Why Every Professional Should Have LinkedIn

career, College Tips, Professional

At first glance, LinkedIn might seem like just another extra social media profile that you’ll have to constantly check and engage with- until you get bored or need a social media detox again. But if you’ve already got a LinkedIn account, you know that this platform is quite unlike the others. Sure, it’s got the classic newsfeed and ability to like, comment, or share posts. But it’s also got something that not even giants like Instagram or Facebook can match- and that’s professional networking.

Photo from pexels.com

When I first built my LinkedIn profile 6 years ago in late 2014, I was also skeptical about whether or not this was a “have one just to have it” or a “have one because you need it” type of platform. But as someone working in the marketing and communications world, I quickly realised that by simply building a profile, I had hit the jackpot.

Let me break down just how I got started using LinkedIn. My journey with marketing began back when I worked as an intern at a startup in the Silicon Valley called “Gorilla Branders.” There, I learned a great deal about how to use social media, create content, and the importance of networking- even just as a small startup. That’s when my colleagues recommended that we all set up our LinkedIn profiles. It made our company look more official and professional, while also building up our profiles to stand out in the industry.

My colleagues helped me set up my profile, which involved getting headshots of each person on the team, creating a clear job description, endorsing one another’s skills, listing our job experience, and writing recommendations for one another. We also threw in some personal interests, like companies we wanted to follow and people we found inspirational. Once we were done, each of us had a “digital resume” that could easily be passed along either when networking or looking for future job opportunities.

Photo by bongkarn thanyakij from Pexels

Ready to create your own LinkedIn profile or freshen up your current one? Without further ado, here are my top 10 tips to building your own epic LinkedIn profile:

1) Use a great photo/headshot – A picture can give you 1000+ connections

  • Even if it’s a selfie, just make sure to keep it professional. You never know who might be checking your profile, so it’s best to keep it classy.
  • Don’t forget to add a simple but complimentary cover photo that highlights your headshot appropriately. For example, I used a black and white photo of an Adidas shoe to highlight my current job at Adidas.

2) Make your “About Me” similar to an elevator pitch

  • Whether it’s short and sweet or a bit longer and more descriptive, make sure that this section really highlights your best attributes, skills, and (if you’re looking for a job) something that makes you a good candidate within your industry.

3) Include relevant job experience with clear job descriptions

  • Remember, less is more. While you might have worked part-time as a lawnmower for your very first job, this is something you wouldn’t really want to include on your LinkedIn profile.
  • Instead, choose something more recent that reflects which direction you want to go in your career. Even if it’s volunteer experience, that free work could land you the paid job you’ve been searching for.
  • Then, make sure to have clear job descriptions for each one. This can be a short paragraph or just a few clear bullet points. Your choice! Pro tip- check out your current job description in your contract or see what your colleagues have written about their positions on their own profiles.
Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

4) Connect, connect connect!

  • Start with the people you know, and then move on to seeing what you have in common with their connections. This can be as they pop up in your feed, or directly on the “My Network” tab. The great thing about this tab is that it also shows you “industry leaders” in your country, along with mutual connections you have.
  • Sending messages is also important when connecting to ensure the person on the other side sees you’re not just spamming their feed. Add something personalised, like how you heard about them, complimenting their work/recent achievements, or simply why you’re interested in connecting with them.

5) Privacy & accepting connections

  • Taking the previous point into account, it’s also important to know who you’re connecting with. While lots of people on LinkedIn are looking for genuine networking opportunities, you have to be smart about weeding out any fake profiles, scams, or spam messages that aren’t looking for genuine connections.
  • Just like any other social media platform, your data is precious to LinkedIn and therefore should also be precious to you. Be careful with your privacy settings and build your network just as you would in the real world, if you were to see them in person.

6) Scroll that feed!

  • It’s important stay informed about your industry, interact with your connections, and encourage them along their career paths as well. Scrolling your feed for a couple minutes can give you lots of useful information about current events, recent achievements/work anniversaries within your network, and new users you can follow.
  • That’s the other great thing about LinkedIn- you can see posts that your connections are liking from their own network! This is a great resource for connecting with people outside of your network and enhancing the content on your newsfeed.

7) To post or not to post…

  • I’ve found that sharing posts both from within and outside of my network is a great way to get people to view my profile. Otherwise, I try to also create my own posts consisting of my personal blog, my podcast, or just articles that I found interesting/relevant to my industry.
  • Looking for a job? Don’t be shy- write a short post about your skills and desires for your next job, then encourage your network to share it! Many of my friends have used this method to try and find their next job, while showing recruiters that they’re actively searching.

8) Following the right people

  • Are you following industry leaders that will uplift you and provide useful resources on your newsfeed? Much like other social media platforms, who you follow is important because that person and the information they post will be in your newsfeed.
  • In addition, other users can see your interests and who you’re following- so make sure it’s something relevant to your interests and/or the industry that you’re working in.

9) Searching for jobs

  • With all of your job history in one place, it’s a no-brainer that you should conduct your job search on LinkedIn as well! Though there are many platforms out there for finding a job, I love that LinkedIn has a great format for listing jobs and including an easy way to apply.
  • LinkedIn also shows you which companies have viewed your profile and offers you the chance to view the original job listing on that company’s website!

10) LinkedIn Learning – Getting certifications & skills

  • So this is a perk that might not be available to you unless you or your company is paying to provide it- but it’s something that I have used and can highly recommend. LinkedIn Learning grants you access to a myriad of skills and learning opportunities, plus a shiny certificate that immediately gets posted to your LinkedIn profile.
  • I’ve tried courses in social media, analytics, marketing, SEO, and CRO. It costs $29.49 per month, but LinkedIn also offers a 1-month free trial for new users. Click here to check it out (not a sponsored link).
Photo from pexels.com

Some of you might be thinking, “Why do I need this? I am just a/an ____” (fill in the blank). But even though I was “just an intern” back in 2014, I witnessed firsthand the immense potential of having a LinkedIn profile- and it has brought me countless connections and opportunities to this day. Regardless of your current job situation and/or student status, LinkedIn is an incredible resource for both personal branding and building a professional network. Plus, it’s absolutely free for anyone to use! So there’s really no reason not to build or even optimise your profile with using some of the tips in this blog.

Already have a job? Well, that’s another great reason to get yourself on LinkedIn. One saying I’ve heard pretty often is that you should “never stop looking” for opportunities, even if you’re already super happy at your current job. You never know when that next opportunity is coming, and it could be just inches away- right on your screen the next time you log in. If anything, your profile is helping to build your personal brand and even support your current company by getting their name out there as well.

Unlike other social media platforms, the perks of LinkedIn aren’t limited to just scrolling and using hashtags. You’re building genuine, personal connections with real professionals all across the globe.

Want to learn more about LinkedIn and how networking can boost your career profile? Check out my podcast episode with LinkedIn expert, Scott Aaron, below:

I hope this blog post helped you in some way, and I really appreciate you stopping by!

Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn by viewing my profile here.

Still have questions? Comment on this post directly or email me at gyomonreal@gmail.com.

*Note: This blog is 100% not sponsored by LinkedIn- all opinions / statements written here are my own.

Culture Shock- Germany vs. USA

expat, travel

Thinking of moving to Germany? Whether you’re moving abroad or simply looking to get informed before your next visit to Germany, there are a few cultural differences to you should know in order to be prepared. Here are some of the most interesting/surprising differences I’ve noticed while living abroad as an American expat in Germany:

Closing times – Depending on where you live, stores in Germany (esp. grocery stores) tend to close much earlier than American ones. Particularly in Bavaria, be prepared to deal with closing times as early as 8pm. Oh, and shopping for groceries on a Sunday? You can forget about that.

Grocery stores – Want to know another hilarious fun fact about German grocery stores? Self-bagging. Americans can consider themselves lucky to have someone bagging their groceries at the cashier. In Germany, it’s a race against the cashier to see if you can manage to bag your stuff as quickly as they scan it! Beware- I’ve had my fair share of angry stares when I didn’t bag my groceries fast enough. And god forbid you need to try and go back for an item you forgot! Most stores have a single pathway from entrance to exit- so don’t try going the wrong way or you’ll face the wrath of the Almans!

Strict rules – Speaking of doing things the wrong way- good luck trying NOT break any rules when you’re in Germany. From walking on the wrong side of the street to speaking too loudly on public transportation and/or asking too many questions about the menu at a restaurant, you can expect to see some raised eyebrows if you stick to your American habits while in Germany. Most Germans are not accustomed to the overly-friendly, inquisitive, chatty nature of Americans. Furthermore, if you walk into a restaurant expecting anything remotely similar to American service where “the customer is always right,” you might want to get a reality check. Germans may have a reputation for being “rude” in Americans eyes, but have you ever thought that maybe Americans are just a bit spoiled by our waiters’ forced smiles/getting custom orders every time we go out eat? (I’ll have one Venti-Skinny-Decaf-Soy-Cinammon-Dolce-Latte with 2 pumps of Vanilla and just a little bit of whipped cream, please)

Pharmacies – For Americans, pharmacies are gigantic- offering an assortment of medication but also groceries, alcohol, makeup, and more. The local German “Apotheke” offers only the essentials for medication, and would certainly surprise any American walking in and trying to grab their painkillers off the shelves. Here, you must request pretty much everything from your pharmacist and face some pretty skeptical stares if you order anything stronger than 400 mg of painkiller meds.

Paying in cash – I never thought this would be an issue when I moved here, but it’s very important to carry cash when you live in Germany! This is especially true when living in Bavaria, where many restaurants only accept cash. That can make for an awkward date when the bill arrives!

Beer – Need I say more? If you’re moving to Germany, be prepared to encounter a very heavy beer culture. Know the differences between Hell, Pils, Weizen, and more. If you’re not a fan of strong beer, try a Radler (that’s what it’s called in Bavaria)- it’s a refreshing mix of Sprite (or some kind of lemon soda) and beer. Not into alcohol? Stick to a delicious Apfelschorle- apple juice mixed with sparkling water. Prost!

Here’s a selfie of Florian and I enjoying some Augustiner beer at our local fair!

Weather – It shouldn’t be a huge shocker to anyone coming from states with seasons, but the weather in Germany gets cold. For someone like me coming from sunny California, the weather in Germany was surprising, to say the least. If you don’t have the stomach for the long, harsh winter months starting January and ending around mid-April (sometimes end of April! As the Germans say, “April, der macht was er will,” meaning “April does what it wants”), than you might want to think carefully before moving here. Most days tend to be cloudy, rainy, and snowy in the winter months. The best time to travel to Germany? Late April, early May, or even in September/October (Oktoberfest, anyone?).

Here’s a photo I took in Bamberg on a rainy day, just outside of a Birkenstock store!

Education – Are you also carrying around a good chunk of student debt? *Laughs in European.* Tuition is basically free in Germany, aside from the basic cost of like 100-200 euros just to cover university administrative fees as well as your semester ticket to use the buses/transportation. FYI- this is worth the price and actually an incredible deal, considering you’d typically pay 2-3 euros for a 10-15 minute bus/train ride.

Insurance/Public Benefits – Did someone say universal healthcare? Americans are quaking. Looks like someone is doing it right- Germany ensure everyone has basic human rights by covering their citizens’ healthcare and avoiding the chaos/anxiety/stress that many Americans face every day. Deutschland 1, USA 0 (because Americans are still dying due to lack of health coverage / starvation / homelessness / more).

Religion – We already touched on a bit of politics, now let’s cover religion! Overall, Germany is a pretty openly religious country, with predominately Catholic and Protestant influence, and (like most places in Europe) churches everywhere you look. Regardless of your opinion on religion, there’s one thing anyone who has been to Germany in December would agree makes it the most wonderful time of the year, and that’s the Christmas markets! Filled with various wooden booths selling candy, snacks, trinkets, and that oh-so-glorious Glühwein, the German Weinachtsmarkt / Chriskindlesmarkt is a must-see for anyone thinking of traveling to Germany.

What are some of the cultural differences you’ve noticed while in Germany?

Comment below if you felt like you could relate to this post, and follow my blog for more expat content!

What I Learned After 6 Months at Adidas

career, expat

Working for one of the biggest global players in the sports/fashion industry alongside an epic international team- how can you top that?

I had come to the end of one of the best chapters of my life. After 6 months of working the job of my dreams flew by, one big question was on my mind: What’s next?

This uncomfortable realisation reminded me of two previous adventures- when I studied abroad in Sydney, Australia (4 months) and later when I lived with my boyfriend in Hannover, Germany (6 months). These seemingly tiny increments of time were actually long enough to where I could make the most out of my adventure, but could also feel like my adventure was cut short- just when I had started settling in and feeling like I was on a roll.

At the beginning of my internship, I certainly did not expect to get along so well with my team- and was pleasantly surprised when they became pretty much like extended family for me. I also didn’t know how intimately tied I would become with the Adidas brand. It became much more than just a sports brand. I quickly realized that for me, Adidas (both as an employee at the headquarters and as a loyal consumer) is a lifestyle. Diving deep into the company history, I learned that the brand represents a passion for staying active, consistent innovation, and pushing the boundaries of the present by leading with the future.

Although I still can’t fully answer the question of what is next in my career, I am confident that my time at Adidas and all of the hard work I put in will pay off. If this experience taught me anything, it’s that anyone can achieve their dreams if they continue to persevere. This means, not only believing that you will get your dream job, but also matching that mindset with clear actions.

Here are a few tricks I use to stand out as a candidate during my job search:

  1. Maintain a great profile online so that when people see you, they immediately want to work with you (LinkedIn, social media, etc.)
  2. Ensure your resume AND cover letters align with the job description and the company branding.
    • Ask yourself, do they want to see a super creative CV?
    • Or, is a clear, detailed list of your certificates/skills more important?
  3. Networking is key! Don’t be afraid to reach out to family, friends, and previous colleagues to get some help during your application process.
    • One great way is to use LinkedIn to connect with people/companies you want to work with- but just make sure to be polite and not spam anyone!
  4. Apply, apply, and keep on applying!
    • As exhausting (and sometimes degrading) as the job search can be, you have to keep your options open, and don’t count on getting exactly the job you want- at least not right away.
    • Try creating an excel sheet or some kind of document to keep track of where you’ve applied, the status of the application, etc. This will help as interviews start coming around!
  5. Be realistic!!!
    • Keeping tip #4 in mind, you have to also make sure you are honest with yourself about whether or not you REALLY want to work at the places you’ve applied.
    • No matter where you end up working, make sure that it’s doing something you enjoy! There’s nothing worse than working somewhere you don’t even want to be.

The hard truth is, you may not be able to “top” these epic experiences of your life. But you have something to look forward to- you will always hold these adventures as reference points to help drive you forward in your quest for the next best thing.

Have you ever felt this way while living abroad as an expat, participating in a study abroad program, or during an internship/part-time role at a company you love? What were some of the ways you coped afterwards, and where are you now?

Leave a comment below to let others know about your experience!

Life Update: How I Got an Internship at Adidas

expat, life update, mental health

You might think that spending months without having to go to work everyday sounds like heaven. Well, I’m here to tell you firsthand that it’s not- especially when you’re living as an expat in a new country. My journey so far here in Germany has been a rollercoaster of emotions, a never-ending search for jobs, and- to top it all off- a heaping dose of homesickness. Though I enjoyed having the liberty to work freelance for several months, I learned the hard way that staying at home most of the week was not good for my mental health.

Since I live in the heart of Franconia- just around the corner from Nuremberg- I am also situated next to some of the biggest companies in Germany (Adidas, Siemens, Puma, GfK, and more). So when I first arrived in Germany, I thought: “Lucky me! It’s going to be super easy to get a job at one of these English-speaking German companies.” Little did I know that the competition to work for a renowned company like Adidas was fiercer than I anticipated. Not only are people applying from within Germany and Europe- but from all around the world!

Photo from the day of shooting the Adidas application video

My first attempt at applying was for a traineeship in corporate communications. I put all of my effort into the required video application- creating my own script and even trying some new video editing techniques to make it vintage/80s style. Unfortunately, I eventually received an email that I didn’t get the job. Not only was I rejected, but I felt incredibly disheartened that I didn’t get any feedback on a video that I had put so much work into.

At first, I wanted to bury my old application video and prevent it from ever seeing the light of day. But now I’ve realized that it was good practice for me to begin aligning myself with the Adidas brand and it might actually help others who are thinking of applying or who need to make an application video! Check it out below.

After I swallowed my shame, I decided that no matter what I would keep trying until I got a position at Adidas- even if it took me a year (which it almost did). I constantly re-made my resume, researched what others did to get a job at Adidas, and looked for any constructive feedback I could find to improve my chances of getting hired.

Once we hit the middle of summer, my heart began to sink and I really lost hope in any possibility of working at Adidas. But then, completely out of the blue, I got an email about scheduling an interview! I felt overjoyed but once again didn’t get my hopes up because I had no idea if I’d get a call back after the interview. Turns out, I got along so well with the woman from HR on the phone that I was immediately asked about the second interview.

Originally, I wasn’t sure about what to wear to the interview- so I asked my neighbors and friends that work at Adidas. I settled on a sporty dress with my favorite bright pink Adidas sneakers (see photo below)- though I was pretty tempted to go all-out Adidas and wear my belt bag and a more formal black dress. Settling on the striped dress was a great choice because of the sweltering summer heat that day. Comfortable shoes were also smart, as I would be walking A LOT since we’re still saving up to get a car.

With Herzogenaurach (the city of the German Adidas headquarters) roughly a 30 minute drive away, I decided to do my second interview in person. As I pulled up to the campus, I got chills on my arms and felt incredibly excited about the prospect of working there. The Adidas outlet store and the giant Arena building just blew my mind. I had no idea the size of the campus was so huge! I saw people walking by wearing Adidas sweatpants, loose shirts, and even Adidas slides on their feet- and I couldn’t wipe the grin off of my face. Not having to wear tight business clothes or worry about planning outfits every day? This was my kind of workplace.

Side view of the outlet store from the bus stop where I was waiting

The interview was unlike any other interview I’ve done- we walked around the campus, grabbed something to drink at the cafeteria, and went outside to talk. I absolutely loved how there were power outlets everywhere- even on the tables outside. Working is not limited to the four walls of an office, and the beautiful architecture of the campus offers inspiration everywhere you look.

I was really excited to tell them about my career experience and get to know what they liked about working at Adidas. Interestingly enough, they wanted to know more about my personality and personal life than anything else. I couldn’t be happier to share my story, and it started to feel like a conversation with friends- making me feel even more comfortable. We got along really well, and I was so excited to find out whether or not I got the internship.

One of the things I tend to do (as someone with anxiety) is tell myself I am not worthy of certain things- especially big things like working at a company so amazing as Adidas. These toxic thoughts are something everyone goes through- so just know that if you’ve also had them, you’re not alone. I worked hard for almost a year trying to get this position, and did it all on my own. I told myself that regardless of whether I got the job or not, I would continue trying and take this as just another step closer to where I wanted to work.

Once I found out that I was hired, it took a lot for me to really congratulate myself and believe that it was real. Even now, I am sitting here in awe that my efforts finally paid off. It’s important to appreciate yourself and every little effort you put into life because there is no point in always doubting your potential.

The other day, I read a post on Instagram that my friend shared saying “We are so used to just being thankful for the chance to succeed that we have not learned to acknowledge and celebrate that we DESERVE success.” This is especially relevant to me, as an American Latina and daughter of immigrants, to embrace my success and know that I, too belong at the table.

I am so excited to start this new journey of my life, and really grateful I can use this platform to share my stories with you. What are some things you’re excited about in life right now? Comment below and stay tuned for the next blog!

Eating Giant Pretzels at the Erlangen Bergkirchweih

Uncategorized

Recently I had the pleasure of attending the Bergkirchweih in Erlangen. This is a festival similar to Oktoberfest, where beer is sold everywhere in large tents and people gather for music, traditional food, and fun carnival rides. People often dress in the classic lederhosen or dirndl clothing and participate in several beer-drinking traditions. One of these traditions is called the Kastenlauf, or crate walk, where festival attendees buy a crate of beer (around 20 bottles, 1/2 liter each) on their walk to the festival. Much like American “pre-gaming,” this tradition typically requires that participants finish the entire crate of beers before arriving to the festival.

While the Kastenlauf was one tradition I did not participate in, I was fascinated to see several people lugging a case of beers and chugging their beers as fast as possible. Perplexed but not at all surprised by this behavior, I jokingly told my boyfriend, “They’ll probably have to finish all of those before they can get into the festival, right?” As per usual German rules, you are normally not allowed to bring any sort of drinks with you into restaurants or fairs (though I’ve gotten away with the occasional water bottle). So when my boyfriend outlined the rules of the Kastenlauf, I was rather astonished that the rules of this tradition also require that only 2 people carry and must finish the case of beers prior to entering the festival.

In any case, I was happy to walk around these brave souls and make my way into the excitement and beauty of the festival. With beautifully decorated Lebkuchen hearts, the smell of sausages cooking, and people hauling their giant mugs of beer everywhere, I couldn’t wait to join the party.

As the afternoon went on and my giant pretzel and Obatzda arrived, I was pleased to have something in my stomach to accompany the giant Radler (beer mixed with lemonade) sitting in front of me. But the later it got, the more crowded our giant tent became… and the festival attendees grew even more rowdy with the help of endless alcohol and Schlager music. For a person who hasn’t had enough to drink and doesn’t feel particularly comfortable in a crowd, this became a little too much and made me increasingly uncomfortable with this new cultural experience.

Finally, my boyfriend and I decided to get away from the noise and check out the rides and activities sprinkled across the “Berg” (which means “mountain or hill” in German). According to a classmate at my university here in Erlangen, of the most iconic and well-known aspects of the Bergkirchweih is the giant ferris wheel. Naturally, we had to take a look and after short deliberation we decided to bite the bullet, pay for two 7 euro tickets, and jump on.

It was the perfect way to end the evening and left us with a stunning view of the entire festival. Overall, the experience was not at all something I would have expected- and it is certainly something I’d try again (on a less crowded day). Now, I’m looking forward to attending Oktoberfest this fall and experiencing what is basically the Coachella of Germany.

I Moved to Germany: 4 Month Update

mental health, Relationships / Dating, travel, Uncategorized

Last time I moved to Germany to live with my boyfriend was in December of 2016. It was the first time I had ever actually been outside of an airport in Germany and the first time I decided to live with a boyfriend. Back then, I’d just finished taking German 101 and tasted the raw hardship of spending several months apart in a “long distance relationship.” We agreed sometime before that I would come and visit him in December and I would plan on completing a semester of my Master’s program online to stay as long as possible. My plan worked, and I was able to live with him from December 2016 until May 2017. While it was an incredible experience and crucial foundation to our relationship, this time dug deep into my greatest fears and showed me the privileges I had when living in California. For someone who already has anxiety and is somewhat of an introvert, the stress of adjusting to a new culture, language, and customs made it difficult- to say the least.

xmas
My first Christmas in Germany – December 2016

Even so, I like to think that my struggles during this time are what propelled me to finally make the voyage again two years later (October 2018). I saved up what I could, parted ways with my jobs, sold my car, packed my bags (and my cat), and moved out of my mom’s California home and into our apartment here in Germany. Some people called me crazy, others called me brave, but in the end, it was the overwhelming support of my close family that gave me the courage I needed. For most Latinas with immigrant parents, leaving home is almost unheard of. I am fortunate to have an incredibly open-minded mother and an encouraging father who helped me see the vastness of life and ask, “Why not now?”

1

Many of us millennials in our 20’s are struggling to fit the mold of our parents as we transition into a time when we’re supposed to be “adulting.” Ironically, this is really just like any other phase of our lives- a time of self-discovery and learning from our mistakes. We’re notorious for being the generation that somehow ruins everything, doesn’t work hard enough, and wants everything- right away. Can you blame us for feeling a little bit overwhelmed by society’s expectations? I find myself constantly wondering whether the next step I take will be the one that finally makes people take me seriously, and quite frankly I got tired of trying to please everyone. Feeling a strong disconnect with my hometown and knowing I had the freedom to change my situation, I closed my eyes, jumped headfirst into the next chapter, and stopped looking back.

Funnily enough, I faced (and continue facing) some of the same struggles again when I moved to Germany. When I arrived I had trouble figuring out my visa, faced several moments of culture shock, and once again had to overcome the language barrier. Four months later: I’m still struggling to find a secure job, create a solid social circle, and feel confident enough to attempt a full German conversation. But as an avid traveler who spent time studying abroad and found her second home in Australia, I can safely say that “home” isn’t always where you think it is. No matter how secure or comfortable you feel at home right now or how determined you are to stay in the same place- with time comes change and one day you might find yourself feeling unfamiliar with your own home. Humans are built to change with our surroundings, and my experiences prove just how adaptable we are.

2

One of the biggest fears I had before coming to Germany was losing my entire social circle and having to build a new one from scratch in a new city. But if there’s anything I learned from being in a long distance relationship for 2 years, it’s that relationships aren’t dictated by the miles between each other. It’s easier now more than ever to maintain friendships even from abroad because of the internet, social media, and other apps that keep us all connected. Throughout my travels (especially when I traveled alone) I learned that strangers can actually be incredibly helpful and friendly. In fact, they might even end up being one of your closest friends. Besides, what’s better than having friends to visit when you decide to go abroad again?

I’m proud to have a global network of friends now because I forced myself to talk to the people next to me during my trips (sometimes out of nervousness, other times out of desperation for finding friends). It certainly can feel embarrassing, pathetic, or even stupid when you’re the odd one out in another country. But think of how you would act when meeting a foreigner in your hometown- probably excited to show them around and get to know what they think of your country! Keeping this in mind, I’ve tried to reach out to other travelers as a fellow newbie in this city by attending Facebook events and striking up conversations with Germans around me. I can’t say it’s easy or always fun, but it is an experience that has helped me grow and feel more comfortable with living in my boyfriend’s home country.

3

The last four months gave me perseverance, strength, and the courage to keep telling my story so that others may hopefully be brave enough to travel, live abroad, or simply expand their horizons. I am so thankful to have “closed the distance” on my international long distance relationship- I get to see my partner every day, to experience his culture firsthand, and to work on myself in the process. Whether you’re heading on a trip soon or waiting for the right time, I would love to hear about your experiences with travel! Feel free to comment below with some of your adventures as well as any thoughts you had on today’s blog post. Thanks for reading!

What My Long Distance Relationship Taught Me

mental health, Relationships / Dating, social media, Thoughts, travel

Long. Distance. Throw those words together, add in the relationship aspect, and you’ve got a pretty difficult recipe ahead of you. For some most people I’ve talked to, they draw the line at even a few days apart from their partner. Yet after two years of doing long distance, I still haven’t thrown in the towel. Of course, no matter how long or how short the distance, there’s no easy way around the obstacles that come with this kind of relationship. So why invest in a long distance relationship at all?

For starters, one of the biggest lessons I learned from long distance was the true meaning of commitment. This may sound like a no-brainer, but I’m talking about commitment not only to your relationship but also to yourself. This includes making sure you stick to a routine that distracts you from the difficulties of a long distance relationship (LDR), committing to the time and additional attention your partner may need to feel confident in this relationship, and disciplining yourself with the long timeframes that pass between seeing one another and saving up money/planning to see one another.

One of the things I’ve done to ensure that I have a routine is studying (when I was a student), going out/making social arrangements with friends, hitting the gym to take my mind off those really hard days, and always carving out time to either text or call my significant other. While now we manage to text throughout most of the day and always squeeze in one phone call, at the start of our long distance we hardly made time to talk and both realized how toxic it was to our relationship. As corny as it sounds, communication really is the heart of maintaining most relationships- and it’s honestly what strengthened our relationship in spite of the large distance (9,157 km from Los Angeles, California to Hanover, Germany).

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We worked hard to understand our 9 hour time difference, determining what time each of us would wake up or wind down for bed, and respecting that sometimes we may not have a chance to talk because of work, school, or just being human (overslept, too tired, etc.). But no matter how busy we got, both of us made sure to remind each other of our love, appreciation, and commitment to this relationship. From a simple compliment to a selfie of their outfit, I was always grateful to know that he was thinking of me and that I could still get a glimpse of his day. Technology really is vital to long distance relationships today, and I truly don’t know if I’d be as happy if it weren’t for our privilege to communicate daily using WhatsApp, Snapchat, Facetime, Facebook, and other social media platforms.

At the beginning of my relationship, my mother bought me a short e-book by Gregg Michaelsen that really changed my entire outlook on long-distance relationships. This quick read (took me only 2 days to finish) helped me address any hidden fears of trust, commitment, and worries about our future.

I learned how to overcome my insecurities and how to communicate them openly with my partner. I also learned that physical connection isn’t everything- and how to make the most of my time with my LDR partner when we were finally together again. While saving up money to see each other can be incredibly costly depending on the distance, it’s certainly worth it to develop a cadence for when you’ll see your partner again and have a solid date in mind for your reunion. This continues to be one of the biggest motivations for me throughout our time apart, and it’s also really fun to keep a countdown of the weeks, days, and hours left until we’ll be together again.

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So while this blog post certainly isn’t to try and convince everyone to jump into a long distance relationship, I wanted to provides some guidance for people who might be contemplating the feasibility of an LDR or are already in an LDR and looking for a little advice.

What are some of the things you’ve learned from your long distance relationship? Do you have any questions or ideas I could address in future blogs? Feel free to email me or comment below- and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog for more LDR advice & more!

 

The Millennial Identity

social media, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Who am I? I’ve found myself asking this question more and more as I continue to juggle two lives- one being the portrayal of my life on social media, and the other being my much less exciting, real everyday life. When I was younger, I spent a lot of time worshipping all the glorious 90’s and 2000’s idols most kids my age loved: Britney Spears, The Backstreet Boys, Avril Lavigne, Lindsay Lohan, No Doubt, Fergie, Green Day, Beyoncé, etc. Though they all seemed so untouchable then, I adored them and nevertheless felt incredibly close to them. Twelve-year-old me popped an Aaron Carter CD fresh off the shelves into my new walkman and blasted “I Want Candy” on repeat. Twenty-three-year-old me follows celebrities on every form of social media, researches their entire life story with one or two clicks online, and nearly faints when I get even the tiniest response from them through a like or comment on Twitter (ok, not really but you get where I’m going with this). Reminiscing on the good old days when my idols were at a safe distance made me ask- Has this world of instant access to information and intimate online relationships with celebrities/presidents/anyone impacted my identity?

If I had known as a preteen that one of my biggest concerns in 10 years would be who is following me and looking at what I post, I’d literally LOL (instead of just typing it into AIM). Compared to just a few years ago, today people consider it almost inhumane for places like airports to not provide free WiFi. As some of the few remaining individuals to have relatively Internet-less childhoods, Millennials’ reliance on smartphone cameras, filters, hashtags, likes, comments, followers, etc. has become excessive- arguably impacting the way the way we see ourselves. This is further affected by the fact that an increasing number of Millennials are paid huge amounts for their “influence,” squeezing a sponsored product or service as “features” in their seemingly perfect lives on Instagram. But shows like Netflix’s Black Mirror have demonstrated that continuing on this path of technologically dependent existence will only result in the downfall of the human race.

Alright, yes- that’s a little bit of an exaggeration. But after going through a Kylie Jenner moment of “like, realizing things,” I’ve noticed that Millennials (including myself) are losing sight of who we are- keeping our heads down and instead choosing to look through an online lens that blinds us from our own reality. Social media provides a steady bombardment of influencers, lifestyle bloggers, travelers, celebrities, artists, etc.- The list goes on. It’s a visual “all you can eat buffet” of photos, videos, tweets, and likes from people who were once untouchable. Now, it offers an intimate look at everyone’s favorite things and even their exact location.

Obsessing over influencers in our lives is normal- until it distracts us from living our own reality and actually discovering who we are. We’re getting instant gratification through actual numbers that determine who likes us, wants to follow us, or shares our posts on their platforms. We’re posting everything online, cutting moments into neat square boxes to obey algorithms, trends, and standards set by each social media community. Our lives have become a glorious pixelated world that is pleasing to the eye, but ultimately makes us all look the same. Even so, the silver lining is that we’re recognizing our addiction to these online identities and dedicating more time to discovering our individual paths in life. Instead of posting every second online, my first step going forward is to just take a mental picture. Trust me, it’ll last longer. 🙂

– – – –     G.M.    – – – –

 

What do you think about Millennial identities and social media? I’d love to hear more about everyone’s experience with finding their identity while navigating the world of social media- comment below or send me a direct message via email, LinkedIn, or Instagram!

Traveling Alone Changed My Life – Studying Abroad in Sydney

College Tips, travel, Uncategorized

Traveling alone is a giant leap into an adventure- no matter where you go or even if you’re visiting the same place again. No two travel experiences are exactly alike- and each time that I travel, I learn a new lesson.  One of the biggest lessons I learned during a trip was when I traveled on my own to study abroad in Australia. Just reminiscing about it now (2 years later), those short four months went by in a flash and completely changed who I am today.

Australia had always been a country I was fascinated with- starting with my obsession over Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin (R.I.P.) and love for the movie “Kangaroo Jack.” I’d always loved the idea of a country so incredibly far away and literally “down under,” but with incredible wildlife, wonderful people, and a stunningly beautiful country. Fast-forward to 2015- I finally decided to make the huge trek over there during my last semester at UCSC. Upon getting accepted by the University of Sydney, I was overjoyed but also unprepared for the journey ahead of me. This was the opportunity of a lifetime, but even at 21 years old I had no idea how significant this experience would be in shaping my life today.

The first step was getting on that 15 hour flight from LAX to Sydney. I arrived at the gate for Qantas (the only airline I considered for that lengthy flight)- thrilled and incredibly nervous for the journey ahead of me. Despite the long flight ahead and my crippling anxiety, a little bit of booze and a whole lot of food helped me get through it. After arriving, I finally got out of the plane and attempted to find my ride to the hostel. I’d never even stayed in a hostel before, but this was one of the best I could find and I needed a cheap place to crash for a few weeks until the start of the semester.

Wake Up! Sydney was definitely one of the coolest (and craziest) places to stay. If you’re young and looking to meet other young travelers, it’s the perfect way to enjoy Sydney and party any night of the week. Since I definitely couldn’t live in a hostel while studying at the Uni, I finally had to get my head on straight and look for an apartment (I used Flatmates.com). After searching far and wide with my friends from the hostel, I finally found an amazing apartment in Glebe- just outside of all the craziness of downtown Sydney and only five minutes from my university.

The months flew by after moving in, and I was so excited once I made friends from my classes and started to finally form a social life. My flatmates were amazing and I had such a phenomenal time even when I explored the city on my own. There’s something great about just going out on your own and experiencing a city without anyone or anything holding you back.

I hopped on a bus one time (after moping for most of the week about my lack of a social life and desire to see more of the city) and I went all the way to the Opera House on my own. Everything seemed to slow down after the first month of living abroad- my friends from the hostel had all gone home, I was still adjusting to my new apartment, and I had a whole new university (and city) to navigate. I remember breaking down a few times on the phone with my dad. I felt like it was too long of a wait before going home, too long of a flight to get home, and just too much for me to handle in general. Little did I know that simply waiting a little while longer and taking some steps to branch out would make all the difference in the world.

I managed to make some new friends in my classes, opened up about my anxiety and really worked on pushing my comfort zone while traveling and living abroad. I visited new places and took several plane rides to see the best of Australia. My travels took me to Cairns, Ayers Rock, Melbourne, and of course all around beautiful Sydney. I learned to be more independent, manage my money, cook and clean for myself, budget my time wisely, and especially believe in myself more than ever before. Without this experience, I can’t say I’d be where I am today or even feel the way I do about myself today.

Whether you’re studying abroad or just traveling alone for the first time- remember that you’re never alone. People in other countries are often friendlier than you think- so long as you communicate yourself appropriately and respect their culture. Next time you’re unsure about traveling alone, just think of the freedom you’ll have to work on yourself and embrace making new memories and socializing with interesting people. Don’t be shy to speak to the person next to you, even on your flight there! I actually ended up running into the guy next to me on the plane because he was a professor at the university! Remember, people all over the world are often excited to meet foreigners and hear about their life experiences.

So- are you thinking about traveling alone or studying abroad someday? If you’ve ever traveled alone, comment below with your experience and any of your tips for people who haven’t gone yet! Until next time- thanks for reading “From My Perspective.”

Getting Through the Whole 30 Diet

Health / Dieting

Not that eating a salad every day is my ideal diet… but I’ll be honest- I feel a whole lot better about myself after eating a salad and drinking 100% fruit juice than chowing down an entire Pizza Press pie while chugging an IPA. That being said, I too struggle with the idea of going 30 days without dairy, sugar, carbs, beans/corn (?), peanuts, and any other fantastic foods this diet manages to kick to the curb. How do I do it, you ask? Well, I’d say it’s a delicate balance of determination combined with lots and lots of snacking on anything (mostly) diet-approved that I can get my hands on.

I’ve done this one time, and it was so worth it that I’m writing this to help push others through the first week (without a doubt the hardest week of the diet) and make it to the amazing phase where eating whole foods comes natural. Though things like this aren’t for everyone, I figured putting the carbs/sugar/dairy to the side for a month is probably healthier (and less dangerous) for my body than a questionable juice cleanse involving lemons and cayenne pepper.

Without further ado, let’s go through the tips/ tricks/ thoughts I gathered after nearly three weeks on the Whole 30 diet.

1. Always hungry? How about “snacks, snacks, and MORE snacks?”

This might seem unorthodox (considering you’re supposedly trying to diet, not overeat or indulge). However, the point of Whole 30 is to eat healthy, whole food that is not processed and (frankly) goes through your body much quicker than those unhealthier foods. So grab all the carrot sticks, almond butter, hard boiled eggs, fruit, and anything else you can get your hands on to squeeze in those snacks between meals! This is especially important at work, where your brain could really use that energy. As I mentioned before, your body is burning through this food quickly, and could certainly use a pick-me-up. Here is an amazing list of easy on-the-go snacks for your Whole 30 journey.

2. Mix it up a little – Try making your favorite meals with Whole 30 Ingredients!

Pinterest is your friend here! Check out my Whole 30 board and other amazing Whole 30 food ideas on their Instagram page. From simple zucchini noodle pasta to dupes for ice cream sundaes and mac and cheese, it’s amazing what these brave chefs have come up with to ensure a much more pleasant Whole 30 experience. One of my biggest challenges during Whole 30 is finding a healthy form of dessert- so my favorite Pinterest discovery is (without a doubt) the cacao powder chia pudding. I love a cool, sweet treat in the summer that’s easy to make in large quantities using just a few ingredients. Check out the chia pudding recipe here, and if you’re looking to add a little sweetness, try using dates or making a paste out of dates. You can also add some unsweetened baking chocolate chips if you really want to boost that chocolatey flavor.

3. How to eat out at restaurants – To dine or not to dine?

Mostly when I eat at a restaurant during Whole 30 I try to ensure it’s a diet “friendly” place. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to shut out all of the places you love. Most restaurants offer some sort of healthy option, and American restaurants are especially good at modifying your dish to what you want. Even so, remember that appetizers and sides are your friends here! If all else fails, you can call it a sugar or gluten intolerance to avoid lengthy conversations on your physical appearance and why they think they know what you should and shouldn’t do with your body.

4. Sugar cravings and how to curb them

I’m not going to lie- it’s TOUGH letting go of sugar during this diet. But the benefits are that you really come to terms with your intense addiction to sugar and the unnecessary amount of sugar Americans cram into their food. I highly recommend getting as much fruit as you can, and especially using dried fruit for those exhausting days when you just need a sweet treat. One of my favorite remedies for PMS chocolate cravings is that chocolate chia seed pudding I mentioned above- totally guilt free and extra delicious. Another go-to is the mixed nut butter from Trader Joe’s- absolutely delicious!

5. Drink more water, in all forms

“DRINK. MORE. WATER.” I remind myself as I quickly reach over to my water bottle to sip the elixir of life. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water during this diet! With all the salt you may be consuming to compensate for the lack of sweet treats (I think we all do this), you’ll need to really drink as much water as you can. Additionally, the best way to top off a nutritional cleanse like the Whole 30 is to also rinse out your system as much as possible to eliminate toxins and fully benefit from the diet. Now, I know you’re scratching your head as to why I said “in all forms.” That’s because water can definitely be BORING. So, I recommend these different ways to wean yourself off soda and some other delectable water flavoring recipes. All of these and more can be found with just a quick search on Whole 30 approved ways to spruce up that H2O.

6. Don’t be so hard on yourself the first week.

Slipping a little is ok, especially if you’ve never tried this before! But don’t let these mistakes pile up and ruin the whole diet. I find that the best ways to avoid slipping up during the real serious weeks of Whole 30 are to dedicate some time to preparing your mind and body for this transition. You’ll want to give yourself a week (or two) to start eating healthier. Start by steadily cutting out dairy with replacements like almond milk and vegan cheese, and really cutting back on soda and alcohol so you don’t go “cold turkey” the first week of your diet and feel miserable.

7. Stay away from the scale.

When they said not to weigh yourself at the beginning of the book- they meant it. Don’t go near that scale! This is not a time to let numbers get you down or discourage you from all the real benefits you’ll be getting even after just 2 weeks on the diet. The results will come, but patience is key! Feeling super impatient? Try taking a photo of yourself before and after the diet, and you’ll see the difference the scales won’t show. I know it’s an outdated phrase, but muscle really does way more than fat! If you’re serious about weight loss for fitness reasons, than consulting a nutritionist or fitness trainer might be better for you in addition to the Whole 30 program.

8. Avoid the hangry monster- Don’t ever run out of food.

If at all possible, one of the biggest lessons I learned was to constantly keep my fridge stocked with Whole 30 approved meals/snacks to avoid getting hungry/angry- or what we Millennials call “hangry.” This is the worst scenario during a diet, because all judgement is clouded. It’s nearly impossible to manage your appetite when you’re angry! So, make sure you hide the sweet stuff- that means candy and holiday treats too- and keep those Whole 30 snacks at arms length. As you continue the diet, you’ll realize that hunger is satisfied more quickly. You may need more snacks or meals throughout the day, but they’ll be smaller and much more satisfying.

9. Exercise helps, but don’t overdo it.

Of course, fitness and exercise are integral to sculpting your body into the shape that you want. However, food makes just as big (if not more) of a difference than even exercise. That’s why it’s so hard to diet for so many people- there are just too many ways to stray from a healthy, balanced diet. Remember: The time and energy you’re putting into this diet are going to have amazing long term results and a huge impact on how you choose to eat food in the future. Exercise might help speed the process of attaining your fitness goals, but hardcore workouts might make you tired, “hangry,” and force you to loose motivation for the diet because you just want to carb-load after that intense workout. Avoid exhausting yourself even more with intense exercise, and embrace the changes in your body by instead focusing on your mental health, getting more sleep, and investing some extra time doing the things you enjoy.

10. Countdown to the end and then… Embrace your results!

Keeping a countdown going until the end of the diet really helped me stay motivated. Just knowing I was at the halfway mark of two weeks, and then even approaching the last weeks and realizing my improved appearance, mood, and well-being made me super excited to finish the diet strong and even consider doing it again a few months later. Keep in mind: This is NOT a permanent thing. Just as before you started, you can/should wean off the Whole 30 slowly, while keeping in mind the food choices you will make from now on and how these can affect your body. Don’t think that ending the diet will somehow reverse or change the way you look and feel now! Just remember the good habits it helped you form, and keep those in mind if you’re ever at a binge drinking college party or thinking about stuffing your face with pizza at midnight when the diet is over. Take it slow, and embrace the glorious results that Whole 30 has brought you!

 

That’s all, folks! Thanks so much for reading, and please comment below with your Whole 30 experience, any questions you still have for me about the diet, or anything else that comes to mind with this article. Ciao!