Trust that everything will be okay.

There will, inevitably, be times when life will throw us curve balls before we’re ready to hit them.

There will be times where we feel so happy – or comfortably content- with our lives that we wouldn’t want to change a thing. But life wouldn’t be life if it didn’t throw you that curve ball every once in a while and suddenly everything needs to change. Perhaps the most challenging time of all will be the chasm that exists between these chapters in your life. When we have to walk away before we’re ready. When we have to leave what we want and what we love in the past.

Up till this point, I had always been ready for the next chapter. I could always acknowledge the memories made but would look forward to making more, different memories in the future. I had never been in a situation like this before, where I need to walk away from what I love before I’m ready to. Every fibre of my being understood that my visa will expire in September and there is nothing I could do about it. Every rational part of me knew that my situation wasn’t even all that bad: The company I enjoy working for wants to keep me employed and relocate me to Europe once my visa expires. And, since they don’t have an office established there, I could move anywhere in Western Europe as long as I have a working phone and internet connection. And yet, I’ve been spending the last 4 months either ignoring all that or trying to find a miraculous loophole or shortcut that would allow me to have it all. I wanted to linger.

But lately, I have been trying my best to return to my old self. The self that is adventurous and positive and happy no matter the place or the situation. In moments of transitions, you have to believe that there are so, so many better things coming than any of the things we have left in the past. You have to have faith in the future, in the unknown, in the tomorrows and somedays that will line up in ways you can’t possibly imagine from where you’re standing now. You have to have faith in yourself – faith that you will get yourself to where you want to go, even if you’re not entirely certain where that is yet. Faith in your future self to figure out if she wants to move to Berlin or London or Lisbon or Paris or Amsterdam or…

Yes, California has made me indescribably happy and I will leave a big piece of my heart in San Francisco. But before moving to this city, before making it home and becoming this incredibly happy here, all I had wanted was to stay in my protected bubble of friends and family, rainy German days and not push myself out of my comfort zone. I guess I sometimes forget that, just because the scene in the rear view mirror looks nicer than the scene on the road ahead, doesn’t mean you’ll never reach another beautiful destination.

It’s rare and it’s wonderful to ever find a place or a person or a certain situation that makes you want to linger for longer. When happiness hits us, we all want to cling to it as tightly and as mercilessly as possible. We want to capture it and hold it between our palms forever – not realizing that we have to let it go for it to mean anything at all.

I thing that, when we have to leave the things we love behind, we are allowed to mourn them. To miss them. To look back on them dejectedly and sadly. But we must never, ever forget that the best days of our lives are not all behind us. That there are more wonderful things awaiting us in the future than we could ever even fathom. That so many of our happiest days are still ahead. And that we have to keep moving to get there – no matter how tempting that view in that rear view mirror is. And in order to get there, we have to blindly and blissfully trust that it’s going to be somewhere indescribably worth going.

Pitch Perfect

So, I’m majoring in Marketing but before I can really get started on the advertising and selling, there is something called “Toolbox” all students have to go through for the first four weeks- Managerial skills, Individual skills, Teamwork skills, Quantitative- and accounting skills, tech skills. Basically, it’s four weeks of “How to become more employable in the  business world“. While exploring SF is gonna be a big part of my year, I am mainly here to study. Hence, I thought it was just fair to not only share fun Ari-the-Explari (lame pun, I know) stories but also some interesting insights into the academic side of being a grad student. Today’s topic- Selling yourself!

Selling myself has become the golden threat of pretty much all my info-and introductory sessions in the past two weeks. Both Profs and Alumni keep telling us how SF is so full of opportunities, you just have to network, attend all possible conferences, reach out to people on LinkedIn (after elaborating for half an hour how important a proper LinkedIn profile is), drop by Google, Facebook or Yahoo (“They are right around the corner guys, riiight around the corner!”) and really benefit from the entrepreneurial spirit in the city. To speak quite frankly, it scares the shenanigans out of me! I don’t know how to network!! Networking events, to me, sound like a theater play in which everybody pretends to be all smile and propriety in the hopes of getting the most attention from the audience. I feel needy asking someone to “have a chat about his/her great company that I am so interested in and happen to be an outstanding fit for” and knowing that all those opportunities are out there makes me feel like, no matter where I am, I am never at the right spot, I am always missing out on something. Potential employers could await me at any corner so could someone please get me Hermione’s time turner?! I know that people are right, I AM right next to Google and Co and you do feel this entrepreneurial business spirit everywhere you go, it’s contagious and exciting! It makes San Francisco such a neat place to start your business career….but where do you start looking for the first spark?

Well, today I sat in “Individual Skills”, led by a guy who seems to know God and the world, who has friends working at Facebook, who is bringing in guest speakers who worked closely with Steve Jobs, who just bought himself a new Maserati ladadada and, overall, he managed to hold my attention for three hours straight. His main topic of today: Elevator pitches and how important it is for me, for you, for everybody to have a 30-second speech ready for that one time you run into someone whom you really want to win over. That speech is not gonna be written within an hour and not practiced within half a day, it’s something one should really think about. Whether on a networking event, in a train, on a plane, in the supermarket between kale chips and soda or in an actual elevator, be aware that time is running. After the first “Hello” and a firm handshake you have half a minute to make the best out of your partner’s attention because for them, time is money and at this early stage you might be of interest to them but not enough so that they’d dedicate an hour listening to you rattling down your entire college memoirs.
Here are some bullet points that I gathered from today’s lecture:

  • State your name, your city/country of origin and one thing that makes you stand out from the rest
  • Refrain from vague phrases like “I’m interested in Social Media” (everybody has like 8 different social networks nowadays), “I am creative” (right, did you come up with 50 ways of building faces out of Jelly Beans or what?) or “I like Marketing” (well, that’s good for you then seeing that this is what you got a degree in). Be concrete, applied, concise.
  • Tell a story. Whether in Marketing or in Promoting, telling a story of a product, a company, an idea will stick much better. Try and make the others relate to what you are saying.
  • Speak slow and structured. Although your head might be full of excited voices screaming: “AAAH, this is the opportunity of a life time!!”, don’t let that rattle confuse your presentation. Tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them.
  • Be confident (and I hate this part because mine needs work) but not too rehearsed. If you’re too stuck in the way you present yourself, then sudden questions are going to tear you apart and get you out of concept.
  • Be enthusiastic about your topic. Whether you are talking about yourself, a product of yours, an idea or just about the Napoleonic Wars in High School, don’t let your audience fall asleep. Try and reflect good mood and optimism, everybody loves happy people.
  • Don’t be afraid to exaggerate a little but also don’t forget to give examples of your statements, the more the merrier. It’s the applicable things that stick in mind.
  • Stay in touch- after a nice chat, it’s perfectly fine to add someone on LinkedIn, maybe alongside with a short message á la “Hi, this is …., we talked earlier at the ….conference. It was great meeting you, I would love to continue our conversation on hdjfdv in the near future!”
  • Keep in mind: A product is only as good as its kick-off. Even if the first iPhone could have teleported us to the moon and back, few people would have bought it if Jobs had had sold it sitting in a corner of a small stage, slouched into a chair and mumbling into his beard. Sit straight! Stand up! This is YOU we are talking about!

    As an inspiration, watch this 2-minute video. It’s an innovative product by a SF-based start-up, which invented a handy-dandy devise that should prevent you from every looking for your keys, wallets or other precious itema ever again. I had never heard of them before but after only a little while, I had to share it on Facebook, with you guys and make a mental note to look into that. All because of a convincing 2-minutes of presenting really well. THAT’S the power of pitching ideas!

Up until recently, my elevator pitch used to be something like: “Hi, I am Ariane from Germany and I study Management together with students from over 110 different countries, which taught me so much about teamwork on an international level!” Now, this might not be perfect and by all means, keep in mind that I am not trying to sell the ultimate truth here. I am just some grad student who had all this sensation overload today and so many things that keep my brain busy. I am still not sure how good I will be in selling myself once it really matters and networking still scares me like heck. But, it’s good to keep these things in mind when working on it. It’s a progress, life’s a ride and you all hopped on board a while ago, so that was one of many many stops. Next will be a lighter topic, promise 😉

Cheers,

Ari

Countdown Series: 9 Days

It’s getting serious guys, we are in the one-digit numbers… and it’s not only starting to sink in for me but also for my friends and family. My friends are organizing all sorts of “lasts” events, my grandparents started going through old photoalbums to dwell in the past and reminiscence on your life and my parents started treating me as if I’d been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease and would die next week instead of going abroad: “Why don’t you tell us what you want for dinner for the rest of the week and we’re gonna make it for you?” “Oh no, you don’t have to carry it downstairs, your brother’s gonna do it.” “I think you should go to the movies with your brothers, its on us”. It’s awesome but doesn’t make it easy really to go away. Which would let me to my next point:

9 Days- Leaving My Comfort Zone

Everybody has them and they can be a BITCH! I mean, the only positive thing about comfort zones is that you can JUMP them. That, however, takes courage, sometimes lots of it. As my time at home is coming to an end and the challenges ahead are becoming more defined, I am sitting in bed at night thinking about all the new things I’ll have to do on my own. Bank accounts, budgeting, phone, driver’s license, masters degree, cooking. It’s not like I haven’t traveled or lived alone yet but this time, it’s gonna be different. I know for sure that this summer was the last one I’ll ever stay at home again for that long, being a child, meeting with friends like old times. After grad school, there will be work, lots of work, the days of 3-month-long holidays are over. I know I have an amazing support system and I am lucky for that but all of them are gonna be far, far away. 9000km far away to be exact. I’ll have no one there to turn to and ask for support, no host family, no original circle of friends, I’ll be on my own. Entirely. Wow. So, in 9 days it’s not only time to begin THE YEAR but also the time of uncertainties, challenges, barriers and problems. The time to get past my comfort zones and while this isn’t part of my usual countdown- excitement-list, it belongs just as much to a semester or year abroad as the cultural stuff you’re looking forward to. I don’t doubt that I will get to know friends but it’s the starting off point, the problems that will come in between the studying and traveling and surfing and socializing. And I’ll have to handle them like an adult. Problem is, I’m not good at being an adult. I’m just cleverly disguised as one. I also didn’t think that I would ever be brave enough to go on an adventure like that on my own, it’s not common where I come from and I used to envy the few friends that went on exchange years or gap months. Always wondering how it must feel to go away for a long time, throw yourself into cold water. I lived their year through the eyes of facebook pictures, always being amazed by their adventures. But now it’s me who’s going, not my friends, me. Awesome…Just that I have to overcome the fear of the things that will go wrong in the future and accepting the uncertainty of things. I love not knowing what this year will bring me and how I’ll be one year from now, but it’s difficult at the same time. Well…will be interesting to look back a year from now I guess.

Cheers and go cross something off your bucket list!

Ari

Countdown Series: 10 Days

Wooow! I can now start counting down on my two hands, craaaazy. And while time seemed to not pass by fast enough after I booked my flight, I am now starting to get a little nervous. Finally I guess, people started to think there was something wrong with me. A year ago, I couldn’t wait to go back, I was all like ONE YEAR IN THE STATES, WOHOOOOOOOOOO LET’S GOOOO. And at the end of every month I did a silent shout-out á la U-S-A! U-S-A aaaaaaand now EVERYBODY: U-S-A!!!! But since last week or so, I am catching myself every once in a while thinking: Holy Shmoly, hang on a sec…one year? As in TWELF MONTHS? Wait, that can’t be…from August till AUGUST?! Moooommmyy! It’s just- when you think back to where you were a year ago, it might seem to you like time past in the speed of light. But if you remember all the little stories that happened to you within each and every month, all the studying you did, flirts, relationships, forming life plans, you begin to realize how much can happen within one year. Your whole life can change- I know mine has- and it’s both a little frightening and exciting to think about going through this alone…but maybe those kind of things are the ones worth pursuing? But don’t get me wrong, I am an optimist and even if this year might not turn out as imagined, I could easily twist it into something with lots of life lessons. So, here’s to:

10 DaysAmericans

Now, this one might seem a little confusing and too obvious to be worth a blog post. In the past years I had thought a lot and often about Americans, the American culture and the country. After all, it is always being sold to you as the land of the free, the land that makes any of your dreams possible. Then, I went to an international university where I met all sorts of nationalities- and opinions. While talking about Americanism there altered that glorified picture a little bit, going to New York last year made me realize something important: No country is perfect, not Germany or France or South Africa or the UK and not the US either. If you went into a debate about US politics with me, I’d probably agree that it’s questionable in many aspects. But to me, what makes a country, are its people. And I have never been anywhere with such a great number of strangers that were so open-minded, friendly and helpful as the people I encountered during my travels. ‘Whaaat‘, you may think, ‘Is she talking about New Yorkers?!‘ Yes, I am. I ran into strangers on the street, men as women, giving me compliments on my clothing style, without any hidden agenda, it was just a genuine compliment. I was cheered up by a street musician in a subway car, who could see I had a bad day and who dedicated a little melody to me. Vice versa, I caught myself consoling a cashier at my supermarket who had just gotten a rant from her boss and couldn’t hold back her tears. No matter whether people in the subway, on the park bench next to me, Baristas or homeless people, all kinds of personalities started chit-chatting with me throughout the months. And I had interesting talks. Men offer women of all ages their seat in the bus or subway. And when asking people on the street for directions, they would do their utmost to help me and if that meant putting all their shopping bags down and delay their errands to wait for the map app to load, they’d do it.

The US seems close to my own culture, with both countries being classified as the “Modern Western world” and yet, there are so many differences on various levels. I know that the US is not the only country with people who are welcoming and warm- hearted and I don’t generalize by putting Americans on the top of the food chain and everyone else below that. It’s a personal affection, I guess. While this constant “Hi, how are you?” “Good, how are you?” “Good, thanks” might feel superficial and empty to some, it works just fine for me. And I am missing this…interaction, maybe? And the hope that, although you might have a bad day, there is a high chance that a complete stranger could turn it around at any minute, anywhere in the city. I love my Germans, but at this point in my life, I want to be with Americans…which doesn’t make me sound like an Anthropologist aaaat all, I apologize. Thing is, while writing this post, I realized that I was writing away my nervousness and got back my sheer happiness to go to SAN FRANCISCOOOO! 10 Days!!

Cheers and go spread some love,

Ari

Countdown Series: 11 Days

I knooooow, I know. I’m sorry people. Turns out the temporary internet problem developed into a complete meltdown… you only realize how much you depend on phone and wifi once you’re without them in the middle of nowhere (aka my hometown). And this happening in the midst of my countdown series is such a typical Ari- story. Well. Let’s just get used to the idea that the countdown might be more infrequent than I’d have wanted it to be and move on to:

11 Days: Traveling

When you go study abroad in Europe there’s something called RyanAir and it might just be the cheapest and easiest way to travel other countries. I’m not sure exactly what the American equivalent would be but I’m sure SF is a good starting point to explore the surrounding area, California and other cities in other states. Of course that will happen as cheaply as possible and I’m convinced that there will be a bunch of fun posts about cheap traveling yet to come! Although I am scared of flying (I haven’t figured out yet how I’m gonna make it to SF without suffering a heart attack), I love the buzz at airports, the people that (mostly) are excited to get places, the impatient longing for new destinations, for holidays and the opening (or closing) of another chapter in your life, it’s a great feeling. The things always by my side during those trips are my camera, mosquito spray, sunglasses and my brand-new big backpack! I have friends who already promised to visit me during the year and I already started to make a list of places I wanna travel. These include, among others:

  1. Yosemite National Park (after I have figured out how to pronounce Yosemite…)
  2. Los Angeles
  3. Disneyland (aaaaaaaaah, make my dreams come true Disneyland!!)
  4. Las Vegas
  5. New York (preferably around Christmas and New Year’s- remember that bucket list from last year? )
  6. The Grand Canyon

Those are just a few of my top things to see, I’m not sure I’ll have time and opportunities to go but I learned never to say No to a real adventure or a free seat in the car… so I guess even before getting a phone or a bank account in the States, I should make friends that own a drivers license and are just as excited about getting around as I am!

Of course I will keep you posted on how this list is developing and being adjusted but one thing is clear: San Francisco might not be the warmest of places but it sure can’t be worse than Northern Germany. I am tired of flat, rainy, cold countrysides, I want palms and ocean and mountains and the sun and since all of that is in reach within that year, I WANT THEM AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE!!! (Yeah, I know…that’s what she said). So, stay tuned, 11 Days!!

Cheers and go plan a vacation!

Ari

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Countdown Series: 21 Days

Contrary to all confusion and challenges thrown at me, I managed to sort things out and do go to study in SAN FRANCISCOOOO. As you can imagine, I am the happiest person on earth.

My flight will depart in exactly three weeks from now, so that gives me 21 more days in ye old Germany.
To raise general excitement, II decided to count down with you. The COUNTDOWN SERIES will reveal one thing each day that I am looking forward to in the States, San Francisco or the year in general. Some of the things you might now, some stuff might remind you of happy memories, others might make you curious for the US and I bet somewhere in between you’ll wish I’d turn down my USA-crazy…. may the odds be ever in your favor.

21 Days- PEPPERMINT

Everywhere! Seriously!! There is Peppermint Hot Chocolate, Cookie Scout Mint Thins, Peppermint Cupcakes, Lady Liberty Mint Ice-Cream, Choco Mint Ice-Cream, Mint Cookies-And-Cream Ice-cream, Skinny Minty Ice-Cream, Junior Mints Ice-Cream, Cool White Mint Ice-Cream (and those are only the Turkey Hill Flavors…), Grasshopper, York Mint Cookies, Mint Oreos… heck even Thin Mint TEDDY BEARS from Build-A-Bear! Rumor has it that Dunkin Donuts now offers Chocolate Mint Coolattes and Starbucks has its seasonal Peppermint Mocha?!?!?! Oh my! Bottomline: I am a HUGE fan of peppermint and chocolate. The artifical but nevertheless beautifully intense green and the rich brown melting together to any of the following dessert tips and beyond just ensures my day to become a happy one. As you can tell- I’m in love already. 21 days!

 

Cheers,

Ari

If the sky is your limit, build yourself a rocket

Today, I went to Berlin and had a great time. It’s an awesome city full of stories and today I was lucky enough to hear one:

I had split from my family to have time to myself for all the important capital errands (aka Breakfast at Dunkins’, lunch at Starbucks and dinner at Vapiano cause we don’t have any of those where I live) and, since it was an extraordinary hot day, I sat down on a park bench to rest for a while. After five minutes or so, a man sure over 70 sat down next to me and we both pretended not to notice each other (German style, chit-chat is just not the way to go here).
Suddenly though, the old man turned around, looked at me and asked: “If someone promised you that you couldn’t fail, what would you do?” That was easy enough for me to answer, I had often thought about questions like that. “Move to the States.”, I said. He nodded thoughtfully and we went back to ignoring each other….for a minute.
“Why don’t you?”, he asked further.
“Erm…well…it’s not that easy. I mean..there are visas and money and relatives here and…I mean…it’s not like I could just…go.”
“Why not?”
“Erm…because?”, I started to get a little annoyed. Who did this guy think he was?!
There was silence for a bit. Then he said: “When I was young, I wanted to do things but couldn’t. My family needed me and times were bad after the war and I was scared to jump, so I started working instead. By the time I could have done all these things, I didn’t want to anymore ’cause I had grown comfortable. Now, I’m old, it’s ok to admit that, and old people always look for young people to teach them a lesson, so here is my lesson to you: I regret not having jumped back then. How old are you?”
“21.”
“Ok. I’m promising you hereby that you can’t fail. So go!”
I laughed and he starred at me. “Why are you laughing, it’s true. You can’t fail, I promised you.”
“Yeah but…I’m sorry but I don’t know you and you know nothing about me. If you promised me I wouldn’t die if I jumped off a bridge, I wouldn’t do it either, right?”
“I’m not telling you to be stupid! I’m telling you to go after your dream.”, he snouched.
I had enough. “It’s not like I’m not trying!”, I said more angrily than I had intended but I somehow felt like I had to justify myself. “I’m working on it but it’s a pretty big dream and I don’t wanna get my hopes up.”
He looked a little happier. “Well, it’s good you’re working on it. Just always keep in mind that you can’t fail. And even if you think you have, it might just be a detour, that’s all I’m saying. I wish someone had told me that when I was 21 but now I’m telling you and that’s it.” and he got up and left.

I don’t know if I had looked particularly lost but I definitely needed that. An old man who might not be able to give me warranty on life but who did remind me of one my all-time-favorite quotes:

Always remember- Not to try is the greatest failure!

And because I found this encounter so beautiful, I thought I’d share it with you guys 🙂

Cheers,

Ari