Category Archives: Exchange Students


Study abroad taught me about the person I want to be.

What life and study abroad have taught me about leadership

By: Julie L. Parenteau, Ph.D.


The universe is a funny place. Over the last few days, multiple signs have come my way, nearly tricking me into taking notice. You see, as humans, we are blind to most of what is going on around us. We wander around without really understanding our purpose. We IMG_1314miss the signals. We lose opportunities. We are oblivious, either keeping our heads in the sand or in the clouds. It isn’t until we step back and really listen to the sounds of the universe that we experience any sense of true clarity.


One of this week’s signs was watching the episode of M*A*S*H* in which Hawkeye is asked to light the stove in the girls’ tent and nearly blinds himself when a gas explosion shoots from the stove. He is immediately rushed into the ER and his eyes are properly bandaged. The normally chatty Hawkeye goes into overdrive, talking up anyone who will listen until his buddy Honeycutt tries to calm him down. Instead of calming down, Hawkeye becomes intensely passionate while explaining the transformation that he is going through as a blind man. He talks with such conviction of the beauty of listening to a rainstorm. He has been forced to step back and listen to what the universe is telling him. It makes him a stronger, more cognizant and authentic person when the bandages come off.


Before you get your hopes up, that sense of clarity does not instantly appear in front of you by simply taking off a bandage. To truly understand who you are and what your place is in this world takes time, patience, and painful confusion as you dig deep into yourself.

Clarity does not come easily.

Clarity does not come easily.


Your insides start to churn, slowly at first. As the images, sounds, feelings around you become clearer, the motor shifts into high gear. Digging deep enough to produce that clarity is a very emotional process. Not everyone can handle it. However, to be a great leader, you must be able to endure the pain and confusion and come out better on the other side of it. It is hypocritical, if not impossible, to lead others down a similar path if you have not been through it yourself.


I will not claim to be an expert on this subject, but I will say that I am consciously walking my own path toward clarity of purpose and message. I know that I am a leader. That has been clear to me for a long time. But what kind of leader am I meant to be? Who am I meant to lead? How am I meant to lead?


The answers to these questions became slightly less murky last night while participating in a visualization exercise in a women’s empowerment group that I belong to. We were asked to think of a moment when we have felt powerful. After sifting through my memories, one image became very clear. It was me during my study abroad trip 15 years ago. That was my moment of empowerment. As the activity continued, I focused on travel images, finally settling on the Eiffel Tower. I have always been enamored by it, but now I know why. To me, the Eiffel Tower represents independence, strength, and innovation. Each of those words was practically screaming from within me as the tower image became sharper and sharper in my mind.

Study abroad taught me about the person I want to be.

Study abroad taught me about the person I want to be.


As a result of that exercise, I have realized that I want to be an Eiffel Tower leader. The Eiffel Tower is a classic symbol of the city and spirit of France. The fact that the tower starts from a wide base and moves to one single point demonstrates the struggle toward independence and the few that make it to that point. The materials used to build it and the time that it has stood attest to its strength, even in trying times. The sense of creativity and curiosity, as well as the incredible resourcefulness needed to construct such a structure represent the innovation needed to design and build it.


That is the kind of leader that I want to be. I want to be someone who instills independence, strength and innovation in herself and others. I want to be an Eiffel Tower leader. Had I not stepped on that plane 15 years ago, I may never have been witness to the magnificence of this towering monument. Little did I know at that time that my study abroad experience would eventually lead me to define what kind of leader I want to be. Now enough writing. I have work to do!




Dr. Julie Parenteau is President of Global Perceptions, a communication and relocation consulting business located in San Juan, Puerto Rico. For more information on her and Global Perceptions, please visit You can also follow Global Perceptions on Facebook and Twitter.

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Independent decisions

Adventures in Study Abroad: Lesson 2



Southern Wisconsin Farm

Ever since I was young, people have recognized my independent nature. I have always wanted to do things by myself without the help of others. In fact, I chose to walk to the bus stop with an older neighbor girl on my first day of school, leaving my heartbroken mother to watch from the window. This is simply part of who I am. It wasn’t until I had the chance to study abroad however, that I truly felt independent. I went to college in the same town where my family lived to make going to school affordable, so this was the first time I lived away from home. I was solely responsible for my studies, health, money, and more. What I ate, how often I did laundry, when I went to bed—they were all up to me, as were the consequences of my decisions.

While traveling through Europe, I was confronted by all kinds of situations that I had never experienced before. For example, I went to youth hostels across the continent and was repeatedly assigned to a room in which I was the only female. I recall being so uncomfortable the first time that I called my boyfriend back home to talk it over. It was just so unexpected for someone from my cultural background.

In Rome, I arrived at the train station without a lodging reservation. Previously I had not had problems going up to any of the hostels and getting a room, but that day was different. I wandered around the blocks surrounding the station, but found no vacancies. Then I noticed a small hotel and thought to myself, “This is what they make credit cards for. Stay here for one night and then find a more inexpensive option tomorrow.” The concierge standing guard must

Roman Convent

Roman Convent

have read my mind because he pointed down the street and told me to knock. I didn’t fully understand him, but hesitantly knocked on the door anyway. I was granted two nights lodging in a room of female Japanese tourists in a convent! That’s right, I stayed in a convent in Rome! How many people can say that?

After touring Munich one day, I opted for a cheap dinner at a recognizable fast food restaurant. As I sat with my sandwich and fries, a twenty-something man looked over at me and began to speak. My inability to speak German spread over my confused face. The man quickly switched to English, striking up a conversation which showed that we had something in common. We both knew Wisconsin! His girlfriend was studying in Madison and I had grown up not far from there. We talked for a bit and then he offered me a ride back to my hostel. It

German Fast Food Restaurant

was cold and dark and I was not sure of the way so I took him up on his offer. He even permitted me to call my boyfriend from the car phone in his Mercedes! A solitary dinner turned into a pleasant experience.

As I now look back on those seemingly minute moments, I see them for what they were—very naïve decisions made on the part of a young woman without the cultural cache that I know possess. I recognize the uninformed theories that I used to make those decisions and am eternally grateful that there were no serious consequences as a result. On the flipside of the coin, had I not had experiences like those, I may not have become the resourceful, culturally-informed woman that I am today. Those circumstances taught me to look for the good in people, to always have a Plan B, to assess the situation and choose the best course of action for me, and above all, I learned to rely on myself, trust my instincts, and become independent. It is these experiences that have shaped who I am today.


Please tell me how your study abroad experience has impacted your life by leaving a comment! I would love to hear from you!

I have applied my study abroad knowledge to start Global Perceptions, a communication and relocation consulting business based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. For more information on our services, visit or call 787.455.7764.

Journey Abroad

Adventures in Study Abroad by Julie L. Parenteau, Ph.D.


Fifteen years ago, I embarked on a journey that would forever change my life. I left home to study abroad as part of an exchange program coordinated between my home university and one in Rouen, France. As I look back on that period, I see how that experience shaped my career decisions, personality, and values. This month I will reflect on some of those experiences. I will start with my departure from Wisconsin.

With enough luggage to provide for an entire family, I left for O’Hare airport in Chicago on that brilliant August day. I don’t recall being nervous, but as a 20-year old college kid from a small farm town in Wisconsin who had never lived away from home, I must have been.

Into the Brave New World

Into the Brave New World

All I remember is that I was incredibly excited to go back to France and to visit with my best friend. I achieved a life-long dream of visiting France two years earlier with my high school French class, but this was different. This time I would be on my own, forced to fend for myself without the security of a bilingual teacher to translate if needed. I was fully independent.

After a roughly eight-hour flight, I arrived in Amsterdam, my first stop.  Outside the baggage claim I was greeted by my dear friend who had been an exchange student at my high school during our senior year. Occasional phone calls and Christmas cards kept us in touch, but seeing her waiting for me warmed my heart. It also made managing all my luggage much easier! Thank goodness her father had invested in an American-made car or we may not have fit the passengers and luggage in the car. (Yes, I have since learned to pack MUCH differently!)

Along the drive, I looked around at everything through a jet-lag induced haze. From what I could see, The Netherlands looked a lot like Wisconsin. Lots of farm land and vibrant green vegetation as far as the eye could see.

After we arrived, her family sat down with me to inquire about my trip over coffee and snacks. It didn’t take long for them to see how tired I was and offered to let me sleep for a bit. I accepted.

Clogging around The Netherlands

Clogging around The Netherlands

The next day our adventure began. Before we even left the house, I managed to short circuit their entire home when I used the wrong adapter for my hair dryer. I was mortified!

The rest of the week was filled with trips to fishing villages in the north, museums in the south, a late night bike ride to a pub with her friends, and wandering the streets of Amsterdam. It was just the kind of welcome I needed to ease into the idea of spending four months away from home. It also allowed me to overcome the jetlag before heading into the classroom.

At the end of the week, all of my luggage and I got on a train in Utrecht headed to Paris. As the train pulled into the train station, the nervousness began to creep into my mind. Here I was with an impossibly large suitcase, a duffel bag, a shoulder bag, and a backpack and no idea where I had to go to get my train to Rouen. A young woman stopped to help me, explaining that I had to take a bus to Gare St. Lazarre.

I don’t think I will ever forget the looks on the driver’s or other passengers’ faces as I maneuvered my bags onto the bus. I was every bit the American tourist. My jeans, t-shirt, tennis shoes and incredible amount of luggage screamed AMERICAN! I was mortified once again!

Thankfully, the other passengers helped me navigate the stops to get off at Gare St. Lazarre and I boarded the train for Rouen. It had already been quite a day and I was tired. A woman noticed and started to speak with me. I explained that I would be studying there, which

My Study Abroad Home

My Study Abroad Home

excited her so much that she offered to give me a ride to my university once we got off. Once again all of my bags were loaded up into a European compact, leaving barely enough room for me to sit.

Pulling up to the university gave me a sense of relief. At last, I had made it. This is where I would live for the next four months. This is where I would learn to count on my own ingenuity and become resourceful. This is where I would gain independence and strength of character. This is where I would get lost and find myself. This is where my world would open up and where I would come to numerous realizations about who I was and where I wanted to go in life. Of course I was blissfully unaware of the overall impact of this trip until much later, but as I reflect on the course my life has taken over the past 15 years, I am fully cognizant as to why I am where I am and how I got here. That is a humbling feeling.


Please tell me how your study abroad experience has impacted your life by leaving a comment! I would love to hear from you!

For more information on how I have applied my study abroad experience in my own life, visit


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Back-to-school Spanish Tutoring from Global Perceptions



Help your child feel comfortable and confident with private Spanish tutoring from Global Perceptions!



It’s back to school time across Puerto Rico! It’s an exciting time for you and your child! If your child, however, has never attended a school in Puerto Rico, going back to school can be daunting. Your child may ask, “Will anyone be my friend? Where will I sit in the lunch room? What if I get lost? What if my teacher is mean?” These are normal responses. After a couple of weeks in the new school, your child will know how to navigate the system, where to sit, and will begin developing friendships with other students.

Once your child begins to adjust, you may still be wondering “How will my child communicate with classmates if s/he doesn’t speak Spanish?” This is an important issue and unfortunately requires much more adjustment time than your child’s other concerns. You may opt to avoid that issue altogether by registering your child in English-language schools. There students are welcomed by English speaking teachers, staff, and classmates. But even in those schools what happens between classes, at lunchtime or at recess? Many of native students in those schools grew up speaking Spanish at home and therefore, are accustomed to playing in Spanish. They speak English quite well in class, but when outside of class, they revert to Spanish or a combination of Spanish and English. In this crucially important social setting, how will my child fare? How will my child develop the friendships that s/he needs to adjust to this new school and culture?

The answer is simple! Enroll your student in private Spanish tutoring sessions with one of the bilingual education professionals at Global Perceptions. Our innovative curriculum can be custom-designed to fit the specific needs of your student no matter if s/he is 5 or 15. We offer age-appropriate study sessions, games, and crafts that help your student master basic Spanish skills needed to survive and thrive in everyday kid-friendly situations. Your child will have fun while learning about the language and culture of Puerto Rico!


Contact your Puerto Rico Relocation Specialist NOW to find out about back-to-school offers including FREE CONSULTATIONS until September 15, 2012. Visit or call 787.455.7764 TODAY!

Cross-cultural trainers in Puerto Rico

Is your company searching for cultural training programs in Puerto Rico? Look no further! Global Perceptions provides multinational corporations, universities, hospitals, military personnel, and non-profit volunteers with the information and skills to adapt effectively in the Isla del Encanto.

Relocating to Puerto Rico is not an easy task, even for those coming from the United States. People from all across the world experience adaptation highs and lows no matter where they move to, which can impact their professional and personal lives in both positive and negative ways. This is one reason why having competent, experienced intercultural trainers at the ready is so crucial.

At Global Perceptions we welcome all those making the move to Puerto Rico by providing them with intercultural training programs specific to their needs. Custom-designed programs developed with each client in mind include information to facilitate daily living, negotiate business deals, and generally acclimate to the host culture. Because we recognize the need for the whole family to be comfortable, pre and/or post-departure orientation programs, as well as on-going coaching services, are available for both adults and school age children. This approach stresses the challenges that each member of the family faces and helps them work through any difficulties with experienced professionals.

Global Perceptions staff have adjusted to life in a variety of cultures resulting in compassionate, understanding trainers who can address client needs in either English or Spanish. Staff have also received coaching from Dr. Julie Parenteau, the relocation specialist in Puerto Rico, making them uniquely qualified to serve as intercultural trainers. Perhaps most importantly, they have successfully adapted to living and working in Puerto Rico and are excited to share their experiences with newcomers.

At Global Perceptions we understand the relocation process and the toll it can take on people. That is why we make sure that we address the concerns of all family members, while helping them feel more comfortable in their new home. As a result, program participants develop the confidence needed to navigate their own adaptation process in Puerto Rico. Your company will most definitely benefit from working with our experienced intercultural trainers for your employee’s relocation needs.

To find out more about our intercultural training programs or to request a proposal, please contact our office at 787.455.7764 or visit






Should I move to Puerto Rico?

GlobalPerceptionsLogo (2)


Are you considering relocating to Puerto Rico? Not sure if it’s the place for you? Global Perceptions, your relocation specialist in Puerto Rico, has some ideas for you. Whether you want to retire,study, start over, or are on assignment from a major corporation, Puerto Rico has something to offer everyone. Here are a few reasons to answer the question of “Should I move to Puerto Rico” with a resounding, “YES!

The weather

Located in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico’s climate is warm year-round. Temperatures usually range from 80 to 95 degrees depending on the time of year and municipality. The humidity serves as a warm blanket the second you exit the airport, enveloping you in the culture and customs of this magnificent island. If you are tired of shoveling snow or have an illness aggravated by the cold, Puerto Rico is a good option for you.

The scenery                                                         

Puerto Rico offers a tremendous variety of beautiful sights. Whether beaches or mountains, rain forests or deserts, golf courses or coffee plantations are your choice, the Isla del Encanto has it all. Amazing beaches line the coasts, attracting surfers, sailors, and tourists to their crystal blue waters. World-class resorts and golf courses cater to celebrities and locals alike. Come and see the sights for yourself!

The food

All across the island you can find incredible local delicacies, as well as restaurants that serve dishes representing the palates of the world. Although rice and beans are staples, they can be prepared in many ways and accompany everything from churrasco to pork and chicken to seafood. Side dishes made of plantain or yuca like mofongo, tostones, or arañitas are also popular. Thick soups and scrumptious desserts are sure to please everyone so go ahead and try them!

The activities

It’s hard to be bored in Puerto Rico with the host of activities available across the island. Outdoor activities include: hiking, horseback riding, scuba diving, surfing, fishing, golfing, hanging out on the beach, attending outdoor concerts, strolling through Old San Juan, visiting places like Piñones or Guavate, flying kites near El Morro, and much more. If you prefer being indoors, visit one of the many museums, go to a play or concert, wander through one of the shopping centers, catch a movie, gather friends for a game of dominos, watch a boxing match, go salsa dancing, or try cooking local foods. There’s always something to do no matter your age!

The people

Puerto Ricans are a truly unique group of people full of contradictions and intense passion for their families and their country. They are generally humble people who welcome the opportunity to share their culture with foreigners. If you are open to listening and learning from them, you will be welcomed by them and thought of as part of their family. Work on speaking Spanish like them, and you will be welcomed even more!

The culture

Influenced by Spanish, North American, African, and native Taíno customs, Puerto Rico has developed a unique culture. Today the culture is a mixture of all of these people and their customs. Politics is sport, boxers and Miss Universe competitors are celebrated like gods, and the flag reigns over all. Puerto Ricans are incredibly proud of their culture and work hard to keep it alive all over the world. They await the chance to share that pride with you!

From the small coastal towns to the metropolis of San Juan, you can smell lechon cooking on the spit, see the beautiful flamboyanes in bloom, hear the waves of the ocean crashing, taste the rich flavors of sofrito, and receive kisses from everyone you meet. Puerto Rico truly provides something to please all your senses whether you are 5, 25, or 65. If you are considering moving to Puerto Rico, we hope you that this article helps you see how much the Isla del Encanto offers.


For more information on relocating to Puerto Rico, please visit your Puerto Rico Relocation Specialist at or Facebook at


¿Quieres abrir puertas en el 2012? ¡Aprende ingles!

Hablar ingles te abre muchas puertas. Hablarlo te da mejores oportunidades en el mundo de negocios, tecnología, estudios, y más. Sin poder hablar ingles, te limitarás a lograr tus metas personales y profesionales.

Hablar ingles te abre la puerta del conocimiento. Cualquier información que buscas está disponible en ingles. Estudios hallan que 80% de la información disponible por Internet está escrita en ingles. No importa si te interesan los deportes, psicología, finanzas, o música, tienes toda la información en tus manos si hablas ingles. También puedes saber qué pasa en otros países por poder leer periódicos y revistas en línea.

Hablar ingles te abre la puerta de hacer negocios en otros países. Por eso es importantísimo que los profesionales dominen ingles. Cuando estés buscando empleo te ayudará que sepas ingles, porque un 80% de los empleos profesionales ese es el primer requisito. Los salarios de las personas que hablan ingles ganan alrededor de 30% más que los que no hablan ingles. ¡Obviamente vale la pena aprender ingles!

Hablar ingles te abre la puerta de la tecnología. Cuando compras un equipo electrónico como computadoras, cameras o teléfonos celulares, encuentras que el manual está escrito en ingles. Muchas veces hay una sección escrita en español pero no es tan fácil entenderla porque está traducida literalmente del ingles. Si hablas ingles puedes entender las instrucciones sin problema. También puedes entender programas, canciones, y películas hechos en ingles.

Hablar ingles te abre la puerta de la comunicación. Si quieres comunicar con personas de otras partes del mundo, el ingles te ayuda. Ya que 700 millones de personas hablan ingles como su segundo o tercer idioma, si añades las 500 millones de personas que lo hablan como lengua nativa, puedes llegar a más de un billón de hablantes de ingles. ¡Piensas en lo que puedes aprender de parte de ellos y qué tú puedes compartir con ellos si ambas partes hablan ingles!

Hablar ingles te abre la puerta del viajar. Con el avance de la tecnología, puedes viajar a cualquier parte del mundo en muy poco tiempo. El ingles te ayuda en este esfuerzo porque no importa donde estás, hay alguien quien te puede ayudar si hablas ingles. En un banco, en los restaurantes, o en cualquier aeropuerto del mundo, es más probable que puedes comunicar en ingles con la gente que en su idioma nativo. Puedes viajar sin miedo si hablas ingles.

¡Aprovecha el año 2012 para abrir las puertas! ¡Aprende ingles en 2012! Llama hoy al 787.455.7764 o envía un correo electrónico al Consultas GRATIS hasta el 10 de febrero.



¡Aprende a hablar inglés en Puerto Rico con la Dra. J!

 La Dra. J es una mujer norteamericana del MidWest.  En 1995 comenzó a ofrecer clases de inglés en todos los niveles estudiantiles.  A través de los años, ha ayudado a personas de diferentes partes del mundo a mejorar sus destrezas de inglés de varias formas y maneras.

En el año 2006 se mudó a Puerto Rico, y desde entonces ha continuado dando clases en la Universidad de Puerto Rico y a domicilio, trabajando con ejecutivos, estudiantes, y cualquier otra persona dispuesta a aprender el idioma inglés.  La Dra. J disfruta ver cómo estas personas mejoran su nivel de vida a través de sus destrezas con el inglés.  Estas clases han ayudado a estos estudiantes a pasar satisfactoriamente el examen TOEFL, graduarse de la universidad, mudarse a los EEUU y a alcanzar otras metas personales, como por ejemplo trabajos a nivel federal.

¿Cómo es que sus estudiantes han alcanzado tantas metas?  Primero, la Dra. J evalúa cada persona para saber a qué nivel se encuentra y cuáles son sus intereses y metas.  Luego, ella diseña un currículo, por temas de interés del cliente, para lograr estas metas.  Estas clases privadas proveen a cada persona la oportunidad de desarrollar sus destrezas y practicar con una experta en la materia.  La Dra. J puede ayudar tanto en destrezas de inglés conversacional, escrito o comprensivo, todo esto sin importar el nivel de conocimiento de la persona.  Ella lleva a la persona paso a paso, a su ritmo, reforzando los temas de interés señalados anteriormente.

Además, la Dra. J sabe lo difícil que es aprender otro idioma.  Cuando llegó a Puerto Rico tuvo muchos problemas para hablar español con los puertorriqueños, y aún más para comprenderlos, pero a través del tiempo se ha adaptado al idioma español.  Por eso ella entiende muy bien qué quiere decir cuando comete un error al hablarlo, y puede explicar la razón por decirlo así.

¡No dejes pasar otro año sin aprender inglés! Toma la decisión de salir de la vida cotidiana y atreverte a enfrentarte a una vida con más oportunidades. ¡Aprende inglés hoy! Sé parte de los billones de personas del mundo que hablan inglés como primer, segundo o tercer idioma.  ¡Matricúlate en las clases con la Dra. J, y toma el primer paso hacia un 2012 lleno de nuevas oportunidades!

¡Aprende ingles en 2012! Llama hoy al 787.455.7764 o envía un correo electrónico al Consultas GRATIS hasta el 10 de febrero.


Ten Tips for Relocating to Puerto Rico

Legally Puerto Ricans are Americans, but culturally the country and people are quite different from the mainland. People who come to Puerto Rico thinking that their experience will mirror living at home just because they see Walgreen’s on every corner and can shop at JCPenney, Kmart or Home Depot soon discover that they are mistaken. Puerto Rico is a different country and those relocating to Puerto Rico should recognize that. Spanish is the dominant language, rice and beans are the main dishes, and radio stations play everything from salsa to reggaeton to ballads. The differences don’t end there. Want to be better prepared for your cultural transition to Puerto Rican life? Start with these 10 tips!

  1. Be open-minded and flexible.
  2. Do your research. Read about the history and political situation on the island.
  3. Read between the lines. Learn to recognize when yes means yes and when it really means no.
  4. Learn to be patient because you will wait in line.
  5. Don’t expect to accomplish as much in a day as you would in the States. It will only frustrate you.
  6. Don’t bring valuable furniture, artwork, or photos. The humidity can ruin them.
  7. Learn to expect the unexpected while driving.
  8. Explore beyond the shore.Puerto Rico offers much more than beaches.
  9. Don’t procrastinate. Pay bills, buy groceries, and take care of household items ahead of time.
  10. Start taking Spanish classes shortly after arrival. Even if you speak some Spanish, you will likely struggle simply because the Spanish spoken in Puerto Rico is challenging even for native Spanish-speakers.

These tips will prepare you for the everyday situations that you will encounter while relocating to Puerto Rico; however, keep in mind that each person has his or her own experience upon arrival. Tips like these can make your relocation experience smoother, but they do not take the place of actually relocating to Puerto Rico. Talk with locals and non-Puerto Ricans about their experiences living in Puerto Rico. Find out what suggestions they have. Listen and learn from them. There will likely be moments of frustration, but if you keep focusing on the positive and take good care of yourself, you will enjoy all that Puerto Rico has to offer.

To register for your FREE copy of the upcoming DVD “Getting Your Feet Wet: Top Ten Tips for Adjusting to Puerto Rico,” go right now to Global Perceptions on Facebook. 

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