Tag Archives: University of Michigan

For the new college graduates…

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With graduation weekend at the University of Michigan upon us, a few new graduates have asked me about what I have learned since college. It is a monumental year for me in some ways, as it has officially been five years since my undergraduate graduation from the University of Michigan and one year since my IMBA graduation from the University of South Carolina.

What can I share with the new graduating class from my alma mater and any other university?

Two words: Be Prepared.

But not in the traditional way you have been prepared all of your life up until this point. There is no studying that can prepare you for the life tests of your 20s. The next few years of your life will likely be less prescribed than ever before. Unless if you are continuing with school, you will no longer be on a regular schedule, anticipating spring break, 3 month summer breaks, and long weekends every month.

Be prepared for the most adventurous time of your life. You will likely move to places you would have never imagined, try jobs you would have never imagined, and have the freedom to travel.

Be prepared that people in your life may come and go, but they will change you forever. The friends will be in your heart forever as they help you laugh and wipe off your tears as you go through transitions and experience the turbulent 20s.

Be prepared for relationships that will succeed and others that will fail, but all of them will help you grow. And it is up to you to choose to stay in the relationships that help you grow for the better and that do not hold you back from your true self or your true potential.

Be prepared for choices that will challenge your values and your vision of who you are. But view the choices as an opportunity to shape who you are and to stand your ground when others won’t.

Be prepared to make mistakes. A cookie cutter life is not always realistic…you may have a plan A, but always have a plan B. And don’t be surprised when a completely different plan ends up taking place. As long as you stay rooted in your values and stay positive, any plan can end up working for you.

Be prepared that everything that happens to you is part of your life experience. Good and bad, your experiences will prepare you for the next decades ahead. I’ve always heard to take risks in your 20s since you will have more time to recover from them. In one way or another, everything you do can be viewed as a risk, but I view it as an opportunity…at the very least to gain life experience. If you remember that everything is life experience, you will be inspired to get through any situation…maybe with a few more wrinkles, but ultimately with a smile knowing that you made it.

And finally, be prepared to not be prepared. Let go of trying to control what happens to you. Plan enough to make sure you are stable and secure in the present and near future, but remember that spontaneity is a beautiful thing. Allow new experiences to come your way on their own schedule. Envision a bright future and truly believe it, and it will come to you. Congratulations to the Class of 2018!

For my fellow wolverine graduates, never forget…for now goodbye, for tomorrow good luck, and Forever Go Blue!

And for my fellow gamecock graduates, Forever to Thee!

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Do What You Love, Love What You Do

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I’m so excited to share the story of Sigourney Seybert, one of my classmates and friends from the University of Michigan. She currently works as a Field Staffer at New Life Church Ann Arbor and as an International Missionary at Great Commission Latin America. She is one of the most inspiring people that I know, who follows her heart and faith to guide her in her career. She is making a huge difference in the world, particularly in El Salvador and the Ann Arbor community. She is positively influencing others to pursue their faith throughout the journey of life. Learn insights from her below!

My friend Brittany and I met while in undergrad at the University of Michigan in a social outreach class.  As you can imagine there are a lot of people in these types of classes that are passionate about community development, social work, and generally making the world a better place.  However, Brittany and I clicked and found ourselves soon dreaming and scheming about our futures and talking about the issues and people groups we were passionate about.
Fast forward to now and I have the privilege of writing a guest post on this blog!  It seems like not long ago I was a little freshman heading to Ann Arbor ready to make a splash, but little did I know I would be moving to El Salvador in 5 short years.  Going into college I knew that I wanted to do something to help others.  Like many hopeful freshman I thought I would go to med school and save peoples’ lives, but after almost failing general chemistry I threw those dreams out the window.  I sought out a church community my first few weeks on campus and settled into a church on campus that was full of young people.  In the spring of 2010 when the opportunity to go on a mission trip to El Salvador presented itself I knew I had to go.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
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We touched down in “the land of smiles,” as it is known, to find ourselves in the midst of a national emergency.  All our plans of teaching English, building houses, and feeding kids went out the window and our entire week was spent doing disaster relief.  We delivered clean water, food, and condolences to people who had lost their homes.  We heard countless heart breaking stories of families separated in the night as the water rose, houses washing away, and emergency evacuations.
Now I, Sigourney, grew up in a nice New England Parsons home set on ten acres in the country of mid Michigan.  Up to that point in my life I could think of few times I had felt uncomfortable.  This trip rocked my world.  I started asking a lot of deep questions like: Why do these people have to suffer while I live so comfortably?  Why do they have so little while I have so much?  Can I do anything at all to help?
These questions rang in my ears as I returned to school for my second year.  I cried, I became apathetic, I prayed.  I didn’t know what I could possibly do with my life to make a difference.  So like any logical person would do, I went back.
The second trip was less dramatic, but provided much clarity.  I realized that I could make a difference if only for a few people and I became satisfied with that.  I realized that what I had fallen in love with the year prior was the people.  They don’t have much, but they know what is important.  Relationships.
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So as I returned to Ann Arbor for my final few semesters it was settled:  I would study Spanish, so I could build relationships there, and Social Work so that I had a skill set to empower communities.  From 2012-2014 I would return to El Salvador four times.  Each time my Spanish a little better, my relationships a little deeper, and my heart more fully alive.  In the fall of 2012 I had made the choice to go on staff at the church knowing that half of the year I would move to El Salvador.  I would have the opportunity to love the 40 kids the church there feeds every day, to teach them about God, to help them with homework, but mostly just to love them and their families.  I also now have the opportunity to plan trips for University of Michigan students, just like I once was, that could change the trajectory of their lives.It has been a long road.  It has been a tough road full of pain and heart break, but also full of inexpressible joy.  In five short weeks I will board that plane and I will once again enter the land of smiles, not as a stranger in a foreign land, but as a homecoming.
So at this point you may be asking “How do you live in two places?  How does that even make sense?  Why would you leave your friends and family and comfort?”  These are all valid questions and the answer is simple: I desire to use this life I’ve been given to it’s fullest potential.  For me that means living in two places.  I believe that we are here to love and serve those around us and that to those whom much has been given much is expected.  I have been blessed with abundant resources and I feel that it is my responsibility to be a good steward of these resources.  Now you may be asking “How can I do that?  I can’t just move out of the country!”  This is exactly what I don’t want you to hear.  What I do want you to hear is that you have to power to make a differenceFigure out what you are passionate about and find a way to make your life about it.  My job didn’t even exist until I wanted it.  Do I make a lot of money?  No.  Do I care?  No.  My heart is so full and I wake up every day so excited and grateful for the job that I have that it doesn’t matter.  Maybe for you it does matter.  Well then go get a high paying job and then use your money to bless others in your free time.
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However, I would like to caution you from just giving money away.  I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but I think you would be missing out on a huge opportunity to learn something.  I have learned more about myself, the world, and what love truly looks like by getting in the trenches with those who are different from me.  I have wept with my friends there, I have laughed, heck I stood up in a wedding in El Salvador last week!  Don’t just give to make yourself feel better.  Give deeply not only of your resources, but of your heart.  Engage with people that need to be seen, and feel empowered to impact others for good.

I will get off of my soap box now, but as you can probably tell I am super passionate about this.  I’d love to talk with anyone more about any of the things I talked about.  Please feel free to contact me via email at sigseybert@gmail.com!  Also, I have a blog of my own if you’d like to read more details or see more pictures about my journey and the work I’m doing now. Thanks for reading!

-Sigourney Seybert

Thank you, Sigourney, for sharing your amazing story and inspiring others to do what they love, and love what they do!

Top Reasons to Study Abroad in Salamanca, Spain

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While most prospective study abroad students in Spain are convinced that they should study in Madrid or Barcelona, I would like to challenge them to think outside of the most popular cities in Spain. Instead, they should consider studying abroad in Salamanca, which was one of my most rewarding experiences as an undergraduate student.
283975_10150315819934524_8246675_nSome of you may be wondering, where is Salamanca? Salamanca is located in the western part of Spain, close to the border of Portugal, in the Spanish region, Castilla y Leon. It is considered a medium-size city with around 170,000 residents.

261623_10150297458359524_4969140_nWhy Should You Study Abroad in Salamanca?

I have thought of several reasons I enjoyed studying in Salamanca, and have captured thoughts from my wonderful classmates from the University of Michigan who lived in Salamanca with me during the summer of 2011.

  • It is the home of the University of Salamanca, the oldest university in Europe, founded in 1218. The campus combines architecture form the Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles, and proclaimed itself the “Mother of Virtues, of Sciences and of the Arts.” The city campus creates an atmosphere that is ideal for students, with adiverse student population from around the world and affordable studying and entertainment options (coffee shops, meeting plazas, historical sites, nightlife, etc.). One of my favorite legends is to locate the Lucky Frog carved into one of the university buildings, which will give you good luck throughout your studies at the university
  • It was declared the World Heritage City by UNESCO in 2002 as a European City of Culture. Everywhere you walk, you will find music, art, and dance performances. It is also known to be a City of Festivals, including Dia de los Reyes Magos, Semana Santa, Corpus Christi, and Feria de Salamanca.
My Spanish host mom and I attended a jazz concert at Casa Lis

My Spanish host mom and I attended a jazz concert at Casa Lis

  • It is the ideal place to learn and practice speaking Spanish. You will be able to speak traditional Spanish, less influenced by general European culture or tourism than in Madrid or Barcelona.
  • Given its medium size, it is walkablemanageable to navigate and therefore feels safe. This is perfect for those who like to walk or run around the city and those who want to experience nightlife and feel safe.
  • There are ideal meeting places for friends. La Plaza Mayor is one of my favorites in Spain, with beautiful architecture, exquisite restaurants, and exciting bars. My classmates and I especially enjoyed La Croissanteria Paris,  Chocolateria Valor, and La Chupeteria.
Enjoying lunch with my University of Michigan classmates

Enjoying lunch with my University of Michigan classmates

  • It is within close proximity to other popular travel destinations, such as Madrid, Northern Spain, Southern Spain, Portugal, and the Atlantic Coast. While studying in Salamanca, I was able to travel many weekends to Pamplona, San Sebastian, Toledo, Avila, Seville, Granada, Madrid, and Barcelona.

Like all places in Spain, Salamanca provides amazing rebajas (deals) for shopping during the summer. I will also never forget the delicious tapas that you I received with each drink purchase. And of course, the relaxing afternoons of siestas and family time were unforgettable. They reminded me to enjoy each day and appreciate the new friends I met throughout the trip.

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor

My experience in Salamanca gave me a true taste of the traditional Spanish culture and instilled un amor para Espana that I will always cherish. If you would like to learn more about my experience in Salamanca, feel free to post questions or comments!

Read the original post here on One World 365: Top Reasons to Study Abroad in Salamanca, Spain. Also, check out Top Tips for Exploring Europe on a Budget.

Chicago from Two Perspectives: Growing Up There & Returning After College

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Last weekend, I got together with one of my best friends from college, Stacey Caplan. Stacey was one of my classmates at the Ross School of Business and one of my senior year roommates. She grew up in Northbrook, a suburb of Chicago, Illinois and then spent  four years in Ann Arbor, Michigan at the University of Michigan. Upon graduation, she moved back to Chicago, but this time, to Lincoln Park, so that she could experience the city life. She works at Nielsen, a market research firm. Reflecting on all the changes that have occurred since our graduation from the University of Michigan, I was curious to learn how her perspective of Chicago changed from growing up there to moving back after college. It seems that college graduates either do one of two things after college: move to a new city (like me) or return to their hometown (like Stacey). Stacey provides great insights about returning home, to one of my favorite cities. Read her story below!

It wasn’t until I moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan for college that I realized how blessed I was to grow up just outside of one of the largest cities in the world. Whenever I told other students where I was from, I instantly became a more exciting person. A year and a half after graduating and now living in Chicago as an adult, I must say that I have a whole new perspective on what living in Chicago is actually like.

I grew up in Northbrook, an affluent suburb about 25 miles north of Chicago. You may know Northbrook for several reasons. It’s the home of the high school where Ferris Buehler’s Day Off was filmed (my alma mater Glenbrook North High School). It’s also the unfortunate home of the infamous 2003 “Powderpuff” football hazing incident- Google it and you’ll remember it from global news stories.

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Let’s be clear, Northbrook is NOT in Chicago. Growing up, going to Chicago was more of an occasion than a regular occurrence. From Northbrook, it takes about 40 minutes to drive to downtown Chicago without traffic, which is rare. Northbrook is the stereotypical American suburb, yet people who live in Northbrook and the North Shore suburbs nearby call themselves Chicagoans. I was raised to be a fan of the Chicago Bears and Cubs, grew up going downtown to the original Marshall Fields store during the holidays to see the Christmas windows, and frequented the museums and other historical buildings on school field trips. Being “from Chicago” was a huge part of my identity growing up, even though I only visited the city about once a month with my family.

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When college friends started coming back to Chicago with me on school breaks or over the summer, I began to realize that I wasn’t even close to being a city girl. I had no idea how to get from point A to point B when I was downtown, got nervous trying to hail a cab, and didn’t know many restaurants beyond where my family had taken me for special dinners as a kid. Yet I claimed to be this “Chicago expert” because I “grew up here”.

Besides my family, who have lived in Chicago for generations, I honestly didn’t have many ties from my childhood that were leading me back to Chicago. But with each year of attending an out-of-state university and meeting people that grew up in rural areas in Michigan and all over the country (and the world!), my Chicago pride grew. I began to realize that growing up outside such a large city is special, and not something everyone experiences. Living somewhere else made it apparent to me that being from Chicago is a huge part of who I am, and is proudly ingrained in the culture of my family. I was determined to move back after graduation, and to actually live in the city of Chicago this time. 🙂

I’ve lived on the north side of Chicago for about a year and a half now in a beautiful apartment on a charming, tree-lined street. Living in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, I have learned how to use the Chicago trains and buses, I know how to confidently hail a cab, and I’ve tried restaurants all around the city that are on my “restaurant list”, not just ones my parents took me to on special occasions. I know places to show friends who visit for the weekend, yet am still overwhelmed by all of the things there are to do that I haven’t tried yet.

I’ll admit that despite being from the suburbs, my Chicago upbringing did give me an edge when I first moved here. My knowledge of the landmarks, streets, and city history was more extensive than those who had only visited Chicago for quick weekend vacations growing up. The difference was that now I actually felt like a Chicagoan. I’ll never forget the first day that I took the el (Chicago’s elevated train system) to my job in the Chicago Loop downtown. I couldn’t stop smiling because getting downtown used to be such a hassle, an event that required planning and ample time to sit in traffic. Now, I could step on a platform and be downtown within 20 minutes- despite being squished between a hundred strangers on crowded public transportation, I felt like I was living my dream.

Through the ups and downs since I graduated from Michigan and “became an adult”, the one constant in my life that has never failed me is the fact that I live here, and it would take a significant life circumstance to get me to leave. No matter where I have travelled, Chicago is always the place I want to come home to.

I hope Stacey’s story provides you helpful, inspirNational insights, as you make the decision to move to a new city or return home after college (or any stage in life)!

Travel South America: The Real Deal with Brittany VanderBeek

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I’m excited to share my feature, Travel South America: The Real Deal with Brittany VanderBeek, on Pink Pangea, an international community for women who love to travel.

Sugar Loaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Sugar Loaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Below is a sneak peek of the Q&A with Pink Pangea:

One of my favorite recent trips was to South America, where I studied in Chile (Santiago and Valparaiso) for my undergraduate senior spring break and then traveled to Brazil and Argentina.

How long did you go for? How did you spend your time?

I traveled to South America for three weeks. For the first week, I went to Santiago and Valparaiso, Chile for a corporate strategy class with Global Tracks and the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. I had a wonderful experience learning about business in Chile, through touring the William Cole Vineyard, IBM de Chile, the American Chamber of Commerce, and Start Up Chile. I also enjoyed learning more about the Chilean culture by exploring Cerro San Cristobal, Cerro Santa Lucia, Plaza de Armas, Bellavista, the Casablanca Valley Puro Caballo Ranch, Los Dominicos Artisan Market, Pablo Neruda’s home, Vina del Mar, and attending a Rapa Nui dance performance.

Climbing to the top of Cerro San Cristobal to overlook Santiago, Chile

For the following two weeks, I went on a Trafalgar tour of Brazil and Argentina, including Rio de Janeiro, Iguassu Falls, and Buenos Aires. While in Rio de Janeiro, I explored Corcovado (Christ the Redeemer statue), Sugarloaf Mountain, Copacabana beach, Tijuca National Park, and attended a samba show. While in Iguassu Falls, I explored Iguassu National Park and Devil’s Throat Falls and relaxed in the hot springs at Mabu Thermas & Resort. In Buenos Aires, I explored Casa Rosada, Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires, Recoleta (cemetery where Eva Peron is buried), Teatro Colon, La Boca, tango in San Telmo, Palermo, and Tigre.

Hiking through Iguassu Falls National Park

Hiking through Iguassu Falls National Park

All throughout the trip, I enjoyed practicing my Spanish (even the Brazilians could sometimes understand me since Portuguese and Spanish are very similar) with the locals and learning about South American lifestyles.

What were your most memorable experiences?

  • Dancing Rapa Nui style on stage with the Rapa Nui performers in Santiago, Chile.
  • Touring Pablo Neruda’s home in Valparaiso, Chile, which brought to life my years of studying Spanish language and literature. Valparaiso had some of the most beautiful homes and sites of the Pacific Ocean that I’ve ever seen.
  • Visiting Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires on the day they announced that Bishop Francis would become the new Pope; the entire city was celebrating this historic moment!
  • Enjoying a traditional Argentinian dinner at a family’s home in Palermo Soho. I had the opportunity to bake bread with the family and learn about life and cooking in Argentina!
  • Drinking out of a coconut while shopping for Brazilian bikinis on the Copacabana beach. I felt like a local!
  • Overlooking all of Rio de Janeiro while on top of Sugarloaf Mountain. After seeing the spectacular views, I understood why so many significant world events are taking place there (the World Cup, the Olympics, etc.).
Dancing Rapa Nui style

Dancing Rapa Nui style

Any favorite restaurants/hotels/hostels/sites you’d like to recommend?

Chile

  • Cerro San Cristobal, for the fantastic views of Santiago
  • Wine tasting in the Casablanca Valley was a great way to understand an important industry in Chile
  • Pablo Neruda’s home, for beautiful views of Valparaiso and great insights about Chilean literature.
  • La Stampa de La Negra and Puro Caballo Ranch in Casablanca Valley

Argentina

  • La Boca, for the vibrant colored homes and great artisan markets
    La Recoleta, where it was very touching to see the positive influence Eva Peron had on the country and how much respect the citizens still have for her
    El Viejo Almacen tango performance, where tango originated.
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Brazil

  • Sugarloaf Mountain
  • Copacabana beach
  • Mabu Thermos & Resort, which had fantastic hot springs and food.

Read the entire feature here: Travel South America: The Real Deal with Brittany VanderBeek. If you have any questions about my trip or about traveling to South America, feel free to reach out to me!

Best Coffees to Celebrate International Coffee Day

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In honor of International Coffee Day, here is a list of some of my favorite coffees throughout the world.

  1. Cafe Britt in Costa Rica: I may be biased because my name is in the title of the coffee shop :), but I became so much more appreciative of the intricacies of coffee production after touring Cafe Britt and tasting the coffee varieties last spring. I learned the importance of the amber color of coffee, which indicates freshness. I recommend you experience the Cafe Britt coffee tour and try the Tarrazu and Tres Rios varieties, in addition to the organic and fair trade brands. Also, if you can prepare yourself for a new addiction, try the chocolate-covered coffee beans while there!

    Café Britt Coffee Tour

    Café Britt Coffee Tour

  2. Mountain Thunder Kona Coffee in the Big Island of Hawaii: Kona Coffee has a unique flavor (and in my opinion, stronger than others) that can’t be matched because of its production in volcanic terrain. I enjoyed learning about Mountain Thunder coffee production and also appreciated the teas available there. Whether you are a coffee or tea fan,  I highly recommend sampling the organic varieties!
  3. Café au lait in France: I had some of the best coffee with the prettiest designs (made with milk) while touring the countryside of France. I’m not sure what was better, the coffee or the fresh pastries on the side? I don’t think I’ve found a better breakfast pair than a chocolate-filled croissant and café au lait. I was also fascinated by the coffee machines in France (mind you this was in 2011 and now we have more modern coffee appliances in the U.S.). One day I would love to learn how to make café au lait like the French.
  4. Café con leche from Chocolatería Valor in Salamanca, Spain: I first fell in love with coffee while studying abroad in Salamanca, Spain. I became accustomed to drinking café con leche (the Spanish version of café au lait) while relaxing, studying, or blogging during my afternoons in Spain. Similar to my perception of café au lait, part of the reason I love café con leche is that I often paired it with a churro con chocolate from Chocolatería Valor- iqué rico! I will always think of my wonderful experiences in Spain (more details to come in future blogs :)) when I drink café con leche.

    Café con leche y churros con chocolate de Chocolatería Valor en Salamanca, España

    Café con leche y churros con chocolate de Chocolatería Valor en Salamanca, España

  5. Mocha from Espresso Royale in Ann Arbor, Michigan: Every time I go back to visit my alma mater, I stop at Espresso Royale for a mocha, which makes me nostalgic of the cold winter days walking to class, meeting with student groups, and cuddling up to study with a mocha. Espresso Royale features several coffee blends, delicious pastries (I highly recommend the zucchini bread), and some of the best couches you could ask for (they are in high demand during finals season at the University of Michigan).

As a business professional, my list of coffee favorites keeps growing, as I am eager to try new coffee specialties everywhere I travel! I especially appreciate local coffee shops because they often sell native coffee blends and give you a taste of the local culture by featuring local musicians and artists. For such a staple in daily life, I enjoy learning how each country has its own spin on coffee. What are your favorite places for coffee?

We Are All Ambassadors

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While creating my vision board recently, a word that stood out as significant to me and significant to others who reviewed my board was “ambassador.” I included it because I aspire to be a cultural ambassador. Not necessarily an ambassador in the traditional sense of the word, i.e., a U.S. ambassador, but in the broader sense of being a representative or promoter. There is nothing I enjoy more than learning about other cultures and teaching others about my own culture. Over the past few years, I have pursued ambassador-like work through several outlets, such as:

  • English as a Second Language (ESL) Conversation Circle Leader with the University of Michigan English Language Institute: I met with international graduate students on a weekly basis to practice conversational English and teach them about United States customs. Each week we met at different venues (coffee shops, parks, cider mills, movie theaters, etc.) and discussed colloquial language and common activities that U.S. citizens like to do. It was rewarding to share my background and to learn about the backgrounds of my students through the process. We would compare language differences and customs and develop a greater sense of cultural understanding.
University of Michigan Campus Tour with my Conversation Circles Group, Fall 2012

University of Michigan Campus Tour with my Conversation Circles Group, Fall 2012

  • Positively Cleveland: I attended a Positively Cleveland luncheon while interning in Cleveland two years ago. I learned the importance of speaking positively about where you live, as you are a representative. Those who have never visited your city may have preconceived notions that will not change unless you convince them otherwise. Positively Cleveland teaches the importance of having pride in where you are from (specifically Cleveland, in this case) and communicating that pride. A thought-provoking quote I came across on their website makes this idea hit home:

“If you don’t like what people are saying, change the conversation.”

  • Teaching English as a Second Language at El Barrio with the Centers for Families and Children in Cleveland, Ohio: I lead ESL classes with Latin American adults preparing for the business world. I get to know each of the students individually and relate our lessons to their countries of origin. I talk about my background in the United States and relate to them with my experience learning the Spanish language. The students look to me as a representative voice of language and customs in the U.S. I take this as a great responsibility and want to have a positive influence on their perceptions of speaking English and living in the United States.

Thinking through this further, I realized that we all can be ambassadors. Every single one of us is an ambassador to our hometown, where we live now, our profession, and our individual cultures and customs. As we travel and meet new people, we represent the outlooks and perceptions of our origin. Considering ourselves to be ambassadors, it may change how we portray where we live and what we do. We should stop thinking about our actions on an individual level, but rather how they affect the locations and groups we represent. For example, if we are rude to others while we travel, the people may start to generalize about our home country, profession, and more. With an ambassador lens, we become more focused on how our actions affect others.

We are all ambassadors in our daily lives. It’s your choice. What would you like to represent and promote? What kind of ambassador are you?