Category Archives: Friendship

The Season of Gratitude

Standard

Has anyone else felt that the holidays came at the blink of an eye this year? It was fall, and suddenly it is full-on Christmastime. I hope my American followers enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday as a time to relax, reflect, and spend time with family and friends. My holiday wasn’t necessarily relaxing, but I am happy that I made the most of spending time with family and friends throughout the week – from Ohio (Cleveland and Columbus) to Michigan (Royal Oak, Rochester, Bloomfield Hills, and Detroit!).

While it has been easy for me to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of the season, from travel planning, to shopping for gifts, to decorating my apartment, I wanted to make sure to spend time reflecting. After all, the holiday season for me is the season of gratitude. I wanted to share a few things that make me feel especially grateful this year and hopefully they will inspire you to think about what you are grateful for as well!

First, I am grateful for creativity. Throughout the fall I have had a huge craving for the arts. If I see or think of something creative, I want to try it! I made candles with my neighbors, which is surprisingly much easier than you would think. You collect old jars you have around the house, melt wax in a pan, pour wax into the jars, and mix in your favorite combination of scents from essential oils or spices (fun fact – turmeric is a great spice to color your candle), and voila – you have a candle! I also painted freestyle with my neighbors in our own version of a “wine and paint” party. This is much more budget friendly and intimate way to paint with your friends – you get to choose the wine, paint at your own pace, and be at the comfort of your own home! I practiced flow painting with family during the Thanksgiving – which was so much fun and also therapeutic. What could be more fun (from an arts perspective) than mixing paint with Elmer’s glue and water, combining colors in a cup, and pouring them onto a canvas in whichever order you would like? You would be amazed how quickly you can look like a professional artist through flow painting! And most recently, I decorated a gingerbread house with my dad so that we could share enjoying the Christmas spirit even though we live far apart. Through all of these experiences, I have found that the arts are one way for me to focus my mind on the present. It helps clear my mind even for a short moment – which frees up space for me to problem solve and reflect in my daily life. It is very rewarding to see the outcome, a tangible and visual example of my work. I look forward to continuing the arts in the new year!

I am grateful for home. I have realized how important it is to have a home – and I don’t mean a physical location. My apartment in Greenville feels like home with all the memories from loved ones, including furniture from my grandma, decorations from my travels, warm candles, and photos of important people in my life. Spending time in Michigan with family feels like home, because my loved ones make it home. Even as my relatives have moved locations, I still feel at home when we are all together. It is the sense of togetherness that makes a place home for me. I can say that my heart feels its best and the most complete when it has a sense of “home.”

I am grateful for flexibility. There is no better feeling than when I have options and I don’t feel “stuck” – whether that means in my life decisions, my daily schedule, or my travels. Flexibility and free time are incredibly liberating and are helping me as I plan for the future. I feel lucky that my job allows me to have work-life balance – to flexibly schedule my commitments at work and at home. I just started the book, “The Power of Now,” and through that I am already realizing that time is imaginary and we should never feel stuck in a situation. Everything can be much more flexible if we separate ourselves from time pressures and worries and focus on the present and what we truly want. I have a feeling I will write a post about “The Power of Now” based on how much it has inspired me in just the first 50 pages of the book.

I am grateful for friendship. As I have moved every year since officially being an adult, and often multiple times per year, I could not be more grateful for the friendships I have made along the way. New and old friends along the way have helped me explore new places, laughed with me on the good days, cried with me on the bad days, and reflected on life. Together we have shared experiences that have helped me grow and prepare for the next phase. I can honestly say I don’t know where I would be without them – thank you to everyone who has been a friend along the way – can’t wait for more adventures together!

What are you grateful for? I hope these reflections help all of us remember to pause and think about the season of gratitude. May the holidays bring you much happiness, joy, and peace this year!

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!

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?

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

Standard

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.

Source: bpkwesthartford.com

Source: bpkwesthartford.com

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!

How to Study Abroad Without Studying Abroad

Standard

Craving travel? Want to study abroad but you do not have time or your school program does not offer study abroad options?

Source: thestudyabroadblog.com

Source: thestudyabroadblog.com

I have realized in my international business program that it is possible to study abroad without actually leaving your campus or the comforts of your home. For students, studying abroad goes beyond traveling to a new country. How can you study abroad in your daily life?

  • Get to know your classmates. More often than not, universities are attracting diverse students from throughout the world. Your classmates can give you an insider view of international cultures and customs.
  • Get to know your professors. Similar to my note above, universities often recruit diverse faculty members. If you have a particular country of interest, you can reach out to professors to learn about their experience abroad and their research. Most professors love to share their experiences, particularly related to their research.
  • Listen to international radio stations. TuneIn Radio offers over 100,000 radio stations that give you with an international music experience. Hearing foreign languages in music is also an effective way to improve language comprehension when you are studying foreign languages.
  • Join university clubs that relate to your country of interest. For example, many universities offer salsa clubs, international sports clubs or food tasting events. I am participating in a wine and beer club to learn about wine and beer throughout the world.
  • Attend local concerts and events relating to international cultures. Many cities offer international performances, art exhibits, and more to develop cross-cultural understanding in the community.

All of these ideas help you have an inspirNational experience while living on campus, regardless of whether you are studying at your local university or a foreign university. What other ideas do you have to study abroad without actually studying abroad?

From Explorer to Settler

Standard

InspirNational readers: We all love to explore and travel, but how do we decide where to settle? Thank you to Hunter Reams for writing this guest post with some great insights about choosing where to settle.


There are countless blogs and advice columns on traveling and exploring the world. While we all love being an explorer, at the end of the day, or at the end of a great vacation, we need a place to call home. Deciding where you want to settle down can be one of the most difficult decisions. From affordability to an awesome job market, many variables impact your decision on that place that you can call home. I have narrowed down my top criteria in making the all-important decision of where to plant your roots.

Job Opportunities
Job opportunities vary from state to state and region to region, and this is a very important variable as it is the foundation upon which you will prosper. I believe that the best place to start your “quest to settle” is to analyze the job market. If you work in investment banking, New York City will be much more likely to have opportunities than Gary, Indiana. Or if you are interested in supply chain management for oil, Texas and North Dakota may have the best opportunities. Network with friends, network online, network some more, and search for the employment opportunities that will make you happy. Once you have located either specific jobs or areas that have a demand for your expertise, narrow your search area to those places. This way, you will be much more likely to be financially stable, and derive the most enjoyment out of your new location!

office

Family and Friends
If family and friends play a major role in your life, you may not want to locate far away from them. While social media and communications technology have made it much easier to stay connected over long distances, it is nonetheless very difficult to live far from your closest circle. Personally, this is a particularly difficult criterion as my parents relocated to a remote Appalachian city, while my friends and extended family are in Michigan/Ohio…When analyzing this variable; keep in mind the age/health of your family and friends, as well as the possibilities of them relocating. If you are looking to settle away from friends and family, consider living in areas that are near airports or other forms of public transportation to help you stay connected.

fam

Climate and Geography
If you love the beach, should you focus on living beachside? If you want to ski every day, should you narrow your search to mountainous regions? Do you want to live right by the Detroit Tigers’ stadium so you can get season tickets to the games? Both the climate and geographic region play a huge role in determining your hobbies, behaviors, and activities. A good way to analyze this variable is to write down all of the hobbies and activities that make you happy, and determine if each geographic location can cater to them. If you absolutely cannot go a week without playing golf, then living in Maine would not be a great idea. If you love the snow and four seasons, then maybe Florida is not the right place for you. This variable should not be overlooked because you can find employment, affordable housing, good education systems, and culture all throughout the country. But certain geographic locations have characteristics that others do not possess. (i.e oceans, warm weather, sports teams). Choose wisely when determining what geographic locations can best satisfy your needs.

bea

Population and Culture
I grouped population and culture together because I have traveled to many large American cities and have yet to find one that does not offer plenty of culture. On the other hand, the majority of small cities do not possess as many offerings of cultural stimulation. If you crave the variety of cultural foods, music, atmosphere, ambience, etc. then living in cities like New York, Los Angeles or Miami would be a great fit. Those cities are full of vibrant offerings that will keep any cultural sommelier happy. If cultural diversity is not as important to you, then a small town or suburb will likely be a good match.

Population is also an important factor because life in a small town is much different than living in a suburb, which is much different than living in a large city. Having lived in all three, I will share my opinions per population size:

If you enjoy seeing neighbors at the local grocery store and enjoy being a bigger fish in a small pond, then the small town life may be for you. Living in a small town provides a sense of community – you feel like you truly are part of the town. There are also fewer worries about crime, traffic, other annoyances, and the ability to frequently see friends and family at the local restaurants, churches, and stores. Additionally, it is typically much more affordable and land is abundant. The biggest disadvantages to small town life are the lack of amenities, culture, and job opportunities. In the town I lived in for 6 months, there was very little to do, not much shopping/entertainment, and lack of cultural exposure among many of the people. The town did not have any major corporation and held very few job opportunities for a young college graduate. I believe that living in a small town is best suited for those that want a slower pace of life, close-knit community, and more privacy. Families, retirees, and those who love the outdoors are best suited for the small town.

Growing up in a suburb provided a great mix of the small town and bigger city. While I could travel into Detroit for sports games and concerts, I also could retreat back to the safety and privacy that the suburb provided. There were great job opportunities in the suburb itself and in the surrounding cities. I feel that the biggest disadvantage to suburban life is that there is not the abundance of culture/entertainment that one finds in a big city, and it also lacks the land and community involvement compared to a small town. Some may find that suburbs are unsatisfyingly mediocre. I believe that suburbs are the most ideal location for families and those that want a comfortable lifestyle.

Life in the big city has the advantages of all the amenities you can ask for; lots of entertainment and culture, and tons of employment opportunities. Cities often have public transits systems that eliminate the need for a car and a short bike ride or walk can get you to where you need to be. I feel that the biggest drawbacks to living in a larger city are the lack of nature, expenses, small fish in a big pond, crime, and annoyances such as traffic and higher taxes. I believe that the big city is best suited for young professionals and those that want to experience a fast paced lifestyle with tons of culture and diversity.

Overall, small towns, suburbs, and larger cities all have pros and cons. It is important to discover what makes you happy, and find a place that works for you!

pop

Longevity
My final variable in making the decision to settle down is longevity. It is important to grasp an understanding on long-term variables that will be important to you. Education systems, healthcare, governmental benefits and taxes, real estate markets – these things are easy to overlook when you are 25 and excited to start your career in a new place. But in a few short years when all of your friends and colleagues are starting families, these variables can become extremely important, if not determinative. So when making your decision on where to settle down, keep in mind that your priorities will likely change. To help analyze this factor, reaching out to family members or friends who are at a later stage in life may be of help. Ask them what they look for when relocating, and the best ways of ascertaining that information. This way, you are not only preparing for the present, but also for the future.

fammm

Final Word
Overall, there is no right decision and that is a beautiful thing! You cannot make a wrong choice, only choose a different path. Do your diligences, discover what makes you happy, and then go for it!

Tea Inspiration

Standard

Did you ever think you could learn a lesson from drinking tea? If you’re like me, your first thought is probably “no.” Recently, though, I have learned that tea is inspiring.

Source: Not On The High Street

Source: Not On The High Street

As the second most consumed beverage in the world (after water), there must be something more to tea than quenching our thirst or soothing our sore throats. Throughout the world, many people find that tea soothes the soul and provides wisdom in our daily lives. A couple weeks ago, I learned from Gloria Kemer at the Emerald Necklace Inn & Tea Room in Cleveland, Ohio that tea reminds us to slow down and appreciate the moment. When I think about, how often am I eating “on the go” or getting a coffee “on the go”? The truth is, more often than not, I am in a rush, “on the go,” and forgetting the importance of living in the present and appreciating each day as it comes. With a precious antique cup and warm beverage, tea helps us pause for a moment in the day and simply enjoy.

IMG_5854

Over the weekend, I attended a Mother’s Day Tea with my mom and grandma at Victorian Rose Tea House and La Premier Catering in Rochester, Michigan. The tea house owner, Loretta, has an inviting historical home with family heirlooms that makes you feel like you’re traveling to Europe. She and her employees greeted my family with freshly brewed pomegranate tea, homemade papaya scones, fresh fruit salad, tastes of bruschetta and goat cheese, deviled eggs, and Hula pie. Each course was served on antique china with the perfect portion to help us enjoy each morsel. Similar to my experience with Gloria Klemer, I was reminded to slow down and this time, embrace the day with my family.

IMG_5855

I am now challenging myself, and inspirNational readers, to drink tea regularly and pause in our fast-paced daily lives. By spending time relaxing and drinking tea, we are giving ourselves the gift of a refreshed mind, new ideas, quality time with our loved ones, and the rejuvenation necessary to live an inspirNational life.

As an interesting side note, learn more about tea etiquette throughout the world below, so you can spread the tea inspiration no matter where you are living or traveling!

Source: IMGFave

Source: IMGFave