Tag Archives: inspirNational mindset

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.

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inspirNational Mindset with French Influence

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Why is it that every time I study abroad or a travel, I feel a huge weight lifted off my shoulder? Literally and figuratively. I tend to always lose weight despite indulging in the local cuisine. I tend to fell less stressed and more free spirited.

Is it an escape from reality? No, I am still studying, working, paying bills, socializing, and working on my health and fitness.

Is it a lifestyle that is incompatible with my lifestyle at home? No, having traveled to 27 other countries, there are many similarities and transferable lessons I can learn from other countries and bring back home.

Is it the fact that I can speak new languages with new people to learn new perspectives? Yes and more importantly, it is a shift in a perspective. A new mindset. An inspirNational mindset as I have described over the past few years. My inspirNational way of thinking began during my study abroad in Spain. It became a true test when I was in Cleveland, not studying abroad, and had to choose every day whether I wanted to live like a traveler. I applied the mindset to my daily life, seeking opportunities to learn about the world by visiting museums, attending concerts, exploring the city, meeting people from around the world, and teaching English to foreigners to enable them to experience America as I have experienced other countries throughout the world.

As I have always said, having an inspirNational mindset means that you seek new opportunities, try new things, meet new people, think global and act local. It enables you to become more worldly, less stressed, and more open-minded to new opportunities.

Now having lived in France for 3 months, I would like to broaden the mindset and provide more food for thought on the topic. Here are some of my most significant life lessons that I plan to live by upon returning home:

Live simply: Life does not need to be complicated. Eliminate all waste in your life that does not serve you, such as unnecessary stress, negativity, overcommitting, overeating, and dust in your home. Prioritize what matters most to you and focus, rather than trying to do everything or please everyone. With easy access to photos and news from our peers, it is easy to feel “fear of missing out,” but remember that your life is your life. Only you can determine the difference between prioritizing what you want, eliminating excess, and missing out.

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Organize your life: Organize your room, your kitchen, and your plans. Don’t forget to give yourself free time to allow for spontaneity. Related to eliminating clutter, organizing yourself will allow you to find more space for all things creative, for all things that will expand your mind and welcome new ideas and opportunities into your life.

Live in the present: Enjoy each moment and each part of your day. Try to avoid multitasking, especially when you are with loved ones. When I visited my host mom in Salamanca, I noticed that she has little notes throughout her home to remind herself to enjoy each moment, from brushing her teeth to showering to listening to music. By feeling the water and imagining cleansing, her spirit feels cleansed as well.  By listening to music, her mind is at peace and her ears are enjoying the sounds.

Live in faith, not in fear. This study abroad experience has challenged me with threats of terrorism, and fear of not knowing the local language. I only had 6 months of  French preparation before the language immersion, rather than nearly 10 years of Spanish language preparation before my Spanish study abroad. Living in fear brings negativity into your life, and takes energy from what keeps you moving forward. Being cautious is different than being fearful. Watch your surroundings, take care of yourself, take risks within boundaries, but don’t let your nerves overcome you. Have faith, have a vision, work hard, and anything is possible!

I hope these French-influenced insights inspire you to continue to live with an inspirNational mindset!

 

Bloom Where You Are Planted

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It is crazy to think that the last three weekends I have been out of town – I guess that is what the beginning of the holiday seasons brings! From Wytheville, Virginia (where my boyfriend’s family lives) to the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan (where my family lives), over the past few weeks I have noticed a recurring theme and reminder: bloom where you are planted.

The message to “bloom where you are planted” has been engrained in me since I first interned in Cleveland and was concerned by the fact that I was not living and working in a so-called exciting or flashy place. I took this message to heart and decided I would make the most of my internship in Cleveland.

My Facebook cover photo during my Cleveland internship in 2012

Two and a half years later, I now live and work full-time in Cleveland and am proud to call it my new hometown. I have explored neighborhoods throughout the city and suburbs, experienced cultural and sporting events, tried new hobbies, and met new friends. This is the premise of the inspirNational mindset, which inspires me to make the most of where I am in everyday life.

I was reminded of the inspirNational mindset when driving back to Cleveland from Virginia and stopped at a gas station in West Virginia. I met a teenager who was working at the checkout counter. When I asked him where exactly in West Virginia we were, he said “no where. It’s no big deal here.” I was surprised by his response and asked him for more details. He said it was a simple farm town with not much to do. With my blog in mind, I responded that “every place has its charm, and I’m sure there’s something special about your hometown.” He smiled and laughed, but I am sure he knew there was some truth to what I said.

Traveling to Detroit and now living in Cleveland, I constantly hear jokes about how the two cities are terrible places to live, the weather is bad, and no one wants to visit, unless they have family there. Now having lived in or near both cities, I have learned that the truth is the exact opposite. Detroit and Cleveland have rich histories, four great seasons, welcoming cultures, and vibrant futures with all the redevelopment efforts, new innovations and industries, and young professionals returning to the city centers. I have learned that a place is what you make of it; it is up to you to make it fun and exciting, or however you want it to be in order to be happy. So whether you live in New York City, Paris, Buenos Aires, a small town in Australia, or a village in Mexico, you can blossom.

With my passion for travel, I consider blossoming as living like a traveler no matter where I am. You may consider another lifestyle in order to bloom where you are planted. Either way, Dr. Smita Malhotra provides great insights on Huffington Post to teach us all how to bloom where we are planted. She reminds us of the following:

1. Every step in life prepares you for the next one.

2. Stop complaining.

3. Be a blessing.

4. Bloom through the concrete.

RESILIENT

Source: Pamela Joe McFarlane via Getty Images

As we close 2014 and return home or travel for the holidays, I hope that we can all remember to make the most of wherever we are and bloom as we enter the new year!