Eating Giant Pretzels at the Erlangen Bergkirchweih

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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.

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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?”

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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.

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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.

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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!

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.”

Marketing Yourself Through Social Media

Professional, Uncategorized

In today’s bustling world of technology and online socializing, it’s critical for anyone entering the professional world to make a positive impression in all areas- including on social media. Though it can be difficult to find a balance between putting your personal versus professional side online, there are some social media pages where flexibility is valued. Depending on the profession, a slight emphasis on your “fun” side could be just what employers are looking for. The important part is knowing where to draw the line between social media outlets meant for privacy and those that can be manipulated to fit your career aspirations.

Let’s break down the different forms of social media, starting with the most personal and private. When it comes to privacy, Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter are most often used for social interactions with close friends. They offer private messaging, calling, video/photo sharing, and repeatedly feature political, religious, and/or societal discussions. Granted, some people use Facebook to create special pages for their businesses or talents. These pages are the exception to the rule- but unless you’re an actor or business owner, there’s no need to create your own Facebook page.

For platforms like Snapchat and Facebook, enforcing strict privacy settings is probably the smartest option- especially if you like to post opinionated content or you’re just venting about your day. Again, these are more personal forms of social media and it’s probably best if a potential employer doesn’t catch which bar you went to last night on your Snapchat/ Instagram story or what your religious/ political/ relationship status is on Facebook and Twitter.

Bottom Line: Don’t add your employers on these social media outlets unless they’re either really close friends or they already know these things about you.

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As mentioned earlier, privacy settings are a great way to separate your personal life online from the professional side you want employers to see. Because privacy is immediately an option for most social media outlets, try to figure out which ones you’d like to use for work and which ones are strictly for play. Instagram is a very flexible outlet that creates a balance between the two- without spilling all of your personal beliefs. As an image-heavy site, it’s a great way to portray your personal interests while simultaneously showcasing your personal branding skills with hashtags, creative captions, and tagging of relevant brands.

Don’t let the numbers get in the way- having the most followers or likes isn’t always a deciding factor for getting the job. Instead, focus on using Instagram to show employers your “fun” side and the numbers will come later. How do you spend your vacation time? What kind of creative outlets are you interested in? What are your hobbies and (healthy) recreational interests? Use specific hashtags and add your location in travel photos so others can see where you’ve been and follow your adventures. If you keep posting things that you enjoy, you’ll discover how many other people share your interests… and maybe even have something to reference when your employer brings up their favorite travel destinations or obsession with hiking.

Of course, avoid posting excessively racy photos, drinking, drugs, or any kind of inappropriate behavior in these images (unless that’s the kind of job you’re looking for). Save your Las Vegas selfies, cat photo collection, or college drinking conquests for another Instagram page. From beautiful photography and art to simple photos laughing with friends at a bonfire, emphasize the positive activities in your life so employers can see just how vibrant your personality is.

Bottom Line: Like it or not, today’s employers are consistently checking the background of applicants to see what they’re signing up for. Make sure you’re the one in control of how you look online- turn on the privacy settings for pages you don’t want them to see!

For an example of a personal/ professional Instagram aesthetic using fun travel photos (my favorite way to spend time off), check out my Instagram in the screenshot below, or click this link to go straight to my page. There, you’ll see how I like to use hashtags and posting techniques I’ve learned from managing social media pages for different businesses in the marketing industry.

insta jpg

While trying to keep up with your appearance to employers, don’t forget to put just as much effort into doing your homework on the company itself. A great way to do this is to start by Googling them, scroll through their social media pages, or find them on LinkedIn. Just as it’s important for you to look professional online, most companies work hard to maintain their own social media pages and provide up-to-date information for potential employees.

LinkedIn is an excellent professional social media outlet that can be used for networking, finding jobs, endorsing skills, and presenting your resume/ past experience. If you haven’t yet created one, it’s a great idea to make a LinkedIn page before applying for a job. With this outlet, you can research the company itself and start connecting with employees even before you land that interview. For a simple example of a LinkedIn profile, check out this link of my profile. I included a professional headshot, my resume, descriptions of past jobs, and a few of my skills endorsed by coworkers and friends.

Another excellent resource for presenting yourself professionally online is to create a website or blog. Blogging is an excellent way to attract employers by demonstrating your talent for writing- a highly coveted skill in any industry. As you may have noticed, the personal/ professional blog you’re currently reading was created using WordPress. Here are some other excellent free blogging services, like Bluehost, Weebly, and Squarespace. By creating a personal website or blog, you take control of exactly how you want to portray yourself to employers using a personalized platform.

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Finally, one of the best tips I found for marketing yourself online is to create a “social media loop.” Upon drawing viewers to your profile on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, a smart marketing move is to always include links to your other social media profiles. For example: when people see my Instagram page, the only link in my personal description box at the top of my profile leads directly to my blog posts here on WordPress. Then, once visitors are brought to my website, I include links to several of my other social media pages. The “loop” continues from there, with visitors bouncing between social media platforms and spending as much time as possible on my different pages.

By implementing a “social media loop” across all of your social media pages, you’ll hold viewers’ attention even longer and direct their gaze toward what you want them to see (your resume, website, photography, or just fun facts about who you are). Whether these visitors are friends or potential coworkers and employers, it’s important to create this loop to showcase your personal branding talent. Though this “loop” will especially count towards getting marketing and advertising jobs, it’s common practice for most companies to value an extensive social media presence in today’s advanced and competitive job industry.

Below is a screenshot from a free presentation by World Nate, “How To Build A Social Media Following.” In this slide, Nate’s girlfriend (and travel buddy) Hannah Martin outlines the importance of having a “social loop.” Her social loop connects various social media outlets to gain followers and promotion from her target audience: introverted travelers. Beginning with her Instagram page, a link takes visitors to her blog, where she features multiple other social media platforms. While this marketing “loop” is unique to their business (travel), it’s a great way to show employers your interests and keep them trapped on your various platforms so you are the candidate that remains at the front of their mind once they start scheduling interviews.

social loop.jpg

So, let’s go over the main points again:

  • Keep your personal life private on social media- avoid adding coworkers or future employers as friends (unless it’s a work-friendly platform like LinkedIn)
  • It’s ok to have a mix of personal and professional on your page– just be sure to keep it tasteful so that employers will take you seriously
  • Just as employers will likely investigate your social media platforms, you too should research their company and how they market themselves online. This can come in handy during interviews- what better candidate than someone who already did their homework!
  • Creating a website proves you can handle basic web-page formatting and highlights assets that might not be on your social media platforms (writing skills, photography, videography, etc.)
  • Capture your audience’s attention for even longer by creating a “social media loop.” Do this by simply linking different social media pages or websites on every platform and making it easy for your audience to scroll through each one.

 

That’s it! Thank you so much for reading this blog, and stay tuned for more helpful tips every week from yours truly. If you have any more questions regarding personal branding, how to use different social media platforms, or professional inquiries please contact me via email or messenger on one of my social media pages. Oh, and don’t forget to follow me to keep up with future blog posts!