Tag Archives: culture

How to Be InspirNational – Greenville Edition

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Thinking back to the origin of my blog…international inspiration in your everyday life…I can’t help but reflect on the number of international experiences I have had while living in Greenville. So many, that I have been wrapped up in “living” them recently and spending less time “reflecting” upon them.

Recently at work, someone described me as an “experience collector,” which I think is a perfect way to describe how I have lived each day for the experiences presented to me. I wanted to pass along a few tips I have learned along the way that have helped me live like a traveler every day and be inspirNational.

  1. Participate in an organization that promotes diversity and inclusion. In Greenville, that has been Upstate International for me. I have had the opportunity to take language classes…I learned a taste of 6 languages (Hebrew, Swahili, Russian, Italian, Japanese, and African French) in 2 hours last month! Each of the teachers came from the locations where the language was spoken, so I was able to get an introduction to not only the language, but the culture. Through the organization I have also attended international film showings, art festivals, and dance performances embracing the diversity of Greenville. Almost every major city has organizations that promote diversity and inclusion, and they are a great way for us to experience the life of a traveler even if we are staying home!
  2. Choose to live in a community with a global presence. That often means the heart of your community (downtown!). Living in Downtown Greenville, I am surrounded by people who work for global companies, such as Michelin, BMW, Fluor, and GE. At any given event with my neighbors, I often hear 3-4 languages exchanged. As a person who is passionate about language and culture, it was been a great learning experience for me to not only practice the languages I have studied, but to learn about other languages and cultures! Through new friends, I have developed an interest in learning more about Asia. Surrounding ourselves by people who are different from us helps spark that interest and grows that travel bug within us.
  3. Practice empathy. Learn about your surroundings and become fully immersed! I have done my best to attend community events and to spend time with new friends who teach me about their unique interests and backgrounds. And one of the most exciting ways I have practiced empathy is by learning design thinking through the Stanford d.School and implementing the tools in my work as part of Michelin’s Customer Innovation Lab. I have spent time out in the field, getting to know people throughout the country to understand and learn their needs and try to meet them with Michelin’s services and solutions. For me, the most exhilarating part of travel is connecting with people from around the world, and practicing empathy is one the best ways to do just that.

As you are making plans for the spring and summer, I hope these tips help you be inspirNational, whether you are traveling or at home! Also, to stay up to date on the “real time” inspirNational happenings in my life, follow me on Instagram @inspirnationallife!

 

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What We Can Learn from What We Drink!

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In honor of St. Patrick’s Day weekend, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite new inspirNational thoughts…what we can learn from what we drink! Yes, there is something scholarly you can learn from the Guinness you are holding in your hand right now.

While attending the Furman Women’s Leadership Institute this winter, I sat next to an inspiring doctor who told me about me about an interesting book she was reading, “The History of the World in 6 Glasses.” I was preparing for a brewery tour for my birthday, and I thought what better way to be inspired for my tour than to learn the significance of beer (of course it was only scholarly ;)).

Thinking about it….every day you are drinking (hopefully!) 8 glasses of water, and several other beverages based on your culture and preferences. Americans can’t seem to get their hands off a cup of coffee, the British and the Chinese don’t go a day without tea, the Italians don’t go a day without wine, and the list goes on! Each of these beverages comes with historical and cultural significance.

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Image Source: Fine Arts America

 

I’ll give you a taste of what I learned from the book….

  • Coffee represents scholarly pursuits as it keeps us focused and energized.
  • Tea represents colonialism and the daily reminder to pause and relax.
  • Wine symbolizes religion, prestige, and royalty.
  • Beer symbolizes social gatherings…it was one of the main reasons humans began living in civilizations (waiting for the beer to brew)…and to this day brings people together!
  • Spirits symbolize business deals at first, and later a way to calm the mind.
  • Soda represents the American dream…in the pursuit of happiness through a refreshing drink.

So, the next time you take a sip of your favorite beverage whether at home or while traveling, think about what it means! You can learn a lot about yourself, your heritage, and your surroundings by the drinks in front of you. Cheers!

Comprehending Reverse Culture Shock

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Those curious to study and work abroad are always threatened by the thought of reverse culture shock, but often wonder if it is real or if it will really happen to them. With one study abroad experience under my belt, I thought that reverse culture shock wouldn’t happen to me after being in Paris. What I realized, though, is that I was in Paris for almost twice as long as I was in Spain, and my graduate school and adult realities now are much different than my previous realities in the comfortable space of undergrad.

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Source: http://www.lumesse.com

With a week gone by since I have arrived back to the United States, I have noticed reverse culture shock in both subtle and big ways. First of all, I experienced a physiological adjustment, with little to no sleep the night before my flight home, too much food during my flight, and the threat of a cold and cough after traveling near others who were sick. It took me almost five days to catch up on sleep and feel normal again. Fortunately, I am now physically feeling back in the Eastern time zone, but facing other adjustments in the transition process from student in study abroad mode, to student in vacation mode, to soon-to-be intern mode.

Another observation is that all my senses were heightened. I would “jump” with surprise when I heard English in France, and upon returning to the United States, I felt that jumping sensation repeatedly until I realized that English is normal again. The sound of candy wrappers on the airplane seemed to bother me and I have never noticed that before. My sense of smell was much more present, as I noticed how fresh the air was in my hometown of Rochester, Michigan after living in polluted city air in Paris. My sense of taste was heightened as I came to appreciate the diversity of my diet in the United States again, rather than the routine cereal, sandwich, and pasta that I had everyday with my host family in Paris. My eyes were very observant that I am now in a familiar environment again, rather than being surrounded by historical wonders, the constant fear of getting lost, and the constant desire to explore and learn about the world. I also felt a need to hug all of my relatives and friends more than usual, after being distanced from them and only being able to send a Facebook or WhatsApp message.

Building on the need for hugs and human touch again, I have noticed a difference in my relationships with loved ones. After four months of limited communication and light-hearted conversation, focusing mainly on my adventures, reality seemed to smack me in the face that my loved ones are facing challenges and they are not in this little safe bubble that I warmly remember as home. While home is warm and safe, there are the same challenges and changes as anywhere else in the world. After four months in explorer mode, I have now returned to daughter, sister, girlfriend, and friend modes, which bring me much joy but also bring hardship that is easy to forget as an explorer. The hardship has made it more difficult to get along, likely because of the pent-up energy of missing each other combined with the fact that I now live a 12-hour drive away from home for graduate school. My goal is to apply the life lessons about being a better person that I have gained from my study abroad experience, in order to merge my two worlds of exploration and relationships.

On a more positive note, I have realized that I have much to be grateful for in the United States, with a loving family, supportive friends, a safe home, a nice car, a great education, and exciting opportunities to advance in my career. During this study abroad experience more than my first one, I have realized that I am very grateful to be American, and have become more aware of the many benefits that the United States provides for its citizens. Leaving home for a while has provided me with more gratitude when I am home, cherishing special moments with loved ones and doing my best to avoid conflict in our limited time together. With another language and greater understanding of world issues from my international classmates in Paris, I have a wealth of knowledge that I wouldn’t have gained had I not studied and lived in Paris. This worldly wisdom will help me as I enter the world of international business and interact with diverse people from around the world.

Going forward, I am reminding myself everyday to be patient with the transition process. I am sharing photos and stories with family and friends to combine my two worlds of being abroad and being home. I am finding comfort in nature, with seasons and sunsets reminding me that there are some parts of life that are constant and foreseeable. And finally, going abroad and returning home again reteaches me the importance of living with an inspirNational mindset, where I find joy in learning from new cultures, seeking new opportunities, and having an open mind to the world around me.

Counting My Travels, Counting My Blessings

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Ahhh…with over a month of travel almost every weekend, it feels wonderful to sit back and relax with a pen in hand (or should I say keys at my fingertips nowadays with modern technology), a glass of Perrier water next to me in my little salon in Paris, and free time to reflect on my adventures.

Before diving into my travels, I wanted to share an exciting observation I have had. Recently I counted my trips and realized that over the past 25 years, I have now visited 28 countries! I have spanned 3 continents and look forward to adding Asia to my list after one of my best friend’s weddings in Sri Lanka this summer. Below is my ever-growing list:

North America:

  • United States
    • From west to east, 27 states and 1 territory: Hawaii, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Texas, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Pensylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico
  • Canada
    • Windsor and Niagara Falls
  • Mexico

Central America/Caribbean Islands:

  • Costa Rica
  • Cayman Islands
  • Barbados
  • St. Lucia
  • St. Maarten
  • St. Thomas

South America:

  • Chile
  • Argentina
  • Brazil

Europe:

  • Spain
  • France
  • Monaco
  • Ireland
  • England
  • Germany
  • Switzerland
  • Austria
  • Czech Republic
  • Holland
  • Belgium
  • Liechtenstein
  • Italy
  • Vatican City
  • Hungary
  • Portugal
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Source: pinterest.com

I feel very grateful and proud, especially because I can now speak the native language of many of the countries (English, Spanish, and French). I am excited to contribute all that I have learned (languages, culture, history, cuisine, art, and more) particularly since my current study abroad program in Paris, throughout my career and my personal life. Thinking about all of these visits makes the travel bug in me grow stronger and encourages me to achieve my lifelong pursuit to visit every continent. I will continue to reflect on developing an inspirNational mindset, capturing ideas from each of these countries. If you have specific questions or curiosities about any of the countries, feel free to let me know and I will respond with my insights! Also, check out my friend Lisa’s inspiring story, Can You Travel to 25 Countries by Age 25?, to learn how you can start setting travel goals throughout your life!

Overcoming Living Abroad Challenges

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

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Source: expatexchange.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

United by the Circle of Life

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

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

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Source: http://www.canstockphoto.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

The First Five Days in Paris

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It’s hard to believe that I am already approaching my first week in Paris. In such a short amount of time, I feel like I have experienced years of learning. I have already visited many of the popular tourist attractions: Eiffel Tower, Champs d’Elysses, Arc de Triomphe, and Notre Dame Cathedral. I also started school in L’Opera. I could write for days about all the exciting things I have seen and learned. It is the City of Lights, international business, fashion, and romance after all.

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I have decided to focus my first few days on answering some common questions that foreigners may wonder about the French. It has been interesting to observe these questions as a French “newbie”!

How do French people stay so thin ?

The French walk (or take a bicycle) everywhere! While they may not prioritize fitness as in going to the gym like people do in the United States, they live very active lifestyles by cycling to work, walking to social events, and strolling through parks with their dogs. Also, they use smaller cups, smaller plates, and have smaller packages of food than in the United States. The smaller size encourages people to drink and eat smaller portions, and psychologically feel full when they have finished their plate. It also takes effort to refill cups and plates, meaning that people are less likely to ask for refills and overeat than in other countries.

Why do French people look stylish?

One word: shoes! Comfort takes the back burner and style is definitely an apparent priority. Women wear heels even when walking through metro stations and cobble stones. Men wear dress shoes on the streets, even when attending sporting events. It is amazing how a pair of shoes can make a person go from looking out-of-style to straight out of Vogue. Another secret is that their clothing is not necessarily fancy, but it generally looks put together. I learned from my host family that the golden rule is to never wear more than 3 colors (especially helpful for those who are matching-challenged). This also explains why many French people wear black – and we all know that black is magical in making us look thinner!

Is smoking still common in France?

Less so than the last century, but yes! I have been surprised to see smokers in the streets, particularly youth. Smoking is not allowed in most public places (such as the metro and in schools), but there are many more tobacco stores than in other countries, and you will find people smoking while socializing with friends.

What makes Paris romantic?

I could write an entire book about this. A brief explanation is that there is beautiful scenery and there are beautiful people everywhere you go. People are not afraid to show affection – holding hands, hugging, and even giving kisses on the cheek when you first meet them. Now I know why the French have a kiss named after them – people kiss all times of the day everywhere you go. It is refreshing to see love!

How present are the recent terrorist attacks in the Parisians’ daily lives?

As my host family sister said, “we have to continue to live.” While almost everyone was either directly affected or knew someone who was affected by the November and last January terrorist events, the Parisians are continuing to live each day as normal. There are memorials and public events to respect those who were lost, but there is not an overwhelming sentiment of fear and sadness that one might expect. The commitments to not lose hope, to stay strong, and to be fearless have been reassuring as I begin this new adventure.

I have really enjoyed learning about the French people as an outsider who is trying to assimilate by learning the language and culture. Who knows all that will be possible for me to learn over the next few months? If you have other questions or curiosities about living in France, feel free to comment below or reach out to me. À bientôt!