Home for the Holidays

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Happy Holidays to all of my inspirNational followers! I hope that you have enjoyed a festive month this December. With only a couple days left of 2016, I am reflecting on what it has meant to me to be home for the holidays. Over the past month, I have completed my second to last semester of graduate school and have made the long road trip from South Carolina to Michigan, spending time in various cities in between to get together with friends and family. I have been fully engaged in spending time with loved ones, which has been wonderful for me to disconnect a bit from the real world and to reconnect with friends and family who I have not seen in almost a year.

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Traveling throughout 2016 has reminded me of the importance of home. I have absolutely loved living abroad and exploring, but it is even more rewarding when I can go back home to share memories with my loved ones. Home is what helps me relax, reflect, and rejuvenate to learn and grow from my past experiences and prepare for my next adventures. Traveling has also taught me that home is not a place, but the feeling I have when I am with family and friends. This has explained why I have often felt at home, even when I have lived and traveled throughout the world, especially this year. With the feeling of home, then, all of us can experience home at several points in our lives as we move and go to new places. I have found that I feel most at home when I am with my mom and dad since I have known them my entire life, followed by other family members and lifelong friends. As my family, friends, and I have moved and traveled to new places and have had different experiences, we always go back to the “old days” or “how it always was” when we get together. It is such a comforting feeling especially with all the changes we face in our daily lives. My feeling of home as a connection to people has taught me that the people in my life are what matter most to me. I couldn’t be more grateful for my family, friends, and inspirNational followers who have helped me feel at home and have learned and grown with me over the years. I hope that whether you have traveled home or not this holiday season, that you have felt at home by reconnecting with your loved ones. May 2017 bring you much happiness, love, and inspirNational adventures!

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Embrace Joy

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With the holidays upon us and the end of the year approaching, I wanted to set an intention for this holiday season. Over the past few days, I have had a few experiences that have reminded me to embrace joy. While Thanksgiving last week encouraged me to pause, reflect, and express gratitude next to family and friends, the Christmas season is inspiring me to embrace joy.

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Source: The Dill Loop

On Monday, I had dinner with my university’s director of corporate and foundation relations, who is like the brand ambassador for joy. She lights up every room she enters, finds connections with those who surround her, and shares joyful stories that express her love and hope for the world. With the life experience that she has, it could be easy to be cynical and pessimistic, but she has reminded me that a joyful attitude can surpass any life circumstance at any age. She has become one of my role models and mentors who I aspire to be like now and into the future.

Last night, I attended my favorite hot yoga class in Columbia, SC, and my yoga instructor encouraged me and the other yogis to find joy in our daily lives. She reminded us that the first step in finding joy is letting go of what doesn’t serve us or what brings us down, and then to be grateful for everything we have. She invited us to set an intention for a yoga practice, which inspired me to set an intention not only for the class, but also for the coming weeks. My intention is to embrace joy. Thinking about the past few decades of Christmases, I have found that this season reminds me each year that magic exists. I think back to my childhood days of making a Christmas list for Santa Claus, singing Christmas carols at school, decorating Christmas cookies, and spending the holidays with loved ones. While many of the traditions have changed, the feeling of magic and joy still remains. So far, I have embraced joy by decorating my apartment for Christmas to help brighten the gloom of taking final exams over the next couple weeks. I look forward to attending a Cookies and Kegs party this weekend for a study break with my classmates. I am trying to find little ways to embrace joy each day to help me get through the daily grind of the student lifestyle before my holiday break begins.

As we all face our daily routines over the next few weeks, I hope that we can make an effort to embrace joy and let the holiday season be as magical as it was when we were children. Regardless of whether we celebrate any of the December holidays, the festivals and decorations can remind us to take the time to find joy in the world around us.

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Source: etsy.com

 

International Education Week – Celebrate with Melibee Global!

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In honor of International Education Week, I wanted to pass along a Melibee Global article to give you ideas to celebrate. International Education Week reminds us to be inspirNational in our everyday lives – to learn from others, to seek understanding, to embrace diversity, and to have a traveler’s mindset.

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Thank you to Kyle Rausch from Melibee Global for the great ideas!

“The fall semester is now underway for institutions across the U.S. and before you know it November will be here, and along with it, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’  International Education Week (IEW)! IEW 2016 will fall on November 14-18 this year, and while many institutions find this a great time to host their study abroad fair or have international student clubs table at the student union, we here at Melibee have been brainstorming more creative ideas for you to try on your campus. Check out some of our team’s ideas below and share how your institution will be celebrating the power of international education in the comments.

1. International Pictionary

Create a simple international version of Pictionary: forget the traditional game board, instead, come up  with some basic categories like “emotions,” “slang,” “daily living!”  Invite students to the game and pair an international student with a domestic student and have them play against another team. Just as in traditional Pictionary, no talking is allowed, but you can throw in the possibility of letting domestic students speak if they only use words they might know in their international partner’s native language. Hang the most culturally-revealing images on the wall in a common area with a photo of the players and their home countries – each with a short reflection on what they learned!

2. World Distance Signage

Do the students on your campus know where you offer study abroad opportunities?  Do they know where your study abroad office is located?  Create a sign like the one in the image with the distances between your campus and your study abroad program locations!  Put it in a high traffic area on campus with a sign that points to your education abroad office.

3. Chopped: International Campus Edition

Put a new twist on the global café concept and instead of simply having international or cultural groups prepare traditional dishes for your campus, make it a competition!  Campus or local chefs could come together to pick out two countries at random and then compete to make a dish inspired by the flavors or traditional dishes of those countries.  The panel of judges could be students…better yet, international students from the countries that are selected!

4. Explore Your Ancestry

We all come from somewhere and it shapes our identity. Short of each of us researching and constructing a massive family tree, there are ways we can ponder who we are and why we are the ways we are. Melibee offers exploration of identity through some unique speakers such as Santos (Glocal Soul Identity in a Global and Local Context),  Michael W. Twitty (Kosher/Soul: Black/Jewish Identity Cooking), and Jennifer Hamady (Voice Across Cultures).  Of course, we offer lots of unique speakers that are ideal for IEW and other events, too. You can see the full roster here.

5. International Campus Recipes

Food…it’s one of everyone’s favorite ways to get acquainted with another culture.  Hence another foodie idea! Capture the diversity of your campus by creating a recipe book to represent all the various countries and cultures on your campus.  Ask for submissions from everyone: staff, faculty, and students.  Encourage them to share their favorite food from another country, the recipe, and what memory is attached to that recipe. Partner with your campus dining services to share the recipes and to cook the food too! Publish the recipes online or in print and sell it for donations to go towards study abroad scholarships. Then you can host an event during IEW that features some of the recipes in the book freshly prepared!

6. Pokémon Go Abroad!

One of this year’s biggest fads is Pokémon Go and there are numerous ways in which your campus can leverage its popularity, even during IEW!  Most campuses are hotspots for Pokémon Go activity, so find out where all the Pokéstops are on your campus and make sure to host some of your IEW events near a Pokéstop and drop some lures to encourage students that play the game to stop by your event.

Many Pokémon are based on wildlife in the real world, and often wildlife that is regional specific.  Host an art or photo campaign (with works created by students) that compares the fictional characters with their real life counterparts and educates students on their native environs.

Have some Pokémon gyms on your campus?  Schedule a window of time where Pokémon Go’s three teams can do battle at one of your campus gym spots with the team who holds the gym the longest during that period of time winning some sort of international prize (think simple international swag: create Pokémon/International themed t-shirts, water bottles, sunglasses etc.)

In addition to some Pokémon being more common or rare depending upon the region you are in, some Pokémon can only be found in certain countries/regions of the world.  Have your students abroad tweet or Instagram the rare Pokémon they’ve caught while abroad using a branded hashtag and the #IEW2016 hashtag.

The possibilities are endless–if you don’t know where to start, ask some students who play the game–they’ll have ideas!  For some of the basics on the game, check out this website.

7. International House Hunter: Dorm Edition

What are student accommodations like in other countries?  Host an exhibition curated by a team of domestic and international students about what residential life is like on international campuses.  Have a photo gallery set up to give your domestic students the insider’s view of what other countries’ residence halls look like compared to those of the U.S.  At each installation, have international students and information about exchange partners on hand.

8. International Dog Fair

Does your institution bring puppies on campus during finals week for stress-relief?  If not–this is a hit with students!  Host a “Dogs From Around the World” event for the dog lovers on your campus.  Since different breeds hail from different countries around the world, you could have various breeds represented by different countries that students could pet and play with, learn about, and couple that with other international information about that country, including your study abroad program opportunities.

There you have it! Eight unique ideas to get your campus engaged with International Education Week 2016! Share you ideas or how your modifying these in the comment section below – and happy #IEW2016!”

Why Travel? Part Nine

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It is crazy to me to think that since my last “Why Travel?” post in February, I have traveled to 7 countries and lived in 3 places. My desire to travel has continued to grow, along with my appreciation for home and what makes a house a home. As we plan the last couple months of 2016 and prepare for a new year of adventure ahead, I wanted to share more inspiration for all inspirNational followers to travel and experience the world, whether you are one mile or one thousand miles from home.

 

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,Why Travel? Part Seven, and Why Travel? Part Eight 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!

The Joy of Saying “No”

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Over the past two months, I have been re-adjusting to graduate school, which has been a good test of my prioritization and time management. It has also reminded me of the importance of distinguishing between what I want to do and what I have to do. An exciting new experience for me has been finding the joy in saying “no.” I have been actively working on saying “no” to help myself slow down, not over-commit, and enjoy each moment for what it is rather than worrying about the next moment. I wanted to pass along a few “tricks of the trade” that have helped me say “no” and feel good about it.

  • Set goals that are both professional and personal. Make sure you are balancing your time to incorporate both sets of goals and focus your time on those goals rather than other aspects of life. Regularly check-in on your progress.
  • Structure your schedule by month first, then by week, and then by day. This will help you realize when you may be over-committing at one point of time and will help encourage you to plan for breaks and rejuvenation.
  • Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Appreciate what you have, rather than worrying about what you don’t have and having FOMO (fear of missing out). A grateful mindset will help you look at your life differently and not feel like you have to keep adding more aspects to your life to feel happy.
  • Spend more time being still and reflecting. This has been a weekly reminder at my yoga class, to be still. I have realized that taking time to pause has helped me reflect and recharge so that I can be fully engaged in work and fun.

I hope that these tips will help you slow down and enjoy each day. How else have you found joy in saying “no”?

Source: Pinterest

Source: Pinterest

inspirNational Music: Under One Sky by the Tenors

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Next up on the inspirNational music playlist is Under One Sky by the Tenors. My boyfriend introduced it to me tonight and we have been singing along to the lyrics all night.

The song reminds us that we are all united throughout the world under one sky. The music video captures people from around the world singing the song, “under one sky, our dreams come alive.” It is so powerful to watch and reminds me of my one of my life missions to connect the world. Traveling the world reminds us that we have so much to learn from those who seem different than us. To many people’s surprise, one of the main lessons we can learn from others is how similar we are in our core values, our purpose, our basic needs, and our joys in life.

Watch the video below:

I hope this song leaves you feeling as inspired as it has made me feel. As I begin my last year in my International MBA program, I am excited to embark on my career journey throughout the world, ready to face the opportunities and challenges, and comforted by the fact that we are all under one sky.

Adventures in Sri Lanka

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Can you believe that August is already coming to an end? Since my last post earlier this month, I had one of my most adventurous trips so far. I experienced Sri Lanka, the home country of one of my best friends and roommates from college. It was my first time visiting Southeast Asia, and I had an eye-opening cultural experience in Qatar for a layover on my way to Sri Lanka.

The main purpose of my eastbound journey was attend my friend, Chami’s wedding in Colombo, Sri Lanka, which was held in the Sri Lankan Buddhist tradition. My college roommates and I used to imagine going to Sri Lanka for this wedding, and it seemed surreal that it was actually happening when I arrived.

Little did I know that the wedding would also include an incredible itinerary, which I wanted to pass along to you in case you would like to visit Sri Lanka one day.

Before the majority of the wedding guests arrived, my friend, Stacey, and I stayed in a modern, hip hotel called Cinnamon Red in the center of Colombo. We tried traditional Sri Lankan food, including Hoppers, Pol Sambola, Kottu, and Curries at Kaema Sutra with the bride and groom. The cuisine was exciting to try because we had to use our hands rather than utensils and enjoyed flavors and spices unfamiliar to our taste buds. We shopped at the popular Odel mall and experienced glorious foot massages recommended by the groom. We also spent time relaxing at the Cinnamon Red rooftop infinity pool overlooking the Indian Ocean and even had the motivation to go to the rooftop gym because of the spectacular views! We enjoyed our first evening at the Bathiya and Santhush concert, which Chami described as the Backstreet Boys of Sri Lanka. Stacey and I were likely the only non-Sri Lankans there, which was definitely an out of body experience. I was reminded, though, that music is a unifying force and I very much felt like part of the crowd while at the concert.

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Over the weekend, we traveled to Negombo for lunch and a beach visit. The beach looked exactly like your desktop background, with palm trees swaying in the breeze, golden sand, and waves of the Indian Ocean crashing. While swimming in the ocean wasn’t safe at the time, I did dip my toes in the water and it was surprisingly warm. Stacey, Chami and I ended up crashing the groom’s bachelor party, which was an interesting way for us to see the party scene and try the local drinks. Balancing out my mantra, I had the fascinating experience of visiting my first Buddhist temple, Gangaramaya. I entered barefoot in all white clothing and was greeted by a friendly regular who offered to give me a tour and explain the history. A few words were lost in translation, but I was grateful to learn about the temple from the perspective of a local.

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I also did a solo trip to an astrologist, which was one of the best fortune telling experiences I’ve ever had in an exotic and tropical small town outside of Colombo. The astrologist reviewed my horoscope, my life trajectory, and my compatibility with my boyfriend. I was happy to learn that all insights affirmed what I have envisioned for my life and there were no surprises or deterrents. I hope that the astrologist is right! He also recommended that I wear a yellow sapphire on my left pointer finger to promote good things happening in my life – if you know of any good places to buy a reasonably priced yellow sapphire ring, please let me know!

Once the wedding guests arrived, we had an incredible guide and bus which quickly became called the “American bus.” We took a long trek to Minneriya, the famous safari park with dozens of elephants, birds, insects, and other safari animals scattered around marshes and green mountains in the distance. We experienced the safari by Jeep, which was such an adventurous way to explore, care free with our hair blowing in the wind and all smiles as we were all getting to know each other and preparing for the week ahead. We spent our evening at the Habarana Village, which was a series of bungalows in the middle of the wilderness, with a beautiful pool and marsh in the distance.

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Our next day was action-packed. We spent the morning climbing over 1,200 steps to visit Sigiriya, an ancient Sri Lankan village which is now a World Heritage Site with amazing views of nature in the distance. We then traveled to the Kandy City Centre to visit the bride’s family’s mall. It was so fun to be able to explore the mall freely and try the most extravagant food court I’ve ever seen. Kandy was incredibly busy because of the famous Perahera Festival in honor of the Buddhist tooth relic. Our tour group walked through the streets where the parade was going to take place (we felt like part of the parade!) in order to visit the Tooth Relic Temple. We were amazed to see elephants outside the temple who were waiting to be dressed for the parade. We spent the evening watching the Perahera Festival from a balcony overlooking the street, and enjoyed traditional music and dance performances, and elephants dressed elegantly with lights and tapestries. I began to feel like a local watching the festival that is so sacred to the Sri Lankans and enjoying traditional Sri Lankan cuisine with the bride’s family. We had a very late evening before returning to Colombo to begin the wedding festivities.

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Chami’s wedding celebration was one that I will never forget. The day before the wedding, the close friends and family were invited to the Chami’s family’s home to watch the Buddhist wedding blessing and enjoy a homemade dinner. This likely became my favorite experience of the trip because I was able to truly understand and be part of the spiritual union of my two close friends. The monks were very friendly, helping the bride translate the blessing into English for many of the guests to understand. They asked us to all hold one string at the same time while they chanted, which was a strong symbol of unity and love that made me feel the power of the Buddhist philosophy. The monks placed string bracelets on all of us (which I am still wearing over a week later!) and encouraged us to try holy water. After the blessing we spent time on the family’s complex rooftop patio, again with beautiful views of Colombo and refreshing cocktails. For dinner, there were live chefs cooking Sri Lankan dishes to order. I had so much fun meeting the bride and groom’s family and friends and learning about the local life in Sri Lanka.

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On the wedding day, I had a blast with the American girls getting my hair and makeup done and having a designer help me put on my first sari. I had no idea what to expect and was so happy with the results. Wearing a sari was surprisingly comfortable (except for having to “disrobe” in the bathroom) and I felt like royalty. Speaking of royalty, the true royalty of the day was the bride and groom. Chami was dressed in gorgeous gold jewelry over her stunning white dress, and the groom wore a handsome gold suit in the Kandy tradition. The wedding was outside, with a beautiful flower-covered trellis, a choir, and adorable photos and signs greeting the guests. My friend Stacey and I had the exciting experience of carrying the wedding ceremony gifts down the aisle. We were surrounded by Kandy drummers and greeted with tropical drinks. The ceremony was delivered in Sinhala, so we couldn’t understand the literal meanings of the words, but we could see and feel the spiritual meanings of the blessings. The reception was out of this world as well. We had dinner options representing cuisines from around the world, the largest dessert room I have ever seen, a 30-person orchestra, and a DJ for entertainment. We had so much fun soaking in every moment, watching the gorgeous newly married couple, and dancing to a blend of Sri Lankan and American hits. It was a night that will go down in my personal history as one of the most unique, exciting and fun experiences I’ve ever had.

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On our last day, Stacey and I joined some of the other Americans at the Colombo bazaar, which was jam-packed with shops, signs, cars, and a beautiful red mosque. It was very interesting for me to visit a mosque for the first time and I was warmly welcomed by those in the mosque. I also purchased a few souvenirs, including elephant pants and teas to share with friends and family. I spent the rest of the day by the pool, watching the sunset, and enjoying one last oceanside meal before heading to the airport at midnight.

Combining these experiences, I am reminded of the importance of living and traveling with an open mind and an open heart. I experienced a part of the world that was incredibly foreign to me, but I was eager to learn, see, listen, taste, and feel. I was grateful to learn more about Chami’s heritage and to understand traditions like Buddhism that are so fascinating to me. I strongly suggest all of you to go out of your comfort zone in your travels and experience wonderful places like Sri Lanka.