Category Archives: Language

Graduation Reflections & Going Forward


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.


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.


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!


Enlightenment from Living in Paris


Approaching my first two weeks abroad, I already feel that I have had substantial time to reflect on my adventure in Paris. As expected, I have learned a great deal about the French language and culture while in class, living with my host family, visiting tourist sites, and exploring the city. More significantly, though, I have learned about myself and how I can apply my Parisian mindset to my daily life. Below I have captured some of the key lessons that have enlightened me while living abroad in Paris.

  • Eat to enjoy, not to indulge. Many Parisians eat bread and cheese at every meal, and chocolates or pastries after every lunch and dinner. Most of our waistlines are saying “no fair! How is that possible?” This seems contrary to all diet rules we have heard. I eat sweets almost every day now, including crepes with Nutella, creme brulee filled chocolate, coconut cookies, and chocolate waffles. One significant observation is that the portions are a quarter of the size of those in the United States. The smaller portions are encouraging me to enjoy each morsel, rather than feel full after eating sweets. My host sister told me that the average French woman’s BMI is 19, which is on the verge of being underweight.  This reminds me that portion control is key. Rather than restraining ourselves and then indulging too much, we should allow ourselves to enjoy small portions and satisfy our cravings.
  • Look to appreciate, not to just see. Notice differences between your new destination and your home, and learn from them! Tourists are often better at looking to appreciate than locals, especially because tourists experience a series of “firsts” when traveling: “first time seeing the Eiffel Tower,” “first time cruising on the Seine River,” etc. For those living abroad, it becomes easy to overlook our surroundings. We may walk past monuments without appreciating their history. Or we may drive home from work when the sun is setting without noticing the beautiful sky. With the opportunity to visit Paris a second time, and now fully engage with the city as a student, I am focused on appreciating all of my surroundings. I am taking several photos to capture memories. I am reading every sign and researching the significance of the buildings, monuments, and streets around me (centuries of history I should mention). This appreciative outlook is helping me become more understanding of the French culture. I also feel more grateful for the small things that bring me joy and empowered to face adversity in my daily life.
  • Listen to understand, not to judge. While traveling and especially while living abroad, we are constantly encountering new people, which means new perspectives. In various conversations, we will likely hear things that enlighten us, surprise us, or even enrage us when living abroad. I’m surprised by home many expats in Paris I’ve met who have said, “You’re American, why do you need to learn French?” Or “Why are you traveling in Europe? I thought Americans only stayed in the U.S.” I have chosen to listen to their questions respectfully and respond with my genuine interests and goals about learning French. I realized that according to this stereotype about Americans, I might be rare for having the travel bug, eager to learn new languages, and explore new cultures. Rather than judging their assumptions, I am working to be an American ambassador, demonstrating that many Americans do in fact enjoy learning about other languages and cultures.

On a separate but similar note, traveling often forces us to take the role of listener. Particularly when we are learning a new language,  we are still learning how to formulate words to contribute (confidently) to a conversation. This intensive listening is a good exercise particularly for those of us who often voice our opinions. Without having to (or being able to) speak, we become more understanding and less apt to make quick judgments in a conversation.

  • Speak to communicate, not to fight. The world is full of hateful words, and it is easy for us to engage in a fight. We can be more effective by having the objective to communicate and foster understanding in a conversation. This became more apparent to me when I visited the Place Republique in Paris, which has a monument with a memorial for the terrorist attacks in January and November 2015. The memorial speaks volumes about the pain the French felt when attacked over the past year. Hundreds of candles, photos, poems, and letters surround the monument, voicing the Parisian’s sadness, values, and dreams for the future. The memorial has a way of communicating powerful words that inspire the world, rather than engaging in a fight. If we truly want to end the war on terrorism, we need to disengage from the “dirty fight,” respect each other, and not fall victim to the endless fear that terrorists are hoping to provoke. I have faith that goodness will prevail, especially if we can effectively communicate with eachother throughout the world.
  • Live to experience, not to achieve. Every year, I have come closer to the realization that life is a series of experiences, and not necessarily achievement milestones. With the expectation that we will have a series of experiences (and not just accomplishments), we will no longer fear failure. One of my favorite quotes that I recently read was by Nikola Tesla: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” We will go through ups and downs, all of which combine to create the experience of life. My time in Paris has been a great example of this “experience” mindset. My first weekend in Paris I went the wrong way on the metro a few times, but it made me learn the “ins and outs” of the metro before beginning school. My phone died a few times and I didn’t have a charger, but it reminded me to pause and look with my own eyes rather than the eyes of my iPhone camera and social media pages. Despite all the changes and new beginnings in 2016, I have a sense of calm within me, solely because I am enjoying considering both positive and negative moments as life experiences.

I hope these inspirNational lessons I have learned while living in Paris can inspire you too. What other enlightenment have you experienced while living abroad?

Best Places to Study French in France


Check out my latest feature on One World 365, with a sneak peak below!


As 2015 nears the end, I cannot help but think about one of my most exciting life adventures ahead. In January, I will be living in the heart of Paris, France as part of a language and culture immersion in my International MBA Program at the University of South Carolina Moore School of Business!

Preparing for the adventure, I have researched the best places to study French in France, which I have shared below. I look forward to hearing any other ideas from you and adding insights when I live in France this winter!

Paris: As the most famous, cosmopolitan, trend-setting, and romantic city in France, you will fall in love with Paris while studying French. Paris provides you with the perfect combination of history, art, fashion, food, politics, and culture to keep you engaged and learning every minute of every day.

My first trip to Paris, August 2011

My first trip to Paris, August 2011

Nice: The French Riviera provides some of the most scenic views in France, with beautiful beaches along the Mediterranean coast. You can easily travel to other French Riviera cities, including St. Tropez and Cannes. Nice is one of France’s most visited cities, attracting four million tourists per year.

My trip to Nice, August 2011

My trip to Nice, August 2011

Lyon: Famous for being the gastronomic capital of France and the world, Lyon provides great opportunities for students to learn about French cuisine. Lyon is also one of the business capitals of France, providing excellent internship opportunities for students.

Lyon Bridge, August 2011

Lyon Bridge, August 2011

Aix-en-Provence: With a central location, Aix-en-Provence is popular for students looking to be close to the Alps, the coast, and Mediterranean countries. Aix-En-Provence was once a European Capital of Culture, with several museums, theaters, and rugby clubs to entertain the locals and tourists.

French musician in Aix-en-Provence

French musician in Aix-en-Provence

I have also written more details about Rennes, Bordeaux, and Grenoble, which I look forward to visiting when I study in Paris! Read my full article on OneWorld365.

Where else do you recommend that students go to learn French in France? Feel free to leave your ideas and comments below.

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!


How to Study Abroad Without Studying Abroad


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



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?

What is it like to learn a new language?


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

What have I learned from studying a new language?

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

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

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

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

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