Tag Archives: travel

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!

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.

Life of a Greenvillite

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It’s hard to believe that I have now lived in Greenville, South Carolina for 8 weeks. I have been busy adapting to my summer internship, meeting new friends, getting involved in the community, and traveling on weekends. People have often asked me, what is it like to live in Greenville? I wanted to capture a few of my favorite moments so far to explain the life of a Greenvillite.

Imagine riding your mountain bike through 3 miles of bright green trees, parks, rivers, and wildlife guided by the perfectly paved Swamp Rabbit Trail, arriving to a modern downtown with dozens of tents selling fresh fruits and vegetables, local food, and gifts. Walking along Main Street full of tents, you sample homemade dips, smoothies, berries, and buy a mocha from a local coffee shop. You get persuaded to buy a half gallon of peaches, herbs to make herbal water, and cheese dips for your weekend party. This is a typical summer Saturday morning in Greenville and is one of my favorite ways to start the weekend.

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Falls Park

Imagine strolling through the immaculate Falls Park with the Reedy River and rocky waterfalls in sight from all angles. There’s a cool breeze under the trees and benches welcoming you to have a seat and read a good book. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can read while sitting on the rocks right next to the waterfalls. Then walk around the longest suspension bridge in the country and enjoying lunch at the Passerelle French Bistro. French and other European cuisines are popular throughout the area because of the international businesses throughout Greenville, including Michelin, BMW, and GE. This is a typical summer Sunday in Greenville. I will never forget reading right next to the waterfall and will try to make it a new tradition for me.

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Table Rock State Park

Imagine hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains at Table Rock State Park, with pathways matching every hiking skill level, and frequent opportunities for breathtaking views of the forests and mountains in the distance. You will experience steep paths, walk over bridges, in between boulders, and next to rivers and waterfalls. This is a typical after-work adventure that I happened to enjoy on the weekend. I am amazed to meet people of a variety of ages and fitness levels who hike at Table Rock State Park and many others in the Greenville area.

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Reading spot in Falls Park

These are three of my favorite nature-focused experiences, which are very much ingrained in the daily lives of Greenvillites. As a nature lover, summer in Greenville has been a wonderful opportunity for me to experience nature and stay active.

I have also enjoyed going to my first minor league baseball game at Greenville Drive. Greenvillites have as much spirit for the Drive team as other cities have for major league teams! There’s nothing better than a hot dog, ice cold beer, and sunset to experience while watching the game. And if you go on a Thursday, you can get $1 beers, or on a Friday you can enjoy an impressive fireworks show after the game.

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Fluor Field, home of Greenville Drive

Shopping and dining in Downtown Greenville is also incredible too. For a small city, it is amazing the diversity of the cuisine, representing almost all continents. The shopping scene is marked by local boutiques with artsy and stylish clothing, jewelry and gifts. Just writing about it is making me want to go shopping again soon.

With nature, sports, shopping, and dining, Greenville can easily be described as active, family-centered, and a very pleasant place to live. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Greenville was recently rated North America’s City of the Future. I have had a wonderful experience so far and am grateful for the opportunity to live in Greenville this summer. I hope that those of you near the Carolinas will have the opportunity to visit Greenville!

 

Weekend Trip Ideas from Paris, France

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Are you about to travel to or study abroad in France? After studying in Paris for almost four months and experiencing a Trafalgar tour of France a few years ago, I can tell you some of my favorite weekend trips to help spark ideas for your travel planning. I limited each recommendation to a couple sentences – if you have questions, feel free to comment and I can share more ideas with you!

  • Giverny: My absolute favorite place slightly outside of Paris, where you can tour Monet’s home. Explore the water lily ponds, luscious gardens, and quaint home where Monet and his family resided.
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Giverny with my mom in August 2011

  • Palace of Versailles: Learn why the French revolution occurred based on the extraordinary, ornate palace from the French royal families. I can almost guarantee that you will likely never see so much gold in one building at one time.
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Palace of Versailles with my mom in August 2011

  • Bordeaux: Enjoy the best wine in the world with a Bordeaux wine country tour. I enjoyed Medoc which has stronger red wines. If you prefer lighter red wines, go to St. Emilion. The Bordeaux Tourism Office offers excellent city walking tours for affordable prices, great views, and interesting history.
  • Normandy: Visit Deauville, the home of Coco Chanel, and Honfleur where you will find artsy neighborhoods and sailboats. While I did not have the opportunity to see the World War II battle fields, I would also highly recommend going there to see one of the most emotional historical sites.
  • Brittany: Visit St. Malo for a medieval experience along the sea. Try both sweet and savory crepes, which are originally from Brittany. Tour Mont St. Michel to see one of the wonders of the world. The cathedral and castle are incredible.
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Mont St. Michel in January 2016

  • Strasbourg: Go on the Happy Tour to learn the city’s history of the city, including political control issues between Germany and France and one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world.  Admire the fairytale-like buildings and enjoy a mix of German and French cuisine.
  • French Riviera:Explore some of the most beautiful cliff-dwelling beaches of France and posh shopping in Nice and St. Tropez. Explore the playground of the rich and famous in Monaco.
  • Arles: Enjoy Vincent Van Gogh’s home where he painted over 300 pieces of artwork and explore ancient Roman ruins.
  • Lyon: Experience the third largest city in France that has become a gastronomical capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • London: Take the 2-hour EuroStar trip (underwater!) from Paris to London. Sandemann’s walking tour provides a great overview of the highlights of London, including Big Ben, Westminister Abbey, and the changing of the guards. Also take advantage of excellent theatre options – I enjoyed Phantom of the Opera! Consider a day trip – I had an amazing time in Stonehenge, where I saw the famous rocks. I visited Salisbury where I saw the Magna Carta and Western Europe’s tallest cathedral. I ended the day trip in Bath, where I enjoyed learning about the Roman baths and tried crème tea at an Alice in Wonderland inspired café.
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London in January 2016

Check out my Spanish Adventures Revealed blog posts to learn more specifics about France (Paris, Paris cont’d.Giverny and VersaillesAvignon, Arles, French Riviera, French Riviera cont’d., Dijon, and Lyon). Do you have other favorite weekend trips from Paris? Help out your fellow inspirNational readers and comment below :).

 

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.