Category Archives: Family

Love Rocks Zion

Standard

A few weeks after going to Seattle, I had the opportunity to visit Utah for my cousin’s wedding at Zion National Park. I flew in a few days early to take advantage of the excursions that my cousin planned. Let me tell you, my cousin and her now husband couldn’t have planned a better trip for our family.

I flew into Las Vegas and drove straight to Bryce Canyon National Park for the Astronomy Festival. What started as a flat drive through Las Vegas turned into a mountainous, red rock drive through a gorgeous sunset. I arrived to Ruby’s Inn right outside of Bryce Canyon National Park, which was the perfect rustic hotel to stay at before a day of hiking.

My first day of hiking at Bryce Canyon started bright and early. I was blown away by the stunning rock formations, called hoodoos, which were scattered throughout the canyon. While all of the trails were beautiful, I highly recommend the Navajo Loop, which is moderately strenuous, but gives you a great glimpse of all that Bryce Canyon has to offer. The Queens Garden Trail also gives you more views of the hoodoos which look like figurines of queens when you use your imagination. The Rim Trail is a great option for those with strollers/wheelchairs, or those who are looking for a flat path. In between hikes, I stopped by the Astronomy Festival to view famous telescopes and look at the sun up close. It was fascinating and I wish I could have stayed another night to view the constellations. In the evening I drove to Zion National Park to meet my family.

19260535_10155501794079524_8618620084766891556_n

Bryce Canyon

Upon arriving to Zion National Park, I’m pretty sure my jaw didn’t stop dropping for days. My Hampton Inn hotel was located in the middle of the red rock formations and I never wanted to stop looking at them. I spent the first evening at the Whiptail Grill, which was an old gas station converted into a southwestern restaurant. If you are looking for a unique dining experience with delicious southwestern food, this is a must see! I also stopped by the Bit and Spur to catch up with some of my aunts, uncles, and cousins who I hadn’t seen in far too long. We had a great time and I knew the next few days of festivities were going to be a blast.

19430046_10155501802254524_863513969284845165_n

Angel’s Landing


My next day of hiking was by far the most exhilarating hike I have ever done. I hiked with my family close to the Angel’s Landing point, where we all had to make the grueling decision whether to hike to the top….on an over 100 degree day, with extremely steep climbs, and a metal chain to support us along the way. I am proud to say I was one of the crazy ones who agreed to continue on, and with the encouragement (and lifesaving water in their backpacks) of my cousin and her now husband, I made it to the top! I felt empowered by this hike, reminded that I can do anything that I put my mind to. The full day of hiking led me to jump in the Zion river with my cousin (the bride!), which was a memory I will never forget. After I craved a nice afternoon nap and swam in my family’s hotel pool. My family spent the evening by the pool, catching up as more family came into town for the wedding.

19424571_10155501802269524_8918940931953360701_n

My cousin and I after our hike!

After an exhilarating hike, we spent the next day doing what I would call a refreshing, but also balance-testing hike…the Narrows. And I have to add that my cousin rented a convertible for the drive into the park, which was such a fun way to start the day. We rented heavy wader boots and hiking sticks, not only to look awesome and official ;), but to be able to trudge throughout a river filled with giant rocks. Each step through the river was a combination of wondering whether we would slip and feeling in awe of the rock walls surrounding us. I felt very refreshed in the water especially with the record high temperatures in Utah. After the hike, my family got dazzled up for the wedding welcome party, where we were greeted with local beers and wine, and cake, overlooking the Zion rock formations. Again, I was stunned and couldn’t believe that people actually lived in such an amazing place!

19429750_10155501810114524_4113165371483692721_n

The Narrows

 

On my cousin’s wedding day, I had some extra time to explore the farmer’s market and boutiques with Native American heritage gifts, trinkets, and the coolest rocks, bringing me back to my childhood days of collecting rocks. I bought some new rocks representing Utah and was inspired to look back at my old rock collection back in Michigan. I loved them all so much that the rocks are now part of my centerpiece in my Greenville apartment today.

And now for the #LoveRocksZion wedding…my cousin and her now husband planned the most intimate, personal ceremony. All the guests had shade umbrellas to help us keep cool for the outdoor ceremony, again, overlooking the Zion rock formations. No cell phones were allowed, which was a refreshing way for all of us to stay in the moment. I felt so connected to the ceremony. For the reception, we enjoyed a Southwest inspired dinner with geodes decorating our tables, and a cake in the shape of a geode! We danced on the outdoor dance floor with the sun setting around us and beautiful decorative lights overhead. One confession…I caught the bouquet that my cousin (the bride) threw. This was the second time this has happened to me…and I still don’t have a groom :). If anyone has any insight into this, I’d love to hear it :)! To me, there is no better feeling than having many of my loved ones in one place, at one time, dancing together. I will never forget this incredible wedding.

19510401_10155501816484524_303773408270433947_n

My brother and me at the reception

My last day in Utah involved a drive back to Las Vegas, where I strolled the strip for several hours before flying home. No, I didn’t gamble or do anything else Vegas-y, except enjoy the views of what I like to call the lifesize adult Disney World. I look forward to going back to Vegas to experience all of the wild adventures they have to offer :).

I hope my stories help you if you happen to visit Utah one day. I can’t wait to go back!

Advertisements

Graduation Reflections & Going Forward

Standard

And just like that…I am now an International MBA graduate of the Moore School of Business! April and May have been two of the busiest months of my life, completing my last semester of graduate school, preparing for graduation, searching for housing in Greenville, moving across the country, visiting family, and planning summer vacations before my next chapter begins at Michelin.

18275153_10155332383104524_119909786192015626_n

Thank you so much for your patience in my time of transition – I can’t wait to be more active on inspirNational again once everything is settled this summer. Right now is one of my first moments in months where I have more than a half hour to spare as I am waiting for my trip to Seattle to begin. I have so many thoughts to share with you about my last few months, including my weekend trips to Savannah, Charleston, and Traverse City, my graduation, and my reflections as I prepare for my next life phase. Over the next several weeks, I will share these thoughts with you.

To begin, I wanted to pass along my graduation speech that I shared at the MBA Soiree on the evening before my graduation. It captures the essence of my IMBA experience and was an honor to represent my class.

“Hi Everyone! My name is Brittany VanderBeek. I am an International MBA graduate in the French track, who studied supply chain management and business analytics. As the MBA Student Association President, I wanted to share a few thoughts with you.

First of all, thank you to MBA Programs Office for making today possible and for your endless support throughout our MBA journey.

Thank you to the faculty and staff here today who have been there every step of the way – pushing us to reach our potential, growing our understanding of the world, supporting us when we need it most, and cheering us on during our successes.

Thank you to all members of the Student Association for your enthusiasm and hard work to represent the voice of our class and to plan events to strengthen our MBA community.

To our families and friends – thank you all for being here to celebrate the MBA graduates. We couldn’t be more grateful for your support throughout our lives.

To the graduates – it is incredible to think how far we have come. Let’s take a minute to reflect. To the International MBAs – in two or three years we learned another language, completed the core business curriculum, specialized, and earned additional certifications. To the One-Year MBAs – how amazing that you completed all of your business curriculum and certifications in less than a year! At the same time, all of us were maintaining on our relationships and our homes, making new friends, getting involved on campus, going to football and basketball games, and staying in touch with loved ones. Some of us welcomed new life into the world, some of us have said goodbye to loved ones, but all of us have prepared for an incredible life ahead of us. We have had our fair share of challenges, but we have also had some of the most rewarding experiences of our lives. I can say that the Moore community, especially all of you, are what made my experience possible. As I mentioned at our welcome mixer, we have created a lifelong network and community. I hope that we all take what we have learned and soar in our careers throughout the world. I also hope that we never forget our roots at the Moore School and come back to visit.

Let’s toast to the graduating class of 2017 – I couldn’t be more proud to be standing next to all of you! Thank you!”

Reflecting upon graduation, it was one of the most hectic, but also exciting few days of my IMBA experience. I was very grateful for my mom, boyfriend, and boyfriend’s family who attended my ceremony and festivities. I was also grateful to attend my boyfriend’s graduation ceremony from law school, which was an incredible experience because we both graduated at the Horseshoe, one of the University of South Carolina’s idyllic locations. One day I was the graduate and the next day I was the attendee, which made my experience feel full circle. The University of South Carolina business and law schools treated us graduates and our families like gold, with delicious Southern food, cocktails, and live performers (I’ll never forget the steel drummers after my graduation!). I am so happy that I experienced graduation, but I am also glad that I can now move on and relax (or more so travel and visit family) this summer.

18300926_10155332380134524_6986972979594263321_n

I hope you all have an inspirNational weekend (and holiday weekend for those in the United States)! Off to Seattle for my boyfriend’s cousin’s wedding and to visit my best friend from preschool – I can only imagine what stories I will have to share with you over the next couple of weeks!

Learning Adaptability

Standard

There is one word that can describe my experience over the last month: adaptability.

screen-shot-2014-04-22-at-8-38-08-pm

Source: outpostcrossfit.wordpress.com

Since mid-April, I have spent time in Paris (France), Rochester (Michigan), Traverse City (Michigan), Bloomfield Hills (Michigan), Ann Arbor (Michigan), Cleveland (Ohio), Wytheville (Virginia), Columbia (South Carolina), Charleston (South Carolina), Asheville (North Carolina), and now Greenville (South Carolina). In each location I have stayed with different family or friends, in settings ranging from a homestay apartment in Paris to student housing in Greenville to a luxury hotel in Asheville. My daily life has transitioned from being a laid back French student, to vacation mode with family in the states, to now working in corporate life. To say I have experienced change is an understatement. I have had to transition and adapt in ways that some people never experience in an entire lifetime. At its face, it seems overwhelming, but I remind myself that I am going through the steps I signed up for as an International MBA student. I view it as part of my adventure to grow personally and professionally. Through each of these changes over the past month, and lots of travel time in between, I have had time to reflect about what it takes to be adaptable and to be happy while you are facing change. I wanted to share some of my recent reflections with my favorite inspirNational readers.

What have a I learned about adaptability?

Take care of your health, first. Change naturally stresses the body, so it is critical for us to get enough sleep, to eat healthy foods, and to exercise. Emphasizing health is more important in times of change since our stressed bodies are more prone to illness. Sleep has been my biggest culprit. I have noticed that I am waking up earlier, so I am working on going to bed earlier to ensure that I get my nightly 8 hours of sleep.

Spend time in nature. Go for a hike, ride your bike in your neighborhood, or have an outdoor picnic. Fresh air, sunshine, and natural sounds help calm us, especially when we are feeling anxious about the changes we are facing. I have been blessed with the opportunity to visit very nature-focused cities, including Traverse City, Asheville, and Greenville, which have enabled me to find inner peace while transitioning. Nature has reminded me that with change there is consistency, from day to night, and from season to season.

Slow down: pause and pamper. Remember that you do not need to be in a rush. Life takes time, decisions take time, transitions take time. The right answers do not always come to us immediately and sometimes we have to slow down to be able to notice the right answers and the right path for our lives. This is one of the hardest concepts for me to understand because I like to finish what I have started, figure out the solution to a problem, achieve one goal, and move on to the next goal as quickly as possible. I am learning to slow down, which is helping change become more comfortable for me. Also, while you take a pause, remember to reward yourself for all the moving and transitioning you are experiencing. Relax with a massage, get a manicure, or go for a haircut. I had a company offsite this week that included a massage, and it couldn’t have arrived at a better time. I also took a bath, which helped me pause, relax, and enjoy the warm water and bubbles. How often do we sit for a bath rather than a rushed shower? The pausing and pampering helps motivate us to keep going and have faith that stability will come.

Be yourself. While we are adapting, it is important to be open to new ideas and opportunities, but we also should not lose a sense of who we are. Stand up for who you are, your religious and political beliefs, your interests, and that little quirks that make you, “you.” Think about your childhood self, which is likely a realistic version of who you are and who you want to be, before societal expectations were enforced upon you. I saw a quote at an art gallery yesterday in Asheville that really stuck with me: “Discipline is never forgetting what you want.” Never forgetting what you want means you are never forgetting who you are and the little inner voice that encourages you everyday. I am taking this quote to heart and going to remember this in my daily life.

Quotefancy-15962-3840x2160

Source: quotefancy.com

Find connections to what you love: your local church, your favorite comfort foods, your favorite music, your favorite sports, etc. By connecting with the new community where we live, we feel more comfortable with the changes we are facing. I have enjoyed listening to my favorite playlists everyday while moving and have made a point to enjoy some of my comfort foods: peanut butter, fresh berries, French toast, orange juice, ice cream, and more. I am in the process of finding a Catholic church for the summer that will keep me centered in my faith . I am also joining a yoga studio and local outdoor sports leagues, which have been my favorite ways to stay fit and meet new people as I have moved over the years. On the note of connection, also stay connected with loved ones on social media – you will feel less far way from them and will help make your next conversation at home feel like you just saw each other.

Be kind to everyone you meet. You never know when you will cross paths again, especially in new places where you move. I have had the exciting opportunity to get in touch with one of my high school cheerleading teammates who I have not seen since high school, who is also in Greenville now. It is so comforting to have a Rochester friend in the same place as me now. I experienced the same thing in Cleveland when I realized that one of my study abroad friends from Spain also lived in Cleveland, and she became one of my best friends. There truly are six degrees of separation, and we will run into those we meet throughout different phases in our lives. Kindness has always been one of my most important values, and its significance has only been enhanced as I have moved and met (or remet) friends!

I am continually learning and growing in this adaptation process, and am excited to have a summer where I can learn about corporate life and a new city in South Carolina before returning to graduate school in the fall. The most comforting part of adaptation is that we are all in life together and experiencing changes at different points in life. I hope that these ideas help you as you face changes now or in the future!

il_570xN.449279462_n5mv

Source: WhiteCellarDoor on Etsy

 

Overcoming Living Abroad Challenges

Standard

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.

cognitive

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

Standard

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.

7iaagM9iA

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?

La mère est la lumière de la famille

Standard

I’ve always heard that a mom is what makes a home for a family…and it’s absolutely true with my host family in Paris!

Last night, Marie Christine, the mother of my host family, arrived home from her Worldwide Wildlife Fund (WWF) trip to China. I was eager to meet her and talk about our mutual interest in sustainable development and international travel. I was excited to learn that she also works with Michelin (my summer internship will be with Michelin’s Global Leadership Program) and she studied at the University of Salamanca, Spain (as did I in the summer of 2011).

highmeadowslightpollutionhome

Source: environmentallysound.wordpress.com

When she arrived, it became clear to me that la mère est la lumière de la famille. Marie Christine truly lit up the home the minute she walked in. Lights literally turned on, and the energy in the home went from somber to cheerful with her presence. She joined us for dinner and talked about her trip to China. Her daughter, my host sister (Marine), was stressed about university exams, as are many of the French university students this week (Quick side note: Your grades determine whether or not you can get free university education in France!). Marie Christine tried to cheer up Marine by giving her a Panda teddy bear which was her favorite animal.

While eating homemade carrot and cheese soup (or as my French translation understands), whitefish, liche fruit, and yogurt, we discussed (in French) our time since Marie Christine was away. I explained that I enjoyed my first week in Paris, and was adapting to the metro system, having classes completely in French, and learning about history everywhere I looked. Marie Christine comforted me by saying I can ask the family to slow down in French so that I can understand. She also clarified any questions I had in English. My host dad (Alexandre) talked about his busy week as an ENT surgeon, although he didn’t go into much detail. Marine discussed her exams and how she thought it was crazy that her fitness class was of equal importance to her other management classes. My first few dinners were just with Alexandre and Marine, where we ate lots of good food (cheese, bread, pasta, avocados, salmon, chicken, and did I say cheese and bread?!) and had brief conversations. I was surprised by the brevity, given the stereotype of long mealtimes in France, but we started eating after 9pm and had early mornings, so it made sense. With the arrival of Marie Christine, though, we spent much more time talking, reflecting, and relaxing. I could tell that Alexandre and Marine were grateful she was back home.

Despite experiencing jet lag, Marie Christine woke up early this morning with her husband. I was surprised to see her and asked her, “aren’t you tired?” She said, “it’s nice to eat breakfast with someone.” How selfless and sweet of her to join her husband for breakfast! I also asked her if I could be late to dinner today because I have a “meet and greet” with my school, and she said “no problem! In our house, there are no problems, just solutions.” What an optimistic mindset that I think could benefit many of us.

While drinking N’Espresso (addicting!) and eating toast with strawberry confiture and fresh fromage, we briefly discussed her work at WWF and how she would work from home today. She described that she loves her job and never feels the need to complain about it. I immediately thought of what I read by Elizabeth Gilbert about planning our lives to include a job, hobby, vocation, and career. Elizabeth Gilbert explains the definitions here and reminds us that they may not always be interchangeable. We must include our job, hobby, vocation, and career when making our decisions for today and the future. Based on Marie Christine’s positive energy, I have a feeling that she balances all of these components of life. I am excited to have the opportunity to learn from her over the next few months. I hope that I can be la lumière pour ma famille en la future.

Happy Holidays from inspirNational!

Standard

As we travel near and far throughout the year and especially this holiday season, may we remember that “life brings us to unexpected places, but love brings us home.”image1

Moving to South Carolina and soon to France have both been unexpected for me, but very exciting at the same time! I have started the holidays in Virginia and Ohio, and now will be home in Michigan for the next couple weeks. I look forward to starting the new year Parisienne style! Wishing you, your family and friends a joyful and relaxing holiday season. See you in 2016 with more exciting inspirNational insights from around the world!