay informed to avoid tragedies as much as possible.
  3. Studying abroad is one of the best ways to prevent terrorism in the the future. In many ways, terrorism is caused by limited perspectives of the world, biases, lack of understanding, and lack of education about diversity in the world. And these are the many problems that studying abroad helps solve. By living and studying in a foreign place, we develop a deeper understanding of differences in lifestyles, philosophies, and cultures. We also become more accepting of others who are different from us.

I hope that these thoughts comfort you and encourage you to continue to pursue your dreams throughout the world. Now living in Paris for the past 6 weeks, I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to study here. I feel safe and have had a wonderful experience learning French and the Parisian culture. I have visited Plaza Republique, which mourns those affected by the terrorist attacks in Paris.

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I feel inspired by France’s motto of “liberty, equality, and fraternity” which reminds us to live freely, and treat others equally and respectfully like a brotherhood. If we all live with these morals and have the opportunity to study abroad and fully immerse ourselves in other cultures, I strongly believe that terrorism will subside over generations to come.

Valentines To Remember

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Happy Valentine’s Day, inspirNational!

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Source: discoverexplorelearn.com

I hope that we all take some time today to say “I love you” to those who bring joy to our lives. We often focus on our significant others (if we have them) on this day of love, but there are many valentines in our lives that we should not forget.

  • Ourselves. Remember to send some lovin’ to yourself today! On the day of love, we often think about everyone else but ourselves. We put ourselves through a lot each day, whether we are working or in school, experiencing life’s changes, maintaining our health and happiness, or staying in touch with loved ones. Let’s be grateful to our minds and bodies for carrying us through the journey of life! Take a nap today, pamper yourself, do your favorite hobby, or reward yourself with a treat to remind yourself that you love “you.” After all, if we don’t love ourselves, it is hard for us to give and receive love from others.
  • Our parents. Remind your parents how grateful you are for all that they have taught you and helped you with throughout your life. By living with a host family in a new country, I am constantly reminded how lucky I was to have such supportive parents while I was growing up. My parents taught me how to always do my best, to make smart decisions, to cherish each day, to explore the world, to respect others, to say “thank you,” to save money, to take care of my belongings, to be tidy and organized, and to welcome guests into my home (and have awesome parties :)). Living in a new environment reminds me that my family values do not exist everywhere, which makes me grateful for the expectations my parents had (and continue to have) for me.
  • Our faith. We all find faith through different outlets, but where we can relate is the little voice coming from our soul. That little voice comforts us, keeps us going each day, reminds us that we can get through life’s challenges, and helps us find hope and love in our lives. I have noticed while in Paris that I am drawn to churches and feel overwhelmingly emotional when I enter them, thinking about all of my loved ones and reflecting on my life. While I am not a devout churchgoer, I am grateful for the strong morals, endless hope, and faith in the world that the Catholic church has provided me throughout my life.
  • Our friends. Think about all the people who have helped you celebrate the joys of life, who have wiped the tears from your face, and who have just sat and listened to you share your thoughts, ideas, and concerns about life. I strongly believe that our friends are our chosen family and in many ways deserve the most of our gratitude. Being thousands of miles away from my best friends, I am so grateful that they continue to stay in touch with me while I embark on this international adventure. I am also grateful to the new people I am meeting in France who are willing to start new friendships. It is very rewarding to share travel experiences with new friends!

I hope these thoughts inspire you to be grateful for all the valentines in your life. May you find peace, joy, and love on this special day!

Why Study Abroad More Than Once

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Many of us are confronted with the opportunity to study abroad during our university studies, but what happens if we have an opportunity to study abroad more than once?

My first reaction: Go for it! I was blessed with the opportunity to study Spanish at the University of Salamanca, Spain while an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan. I also spent an extended spring break in Chile, Argentina, and Brazil as part of one of my corporate growth strategy classes. Now, I am studying French in Paris as a part of my International MBA program at the University of South Carolina.

Why should you study abroad more than once?

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Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Your first study abroad experience is likely going to include a lot of adjustment. It may be your first time outside of your home country or at least away from home for an extended period of time. With this adjustment comes a lot of time spent on learning how to travel alone, how to adapt to a new culture, how to speak a new language, how to stick to a budget, how to be spontaneous, and the list goes on. You gain a lot of wisdom about  yourself and the world around you when you first study abroad. By studying abroad a second time, you can apply that wisdom you gained to make your next journey smoother and more fun.

With less adjustment related to some of the administrative details of travel, you will be able to focus more on on introspection and personal growth. Studying abroad provides with more time to work on “you” – changing your dietary habits, improving your fitness habits, becoming more multicultural and globally aware, and learning a new language. I have been actively working on enjoying each morsel of food rather than feeling the need to indulge. I am also becoming trilingual and adding France to my list of places where I can live and work one day.

While studying abroad a second time, your priorities will likely change, as every year we grow older (and hopefully wiser :). For example, life circumstances, such as relationships, may make you less focused on dating in your new country and instead experiencing places alone or with your significant other. Perhaps your first study abroad experience you learned that you can’t travel every weekend without feeling stressed. You may realize that you want to travel more or less during your study abroad experience. After my time in Salamanca, where I traveled every weekend, I realized that this time I would prefer to travel less and become fully immersed in the Parisian life. My friends in Paris have also discussed blogging and how they forgot to write about their experiences the first time studying abroad and  would like to share their experiences with their families. In my case, I have decided to change my approach to blogging. While in Spain, I wrote a blog post every day about my agenda and travels. Now in France, I prefer to focus on stories, personal reflections, and lessons that I can share with others.

During my second study abroad experience, I have been much more comfortable with alone time, planning solo travel and  visiting sites independent from my school field trips. This is the result of learning how fascinating solo travel can be, as you can shape your trips according to your own personal interests, you can pause when you want, and most importantly, you can reflect about the world around you. Learn more about why you (especially women) should travel alone in one of my previous posts here. I especially enjoyed last weekend when I traveled to London alone, experiencing the Chunnel for the first time. I stayed with one of my good friends, but she had already visited many of the tourist sites that interested me, so I explored solo. Together we did a Sandemann’s walking tour of London (which I highly recommend!), attended the Phantom of the Opera performance at Her Majesty Theatre, played trivia with the Belsize Rugby Club, and enjoyed fish and chips and Indian cuisine. Then, I visited the Tower of London, Westminister Abbey, and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London alone. I also went on a solo day trip to Stonehenge, Bath, and Salisbury. I was fascinated to learn about the royal history in London, the primitive culture in Stonehenge, the Roman influence in Bath, and the democratic influence of the Magna Carta at the Salisbury Cathedral. I was able to reflect about all of these curiosities while walking around the sites, taking photographs, and riding on the bus between destinations. I also felt encouraged to meet new people and spark conversations with others attending the tours with me. While on the Golden Tours trip to Stonehenge, Bath, and Salisbury, I met an interesting woman who considered herself to be a global citizen, with a background in Spain, England, the United States, and now Israel. We had a fascinating discussion about life in Israel and the importance of serving your country in order to develop stronger patriotism and respect for all that your country does for you. Had I not traveled solo, I may not have sparked a conversation with her!

My conversation with the woman from Israel reminded me the importance of being a global citizen in today’s interdependent world. Studying abroad more than once will demonstrate to your future employers that you are globally aware, multicultural, adaptable, and potentially multilingual. As companies continue to expand to more countries and we all become more connected through the wonders of modern technology, it is important for all of us to develop global understanding. Studying abroad provides further depth of understanding about the world than a quick vacation, so I strongly encourage you to search for these opportunities while you are a student.

When you are faced with the choice and you have the budget, I hope that you will study abroad at least once. The world is at your finger tips if you are willing to do the research to find affordable travel, housing, and education options! If you are considering studying abroad in Europe, you can learn more about how to travel Europe on a budget here.

Overcoming Living Abroad Challenges

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We often learn about all the adventurous and joyful stories of studying abroad. But what happens when life gets in the way? Studying and living abroad are very exciting life experiences, but they come with challenges. Below are some of the common challenges I have faced and insights about how to overcome them to make the most of your time abroad.

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Source: expatexchange.com

Insomnia: Time differences and foreign beds make insomnia a likely occurrence when moving abroad, especially when you first arrive to the destination. I experienced this intensely when I studied in Spain a few years ago. It took me almost a week to adjust to the time difference! Now in Paris, it took me no time whatsover to adjust to the time difference. My secret this time was to not take a nap when I first arrived on a Thursday morning, and to instead go to bed early that evening. I have experienced insomnia in recent days, likely related to doing too much (e-mails, studying, blogs, social media, chatting with friends) before bed. This is common for me even at home so I need to remember to give myself time to disconnect and unwind before bed.

Adapting to food: With a new destination comes new cuisine and dietary habits. I like to call myself a fish for the large quantity of water I prefer to drink. In Europe, I have felt like I have been living in a dessert because of the small portions of liquids and tiny cups to fill with water. In class, I bring two cups of water to make sure I stay hydrated throughout the day. I encourage you to bring a water bottle that you can easily refill (assuming that water is sanitary in your destination). It is also challenging to adapt to the timing of meals, quantity of food, and food content. For example, in the United States, I am used to Greek yogurt and fruit for breakfast at around 8am, a salad or sandwich for lunch at around 12pm, a protein bar at around 3pm, and meat/carbs/vegetables for dinner at 6:30pm. I have learned to let go of this expectation, as it is common to not eat snacks in France and to have dinner at 8pm (or 9pm for my host family). Despite Americans having a reputation for eating poorly, I have learned that I actually have access to more fruits and vegetables in the United States than in France. I have learned that Parisians often eat fruit as a dessert rather than a staple food for meals. Vegetables are often cooked or are prepared in soups rather than in the form of a salad. I have adapted to this custom, but also make sure to purchase salads and fruit when I eat at restaurants. Enjoying the local cuisine is part of learning process of living abroad, but make sure that you maintain a balanced diet to keep your digestive system in check!

Living with a host family and cultural differences: This is one of the best ways to fully immerse yourself into a new language and culture! However with that immersion comes the expectation that you will adjust your routines and adapt your behaviors to mesh well with your new family. It is sometimes difficult to let go of everything you know. Before moving abroad, I encourage you to research your new destinations and customs. For example, it is an adjustment for Americans to get used to the French greeting of a kiss on each cheek, rather than a handshake. The more informed you are about the new culture before arriving, the more mentally prepared you will feel. However, don’t be afraid of the unexpected – this is part of the adventure! I am still trying to figure out why my host family closes every door of every room in the house – but I am starting to realize it is a habit of privacy, which is less common in the United States and respectable in some ways. Adaptability is one of the most important life skills, especially in the ever-changing global world where we live.

Keeping in touch with loved ones: Time differences and new schedules make it difficult to contact our loved ones. However, modern technology has been a God-sent in our mobile world. My favorite communication tools are WhatsApp (free international messaging and calling) and Facebook messenger (which now allows international calling). I also plan Skype dates with friends and family to have an “as-close-as-possible” experience to chatting in-person. Postcards also seem to be a more thoughtful approach to staying in touch, since they take more effort and are a flashback to the past of international communication. I encourage you to use all the new applications, but don’t forget to be a little old-fashioned and send postcards, letters, and packages to stay in touch with your loved ones!

Making friends: This is often what intimidates people the most when moving abroad, especially because of language and culture barriers. A university setting caters to social networking with planned activities and field trips for students. For those outside of the university setting, check out http://www.meetup.com which provides networking groups related to any and all topics (local events, sports, arts, dating, etc.). I have enjoyed attending expat events in Paris, which includes expats from around the world. We can all relate to the adjustments involved in moving to Paris! Also, for those hoping to learn local languages, check out conversation circles. Especially if you speak English, many countries have conversation exchanges between English and the local language. I look forward to trying this in Paris. It is a win-win for me to practice French and help others practice English!

For those of you considering or in the process of moving abroad, you may face these challenges like I have, but I hope that you remember with any challenge comes a solution. Now that more and more people are moving abroad, there are more advice articles than ever before. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about moving abroad!

United by the Circle of Life

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After traveling across three continents and studying intensively in three countries, I am realizing that while it is easy to focus on differences between cultures, it is even more interesting to focus on similarities.

Religion, culture, language, and customs may divide us, but we are all connected by the core purposes of life: milestones, values, relationships, careers, memories of the past and hopes for the future. I am going to combines these core purposes of life and describe them as the circle of life. We are all united by the circle of life.

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Source: http://www.canstockphoto.com

I have been reminded of this unity recently while living with my host family in Paris. Almost every evening, we enjoy dinner together and have interesting conversations about life

The Joys of Being a New GrandparentOn Friday, my host family welcomed their first grandson into the world. My host mom discussed how excited she was to share in the “new grandparent” experience with her husband. She described that when women deliver their own baby, mothers and fathers cannot relate. The mother already knows the baby after nine months of carrying it. The dad meets the baby right when it is born. However, grandparents can share in the experience of just meeting the baby because it is new to both of them. This is an exciting time for my host family, which is relevant to any family throughout the world with new grandchildren.

Celebrating 33 Years of MarriageI had a dinner with my host dad one night and discussed the secrets of a lifelong marriage. He and his wife celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary in December, beating the odds of only a 51% marriage success rate in France (very similar odds in the United States as well). He said, first of all, there are no secrets. You have to make your marriage work in your own way. He also described that communication is the most important part of a successful relationship- catching up on each other’s days, discussing successes and failures, and overcoming conflicts. He said he follows his dad’s advice to never go to bed angry. With the challenges of marriage throughout the world, I was intrigued to learn insights about successful marriage in France.

The Purpose of Strikes: Last week, Paris experienced another strike with taxis blocking the streets and requesting higher wages. I learned from my host family how common strikes are in Paris and how they are always related to money. My host family was frustrated with the strike’s disruption to the city and the corruption of Paris’ tax and immigration policies. While our conversation remained politically neutral, it was interesting for me to learn that debates related to social change, taxes, and immigration are present no matter where we live or travel. We are united by our societal challenges, and diverse in our responses and reactions to these challenges.

Stop Striving for Perfection: One of the most insightful life conversations we had was how people are striving for perfection in their careers and relationships. My host family emphasized that perfection is not realistic. There is no perfect job or perfect spouse. People are “job hopping” more now than ever before, assuming that the “grass will be greener on the other side.” In reality, there are no greener pastures, just greener perspectives of the situations we face. In the past, my host family said that they were just grateful to have a job and a steady wage. If they didn’t enjoy their job, they would focus their energy outside of work rather than letting their job consume them. My host family also described that people are also getting divorced too soon, giving up before giving it their all. Now people are expecting so much more and rarely feeling satisfied. I can attest to these sentiments from my own experience and that of my friends, especially those of us in our 20s. The post-college decade is full of uncertainty, change, and striving for the perfect life rather than focusing on the good in today. I posed a question to my host parents, asking how they think we can all stop striving for perfection. They said they didn’t know, but knew it was possible. My proposition is to first stop comparing our lives to others (which is easier today with access to friends and family’s life updates on social media). After, we should create our lives as we see fit, combining our upbringing with what we learn as we live and travel throughout the world.

Each of these circle of life conversations sparks thoughtful insights that we can learn no matter where we are in the world. What life conversations have you had during your travels?