Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When we first discovered Diamond Troutman’s photography, we were stunned and impressed. She manages to capture the essence of the subjects she photographs in subtle yet powerful ways. As a content creator, Diamond pays attention to her surroundings, is aware of her senses and observations, and gives herself writing prompts to stay sharp. Diamond seizes her youth every day, and she has a loaded schedule creating content for The Style Line, Conscious Magazine, the French Institute Alliance Française, and Life & Thyme Magazine. Oh, and she also speaks four languages – French, Chinese, Spanish, and Arabic.

We’re so inspired by Diamond’s go-getter attitude, discipline, and hunger for knowledge. Read on to learn more about how she organizes her busy days, tips she has for learning a new language, and the advice she has for those interested in being content creators.

Name: Diamond Troutman
Education: Bachelor of Arts in French Language and Literature and Sociology from Drew University
Follow: pariselsewhere.com / @pariselsewhere

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Diamond Troutman: ‘Seizing Your Youth’ means exploring what makes you happy and chasing after it every chance you get.

CJ: You attended Drew University and studied French Literature and Language and Sociology. How did you determine what to study?

DT: While many know me now as “la parisienne” behind Paris Elsewhere, my life in The City of Light (including my studies at Sorbonne Nouvelle University and volunteer work at Élèves Décrocheurs and Le Club Barbès) was never quite planned. Before beginning college, I was a student of three foreign languages (Spanish, French and Chinese) and upon my arrival at Drew University, I added Arabic language studies to the mix. My objective was to major in Linguistics and minor in Sociology – I soon discovered that the Linguistics major was no longer offered and opted for Spanish, before ultimately deciding on French.

diamond

CJ: You created the travel and lifestyle blog Paris Elsewhere to introduce Paris as you know it: a city of people and businesses participating in communities, relationships, and their own unique stories. How did living in Paris influence you and impact your life?

DT: The strongest influence Paris has had on my life is my regard towards tradition. Since my involvement in the United States as the Director of Communication for the Alliance Française of Greater Phoenix, I have witnessed firsthand the invaluable role tradition plays in unifying people of a shared culture. Coming together to celebrate over food and conversation is health giving and something to be anticipated and enjoyed.

CJ: Besides English, you speak four languages, including French, Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic. Very impressive! Where did you learn to speak these languages, and what tips do you have for those learning a new language?

DT: I was first introduced to French at age 11, when play dates with my friend turned into casual lessons of language and culture with her French mother. I truly believe this was the sweetest way to learn French joie de vivre, as I was introduced to traditional pastries like sablés, clafoutis, madeleines and more, in addition to grammar and vocabulary lessons.

I started learning Spanish during middle school, but it wasn’t until I met my best friend Valeria, that I began to practice the language outside of school. We were the closest of friends, so close that I was considered part of the family. We spoke in Spanish all the time; our friendship indirectly immersed me in the culture.

I picked up Chinese my freshman year of high school and strengthened my studies with weekend sessions at a Chinese school and language camps during the summers.

I was introduced to Arabic at Drew University. I studied the language all throughout my third and fourth year in college and stayed with a host family in Rabat, Morocco for a summer.

What’s my number one tip for learning a language? Immersion! Listen to music, watch movies, join a conversation classes or even travel abroad for a short stay. Put yourself in the setting to live another culture.

CJ: Travel is a big part of your life. How has traveling influenced you, and is there a particular trip you have taken that stands out in your mind?

DT: The first day of my Mandarin Chinese language class was the most challenging yet; understanding characters as references for words required a new sort of discipline and dedication. All the same, my stay in Chengdu, China compelled me to *just do it. I listened to the radio on the way to school, ordered my drinks at Starbucks, enjoyed pastries from the nearby bakery, all in Chinese. The more comfortable I became with the language and culture, the less of a barrier the characters seemed to present.

dt 2

CJ: You are a pro at content creation, whether you’re contributing to The Style Line, working as an Editorial Collaborator for Conscious Magazine, or consulting on strategic media and community relations for the French Institute Alliance Française. How do you brainstorm content to create, and what is your process for executing your ideas?

DT: As a non-fiction food and travel writer, my brainstorming is heavily influenced by my senses. Location means everything. If I’m writing a story and hit a roadblock, I’ll complete a writing prompt that challenges my awareness of place and people. I joke, what’s a pen to a person if not to write a story, and interestingly enough, I don’t always carry paper on me and I’m often left to jotting notes on napkins at coffee shops. My approach to note taking and writing prompts looks a little like a crossword puzzle. I write the words that come to mind and find a way to link them together.

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned from your experiences in content creation with a variety of publications, companies, and websites?

DT: I’ve learned that the process to content creation is most valuable. I am passionate about establishing a collaborative client environment to ensure pre-production work aligns with the client’s anticipation and brand identity. It’s rather easy to misinterpret ideas, so I’ve become keen on incorporating a mood board and weekly consultations to stay on the same page with clients.

CJ: You are also an incredible photographer. You contribute writing and photography to Life & Thyme Magazine. What is the process for putting together content for this publication documenting food culture around the globe? How long does this process take?

DT: Thank you so much! Like on any other platform, my process for editorial work is very extensive. My general subject concerns food, lifestyle and travel, so the first step is to begin researching current trends and unique developments in the area. To do this, I will read local newspapers/magazines, observe social media reviews, or what’s most exciting, venture outside of home to see the city for myself. Once I’ve discovered the exact focus of my article, I study it thoroughly to learn and uncover whatever questions I may have. After structuring the interview, I move into determining the visual component to my story. I observe elements of the trade and location, position my storyboard and when the time comes, capture the shot as best as I imagined. Pre-production can take between 1-2 weeks, the interview and photo production could take 1-3 days, and the writing and correspondence with editors could take up to 2 weeks.

I am currently in pre-production for my editorial work with Life & Thyme. While many may find this initial stage somewhat challenging, I am enjoying it to the fullest! Pre-production has allowed me to explore and enjoy the arts and cuisine of Downtown Phoenix, scout locations and provide applications for those interested in participating in the photo shoot(s). Most importantly, pre-production has allowed me to really take pleasure in my work. I look forward to also offering opportunities for assistant production (as a second shooter) on photography assignments.

CJ: From your ‘Kinship by Cuisine: A Conscious Coming Together’ column at Conscious Magazine to Life & Thyme, cuisine and food culture is a big focus in your work. Why are the topics of food, culture, and travel interesting to you?

DT: From EF travels in Italy and Greece, to off-campus seminars in Morocco and China, travel has often been paired with my educational pursuits and has opened my eyes to appreciate cultural differences. Learning has a pivotal influence on one’s values and passions.

dt 3

CJ: What advice do you have for those interested in being content creators, writers, or photographers?

DT: If you haven’t already, discover the creative community in your city for friendship and mentorship! You can do this by attending events like Instameets (Instagram-facilitated meet-ups) and Create + Cultivate, in-person workshops with The School of Styling or online courses via Skillshare! Your community will inspire and support you.

When you’re ready, social media is a great tool for introducing your style to a public audience and developing a dynamic portfolio  – I suggest Instagram for photography, Twitter for writing (ie: developing strategy for effective short copy) and Steller for content creation (graphic design, photography, writing).

CJ: With a variety of projects, how do you stay organized and keep everything running smoothly?

DT: While many may perceive the freelance career as unconventional in regards to the flexibility of office hours and work environment, it takes discipline and motivation to structure this kind of business and stay afloat with multiple projects. Currently, I manage projects with a variety of brands and publications. Each month, I have to honor my in-person responsibilities, such as board meetings, client consultations, creative conferences and events, etc. To keep everything running smoothly, I have to coordinate closely with my agenda on a professional and personal basis. For my personal brand, I’m implementing an editorial calendar for more consistent social media and blog posts. For my professional work, I have designated office hours (onsite for the French Institute) and deadlines for work submissions. Having picked up more work for social media content creation this year, I’m in the process of defining client-specific editorial calendars and mood boards, which are accessible via a private page on my website. To plan meetings and shoots, I use Google Calendar, my booking & availability calendar on my website, and my paper agenda.

CJ: What are some favorite books, resources, and websites that have influenced you?

DT: For gathering insight from successful creative professionals, I look to The Everygirl. For further guidance on software and approach to business practices, I attend Skillshare courses. As a writer, Writer’s Digest is an indispensable resource. The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss is a good read into 2016.

CJ: What are you working to improve on – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

DT: Personally, I’m looking to improve on my diet and sleep. The Fitbit Flex has been instrumental in regulating my water intake and sleeping habits. I’m somewhat of a night owl, so when inspiration strikes, I will stay up as long as it takes to make the most of it. All the while, when busy writing or editing away, I tend to not eat as I should.

Professionally, I would love to take up a new course. I’m following along with The Everygirl’s 30-Day Challenge of learning a new skill. I’d love to expand my knowledge of the Adobe Creative Suite.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

DT: Write and photograph more. Get out there! Take the train into New York City more frequently, collaborate with other creatives and attend events to stay motivated. Find any opportunity to exercise your talents; it will pay off.

*Phrase by Nike

Diamond Troutman Qs

Portrait courtesy of Dreylon Vang, Copyright 2015 (location: Cartel Coffee Lab) / Photo speaking with Garance Dore: Courtesy of Paris Elsewhere 2013 (location: Open Studio, New York City) / Remaining stock photography images: Copyright Diamond Troutman 2015 (location: Royal Coffee Bar)

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

When we met Andrew O’Neill at the Congressional Award Gold Ceremony in 2014, we were impressed by what he had accomplished to earn his Gold Medal and were interested in learning more about him. Inspired by combining technology and outdoor leadership, Andrew attended Green Mountain College and majored in Adventure Education and Youth Development and Camp Management.

Andrew has put to good use the skills he’s learned in various endeavors, whether he’s building websites and creating a food program, working as a camp manager, editing videos, or learning a new language. Andrew’s curiosity is limitless, and he explores his interests and follows his heart. Read on to learn more about the different projects Andrew is involved in, his top three tips for learning a new language, and the advice he’d give his younger self.

Name: Andrew O’Neill
Education:
Double Major in Adventure Education and Youth Development and Camp Management (YDCM) at Green Mountain College
Follow:
WebsiteTwitterPinterest

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Andrew O’Neill: Young adults have a tendency to be afraid to dream big. Seizing your youth means taking chances toward your current dreams at any age.

CJ: You double majored in Adventure Education and Youth Development and Camp Management (YDCM) at Green Mountain College. How did you decide what to study?

AO: I took a two week-long canoe trip in the Canadian wilderness, and I thought it would be cool to follow a career path similar to the guides on that trip. At the time, I knew I was highly interested in the realm of technology and computers as a potential career, but I did not like the thought of being stuck inside all the time at a computer. I was inspired by the life that the guides on the canoe trip enjoyed that I looked into schools that specialized in outdoor leadership.

CJ: What cause or issue do you care greatly about and why?

AO: I have strong feelings towards the practice of factory farming. As a lifelong vegetarian, I have continued to learn and become more passionate about the abuse of farm animals at these farms and the negative health and environmental issues that this practice is causing on the planet. The way we are treating the animals that we are eating, which we should not be at all in my opinion, has a direct influence on how we are treating each other as humans. I believe that the brutality of factory farm operations correlates to why there are so many horrible acts of war currently happening in our society. I am extremely passionate about this subject and have created a website, ameatfreemonth.org, which aims to provide anyone with a free healthy 30 day vegan eating program to help steer them away from the addictions of eating animal products.

Andrew 2

CJ: You earned the Congressional Award Gold Medal in 2014. How did you get involved with the Congressional Award and what was your biggest takeaway from the experience?

AO: My mother, who has been a long-time Girl Scout troop leader and an all around incredible person, found out about this program through a student she worked with at Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School. Within less than a year, I had signed up and was already working toward the Bronze Certificate. Earning this medal has made me realize that I will always be interested in learning new skills and to never stop challenging myself. Participating in all four program areas has helped me to become a well-rounded person excited to guide future youth through the program.

CJ: That’s awesome! We completely agree and support the learning of new skills. You have been a camp counselor and camp manager at Hawthorne Valley Farm Camp – what did you learn from those experiences?

AO: As a camp counselor, I learned about the psychological and social challenges that can arise while working with youth. Often, I was around campers all day and even when exhausted, had to be careful with my words and actions so that I could set a good example for the campers to look up to. The following year, as a camp manager, I was pushed into new challenging roles that helped me to understand the different aspects of running a camp. The camp director was new the year I managed, so I was placed in a more challenging role being a support to the director. In this higher role, I wrote and submitted our entire camp safety manual, created a new scheduling system for the camp that I used to create the actual camp schedules each week. Additionally, I started and maintained a camp newsletter, served as a primary contact for parents during camp, and compiled a camp recipe book that has been in high demand for many years. Essentially, I now feel I have gained the skills necessary to open a camp of my own.

CJ: You are passionate about video editing and have produced promotional videos for a 3D printing shop in Vermont. What sparked this passion and how did you learn video editing skills?

AO: My passion for video editing goes back to when I was a kid. It all started when I was able to buy my first video camera and connect it to my father’s laptop. Around my senior year in high school, my parents gave me a Cannon HD camcorder, and my uncle bought me a laptop for college. This enabled me to begin working on small projects that explored new ways to edit videos. Ever since this experience, I have taken on more challenging projects that have pushed me to expand my editing skills. All of my video editing skills have been self-taught and all from the small and large projects I have completed over the years.

CJ: You taught yourself how to speak Spanish. What are your top three tips for learning a new language? Is there another language you plan on learning?

AO:

  1. Immerse yourself in a country where they only speak the language you are trying to learn.
  2. Read news articles or listen to songs of interest in the language.
  3. Most importantly, be consistent!

I do plan on learning Japanese and already have a computer program called Human Japanese that I plan on using.

Andrew 4

CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

AO: I am working on improving my health by transitioning to a totally raw mostly fruit diet and practicing regular yoga. Additionally, I am reading books about the fruitarian diet, and journaling everyday to help myself reflect on my day-to-day life.

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?

AO: My trick is simple, I rely heavily on my ability to be optimistic and always be able to find the positive in any situation. Almost always I am able to pause and just do a simple reflection and feel better. Additionally, I will find myself eating something special that I don’t always eat, but that is still in line with my diet.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

AO: There is no time like now to do whatever your heart desires. Answers and opportunities can often be found simply by networking. Every person is a human so don’t be afraid to interact, reach out, and make new connections.

Andrew Oneill Qs

Image: Andrew O’Neill

Travel

No matter where you live, we’ve all seen them… those people wielding cameras with maps tucked into their fanny packs, possibly wearing destination paraphernalia. Okay, hopefully not the last part few parts, but you never know. Tourists – the near curse word to travelers and locals alike. For some reason, people love to hate tourists’ naivety and childlike excitement, even though they should be applauded for their adventurous spirits. But still, I admittedly never want to appear like one because it’s sometimes embarrassing, it could mark you as an easy target for theft or crime, and is simply not cool. So from my wandering heart to yours, here are my four top tips I use while traveling to minimize being that tourist.

1. “When in Rome” everywhere. I like to think of this as the biggest display of respect to another culture because it shows your willingness to try and understand something new. For example, if you are in Australia and someone proudly offers you their restaurants kangaroo dish, eat it like it’s your favorite food even if it’s not (yes, this really happened to me and turns out, it was actually delicious). If you are somewhere that has many social customs unfamiliar to you, say in an Asian country, don’t be embarrassed to try bowing when it is appropriate. I have noticed people are more receptive to you as a traveler when they can see you are putting forth effort to cross cultural differences.

2. In unfamiliar situations, wear your poker face. It is bound to happen – you make a wrong turn to find yourself lost, get yelled at in a foreign language, or are caught in a weird situation and just don’t know how to react. No matter how frazzled you are, try to remain calm and collected for your safety.

3. Speak the language. Of course you won’t always be able to do this fluently, but it is possible to learn a few useful greetings and phrases in the country’s language. You might have noticed Americans do not have the best traveling reputation. Time and time again my foreign friends have told me that we tend to speak English before even attempting a simple greeting in the local language and this is offensive. Even if you butcher a few words in another language, people will likely just giggle and appreciate your attempt.

4. Finally, pay attention to how people dress. Unless you are actually hiking in the jungle or going on an Archeological dig, your favorite hiking hat might not be necessary for this trip. But, little jokes aside, I have found clothing to be important in some cases. For example, if you want to go to a religious service, make sure you ask a local or research how you are expected to dress. The last thing you want to do is accidentally disrespect anyone or anything.

Hopefully you can try out some of these tips and see how your next journey unfolds. If you have any other tips you use, I would love to hear them. Happy travels!

Image: Gratisography

Culture

We are all familiar with the old nursery rhyme ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.’ Many of us were told this in response to bullying and name-calling, and while this idea that words are not powerful enough to break us down or harm us in any way is momentarily comforting, it is also far from the truth. Words have more power than people give them credit for. Whether they are on paper or being said out loud, words can be just as effective as sticks and stones. They might not be able to leave physical bruises and scars but they can divide a nation, end friendships, and start wars.

It sounds like I am talking about words as if they are separate entities that we have no control over, but the truth is, words are us. They give us a way to communicate what we think and how we feel. Words allow us to copy ourselves down on paper or plant a part of ourselves in the ears of anyone who will listen. And once they are spoken, these words become the property of other people. Not in the sense that they own what we say, but in the sense that they own their interpretation of our message.

No one has figured out how to take back words after they have been spoken just yet so  it is always important to remember that once you say something, you can’t unsay it. Your words can have a lasting effect even if you said them several months ago. This is why it’s always a good idea to only say what you mean. Often times we get into an argument with our friends and we only say hurtful things because we were angry and wanted to hurt the other person. It is during those times when we need to be careful with our word because sometimes we don’t say what we mean, but the person on the receiving end of our words don’t know that.

All they know is that their emotional response to the words that were just spoken can’t be taken care of as easily as a month old pizza stain on a shirt. The words, while they have a chance to set in, can’t be washed away once they are embedded in the fabric of a person’s thoughts. A girl in my class once said that it was important to always be impeccable with your word. I had never heard this phrase before (it’s one of Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements) but once she explained what being impeccable with your word meant, it all made sense.

Impeccable in it’s simplest form means without flaws; something that is perfect. But because there is no such thing as perfection, when impeccable is being applied to words, it takes on an entirely different definition. It’s all about, again, saying what you mean and realizing that there is power in your words. Then, after realizing that power, you have to try to speak with integrity. Be honest when you speak and try to say more positive things than negative. You might not think any of this applies to you now, but it does. We don’t see it as much as we should, but we are always saying things without thinking and we allow ourselves to fall back on our youth as an excuse for the things that we say. But even though we are young, we are still held accountable for our words.

Don’t be remembered for the hurtful or untruthful things you say. Instead, be more honest; more impeccable with your words by realizing that they do have the ability to hurt people if you use them for that purpose. We are the only ones who can decide what we want to say and how we want to say it.

Image: Nina J.G.

Culture

We communicate and relate to others through language. Not all of it has to be written or spoken. It can exist in many forms, such as computer code or even symbols, like the way a red light means stop. An example of this is American Sign Language, which allows people to sign their words. How we use language can provide identity.

We can learn about someone’s background in just a few words. The fact that there are so many languages means you can tell where someone is from in seconds. While there are many languages all over the world, almost every word in existence can translate to another language. That is impressive, especially considering different areas in the world have unique dialects. The United States is not just a melting pot in terms of all the types of people who live here. The English language is made up of words that started as the roots of other words from Latin and Greek. People are from all over the world, and that is reflected in our speech. On the West Coast, people “wait in line,” and on the East Coast, people “wait on line.” I’ve heard people in Indiana praise their accents over those in neighboring Kentucky. The world can feel small, but you can catch the subtle differences.

Words also speak about your education. Think of toddlers – at first, they can only say certain words as they need them. It is as far as their brains have developed. As time goes on, they learn how to string sentences together. By the time they are in high school and college, the way they talk says something about them. You might talk to your friends using slang, but it may not be appropriate to use slang when speaking to your boss or a teacher. The ability to differentiate between these two circumstances shows a command of language and an understanding of appropriateness.

We must be careful of what we say because words carry so much meaning. How many times have you said something thoughtlessly? Probably quite often because unlike term papers where words are chosen carefully, normal conversation does not always warrant much thought. I once had a friend talk to me about all that went wrong in her life. I kept saying “sorry” because I wanted to say something to comfort her. Instead, this upset her. She asked, “Why do you keep apologizing for things that are not your fault?” Saying “sorry” is meant to convey sympathy, but overuse can diminish the emotion behind the words. What you think is a casual remark could hurt someone else, and in turn, could shape their opinion of you.

Our location, education, and feelings are all conveyed in the words we speak and how we say them. That is why it is important to be yourself. People say you should think before you speak because you have no idea how much information is coded into every syllable. The next time you are out shopping or getting food, think of how you speak to the cashier or how they speak to you. You might earn more than you realize about communication if you pay attention.

Image: woodleywonderworks, Flickr

CultureEducationTravel

Studying abroad is a big, fantastic, life-changing decision. Kudos to you for making the choice to do it, but now you’ve got a question to answer for yourself: where will I go?

During my junior year of college, I left my little North Carolina university for a semester as an exchange student at a university in Singapore, where I knew no one, about as far across the globe as I could possibly go. Choosing such an unfamiliar location was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, but it wasn’t the easiest.

Some people, like me, are all over the map with potential locations and take a little time to choose the right place. I’ve compiled a list of 10 questions that I consider important to ask about each potential location when making the decision on where you’ll spend the next mini chapter of your life:

1. What is my goal? What do I want to get out of this experience?

Do you want to learn a language or discover new cultures? Escape your comfort zone? Explore incredible nightlife? Meet new people, or remain with current classmates/close friends? Volunteer? Travel easily? While the questions below will guide you in determining the program that meets your academic, social, travel and financial needs, answering them is no use without first having an idea of what you truly want to gain from your experience, and how far out of your comfort zone you’d like to go.

2. What are the potential host countries’ official language(s)?

Do you speak it/them? Do the universities or programs you’re considering offer classes in English, or only the host language? Can you enroll in language lessons?

3. How  are the potential host countries’ political climate?

Is the country and its region fairly stable and safe, particularly for people of your nationality? People are people no matter where you go, and no matter the situation. Danger is not alwaysas imminent as the media likes us to believe (don’t tell your parents I said that). However, safety is vital, political climates can change quickly, and even if they don’t necessarily affect safety, they can affect your ability to do things such as travel, stay out late, etc. The UN and your country’s embassy sites are informative in these situations.  

4. How are the social dynamics?

Is the country LGBTQIA friendly? Are gender roles significantly different there than in your home country? Is it safe and respectful to openly practice your religion there? How are people from  your country generally treated? Is partying and/or drinking normal or frowned upon?

5. What about cost of living?

Are you funding the experience yourself or with help? How much can you spend on it? Are scholarships available? Check out factors like public transportation, food and drink, leisure and cultural, and rent costs. It may actually be very possible to live significantly more cheaply as a student than you’d expect. (While Singapore’s cost of living is very high, research showed me it was fairly simple to keep my costs low using student housing, public transit, groceries, duty-free stores and on-campus food canteens.)

6. What amenities are available?

Will you be using toilets or holes in the ground? Is running water available for showers, laundry etc.? WiFi? What, if any, western-style amenities are you willing to forego?

7. What about food and drinks?

What is the local diet? (Noodles, glutinous sticky rice or Indian and Malaysian breads were in almost every meal I ate in Singapore – it would have been difficult were I gluten free.) Know how well your allergies will be accommodated and whether you’re willing to try unfamiliar meats, veggies and more. How available is clean water? You’ll almost always be able to find bottled and clean options, particularly if studying through a university or established program, but it’s good to at least have an idea how easily you can do that.

8. How’s the weather?

Know your potential locations’ climates, and how important weather is to you. (A friend of mine considered study only in Scandinavian nations because he absolutely loves the cold.)

9. How easily can I travel?

Seeing the world is a big reason many of us study abroad. Can you take buses and trains inexpensively for weekend trips? What is your proximity to other destinations? What budget airlines travel through your location and region?

10. CULTURE?!

Were you wondering if I was ever going to list this one? It felt like a no-brainer, so I almost didn’t. If you don’t have one standout culture that interests you, ask yourself other questions. Do you love the study of religion? Interested in architecture? History? Art? Fashion? Choose a location rich in the things that pique your curiosity and interest.

Tips:

  • Reach out to people who studied in your program: your university will often be able to connect you – just ask. I did this and it gave me lots of insider tips. Most of us love talking about our study abroad experiences, plus, we can tell you things the websites and advisors won’t.
  • ProCon it: a list of potential goods and bads can help you organize your thoughts if you’re really struggling to figure out where you want to be.
  • Don’t freak out: you will have a life-changing experience if you let yourself. The location will affect how your life is changed, and in what ways, but it’s very hard to go wrong in that department.

Study abroad is fun, mind-opening and challenging, and your decision to do it is the most important one! So enjoy the decision making process; put thought into it, but don’t over-analyze. Listen to your heart, and you’ll end up in the right place for you.

Next week, I’ll cover the important topic of financing a study abroad trip.

What suggestions do you have for choosing a study abroad location? Comment below!

Image: Dominik S., Flickr

CultureInspiration

There it is. The middle of July has just passed (gasp!), and summer is in full blown effect. Instagram is loaded with friends going on vacation in France or drinking mimosas on the beach. When you aren’t shopping for your bikini top, you’re probably making money to buy one. If you aren’t looking up the cutest outfits for your summer office internship, you’re probably actually at it. But what if you’re in a slump? You only get as far as the interview, and your inbox has been gathering dust. Or maybe there’s personal stuff going on and making a decision like that is the last thing on your mind.

Hey. That’s okay.

This summer is for you. Your time to do what you need to do. Sometimes you need to slow down the pace before you can pick it back up, and sometimes what you’re looking for is right around the corner and you just have to get there, one step at a time. This summer is clay and you can take it in your hands and do whatever you want to it. You can mold your time to be slow and easy and relaxing, or design it to be fast-­paced and exciting. You don’t have to work or intern for it to be yours. There’s a world of things to do and and it’s waiting for you.

If you’re feeling envious of your friends abroad, make it a mission for yourself to explore your city and to get to know it as much as you can. Teach yourself a new language. Watch foreign films. Find a place where you’re comfortable and draw in a sketchbook your own world.

This summer is your space, your zone. Take it easy and work through what you need to work through. Be gentle with yourself. Love yourself and take care of yourself. If you’re not ready to take the world on just yet, then don’t. One step at a time. Take a walk around the block, then around the park, then the beach. Make yourself a small breakfast, then a healthy one, and eat it with satisfaction.

Don’t worry about what other people are doing, or what they’re saying, or what they’re thinking. Everybody goes at their own pace and so should you. Don’t worry if nothing is working out, soon it will. Don’t worry if you feel like you’re falling behind, you’re not. Don’t worry if you need time for yourself this summer, take it and it’s yours. Make this summer about being happy and healthy, and don’t worry about the rest.

Image: Unsplash