Category Archives: Travel


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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Puerto Rico Events 2013: Mark your calendars!

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe that 2013 is already here! As we bring in the new year, I’d like to call your attention to some of the upcoming events taking place in Puerto Rico this year. Make plans to attend one or all! These events are sure to please!


Festival de  la Calle de San Sebastian

This street festival takes place in Old San Juan and marks the official end of the Christmas holiday season. During the day attendees visit the booths of artisans selling their crafts while vejigantes wander the streets in their brightly colored costumes and masks. At night the area comes alive with bands of all kinds. Dancing

and partying until the morning hours can be expected. This is a very popular festival, which means that getting into the area can be difficult. Taking public transportation from one of the designated park and ride areas is advised.


Every year the city of Ponce shines with the celebration of Carnaval. This week-long celebration begins February 6th and lasts until the 12th, welcoming the season of Lent. Although other towns also have celebrations, Ponce’s festival is said to be the most authentic display of Puerto Rican culture. Vejigantes walk through the town on stilts to the tunes of bomba and plena music. Their costumes include papier mache horned-masks and cow bladders that they use as noisemakers. Kids and adults will enjoy the enthusiasm of this cultural experience!


World Baseball Classic

It’s back for the first time in five years! The World Baseball Classic Tournament will kick off with a series of games here in San Juan. Games are slated for March 7th-10th at the Hiram Bithorn Stadium near Plaza Las Americas. Competitors include: the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Spain, and hometown favorite, Puerto Rico. Many major leaguers come out to play for their respective home countries so this is a great chance to see top players in a local venue. Tickets can be purchased at Ticketpop centers or on their website.

International Salsa Congress

If your new year’s resolutions include getting in shape, this would be a great time to start taking salsa lessons. By the time the International Salsa Congress comes at the end of July, you’ll be a professional! This event brings together salsa dancers of all ages from around the world to participate in competitions and generally enjoy dancing salsa. The San Juan Hotel and Casino will play host again this year from July 23rd-27th. Even if you would prefer watching to dancing, come on out! You’ll meet people from around the world and witness amazing acts while hearing some of the top salsa bands.

Many more events also take place throughout the island during the year. These include the Puerto Rico Open Golf Tournament, the Heineken Jazz Fest, and the many local patron saints festivals. Check back to see dates for these and other events as details are confirmed.


This information is brought to you by Global Perceptions, your relocation specialist in Puerto Rico. Read more of our articles at For more information about our services, visit or call 787.455.7764.

Should I move to Puerto Rico?

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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


Supermarket alternatives in Puerto Rico

One comment that Global Perceptions staff often hear from clients who have relocated to Puerto Rico is that they prefer the grocery stores back home. Usually this is due to what they perceive to be a lack of selection. Those accustomed to shopping at World Market or Trader Joe’s will not find that type of store here. Remember, this is an island in the middle of the Caribbean where the intense humidity makes food spoil much more quickly than in cooler climates, preventing people from buying in bulk. If you don’t want to give up high quality, fresh, or even organic foods, there are a number of alternatives. Read on for details on meat markets, organic food stores, and farmer’s markets across Puerto Rico.

Meat Markets

To purchase high quality cuts of meat, visit La Hacienda Meat Center. Their selection includes chicken, ground beef, churrasco, pork, steak, fish, lamb, and more. They also carry fresh fruits and vegetables and offer a nice selection of foreign foods including Mediterranean and Middle Eastern products like hummus and tabouli. Juices and wines from across the world are also available.

La Hacienda Meat Center has 3 locations: one on Ave. De Diego near Logan’s Pub in Cupey, another in the Garden Hills Shopping Center on Carretera 19 in Guaynabo, and a third store in Dorado on Carretera 693 between the Walgreen’s and CVS Pharmacy.

You can also find quality cuts of meat and fresh produce in bulk at Cost-co and Sam’s Club stores throughout the island.

Organic Stores

FreshmarT was founded in 1995, establishing itself early in the race to provide natural foods in Puerto Rico. With 5 stores across the island (Aguadilla,Caguas,Carolina, Hato Rey, and Manatí), it’s easy to find healthy substitutes that may not be available in major grocery stores. Whether you’re looking for gluten-free, dairy-free, or sugar-free, they have it. FreshmarT stores also offer a variety of baby food products, bath and body products, vitamins, supplements, snacks, beverages, and even pet products.

Many smaller stores also exist across the island some of which include restaurants where they serve vegetarian and/or vegan meals. For a list of these stores and their locations, click

Farmer’s Markets

Río Piedras is well-known for its market in the center of town. All types of local products including: yuca, plantains, pineapples, mangoes, yautía, ñame, avocados, fresh fish, chicken, and much more line the booths of the kiosks. The incredible variety of products can be overwhelming, but the overall experience can be more than overwhelming for those who are not accustomed to such a sight or don’t speak much Spanish. For those who are adventurous, it’s definitely a great place to learn more about the Puerto Rican culture and its foods.

In La Placita in Santurce there is also a market much like that in Río Piedras, but smaller. For those in the Condado, Isla Verde, or Santurce areas, that one is closer.

Those who prefer to stay in tourist areas where more English may be spoken, should consider the different Farmer’s Markets that take place during the month. On Saturday mornings in Old San Juan, make your way to the Mercado Agrícola Natural at 150 Calle Norzgaray in the Museo de San Juan. There you can find organic foods, plants, homemade cards, and other local specialties.

The first and third Sundays of the month showcase organically-grown foods at the Placita Roosevelt in Hato Rey. Additionally, Plaza las Américas has nearly 100 vendors selling foods, cheeses, honey, soaps, salsas, plants, breads, and candies the last Thursday-Sunday of each month. Go to the third floor near the JCPenney entrance.


As you can see, there are several alternatives to the chain supermarkets in Puerto Rico. Many more vegetarian restaurants and stores are popping up all the time so be sure to visit them and try all the delicacies that Puerto Rico has to offer!


For more information on the products and services offered by Global Perceptions, your relocation specialist in Puerto Rico, please visit

Why not celebrate Valentine’s Day in Puerto Rico?

Want to add some heat to your cold, winter relationship? Hop on the plane and head to the island of enchantment—Puerto Rico! It’s easily accessible from most major airports and offers so much to tourists and locals alike. Whether your ideal Valentine’s Day includes zip-lining, horseback riding, whale watching, dancing until dawn, or eating an amazing meal, Puerto Rico has just what you’re looking for.

Celebrating adventurously

Take your special someone for a hike through El Yunque, the National Rain Forest, where you can stop for photos near cascading waterfalls as you climb the peaks. Look out over the ocean from the high points and have a picnic. Or try zip-lining while you’re there! You can find information about several companies that offer zip-line services here:

If hiking isn’t your thing, perhaps riding a horse along the beach at sunset is more your style. This slower-paced adventure offers the chance to catch amazing sunsets whether you are in the San Juan area or on the West Coast. The Department of Tourism recommends Tropical Trail Rides excursions. The West Coast also features whale watching tours at this time of year. You can watch from the shore near the lighthouse in Rincón or rent a boat and see them up close.

How about a nighttime swim in one of Puerto Rico’s three bioluminescent bays? Take the ferry to Vieques or head to Fajardo or La Parguera, each of which offers a unique experience to see the phosphorescent life forms that can only be seen in a few places around the world.

For the slightly less adventurous

Remember this night forever by taking a stroll through Old San Juan on a horse drawn carriage. Or choose to meander along the Paseo de la Princesa hand in hand with your significant other. Pack a picnic and head to the area around El Morro for some star-gazing. Or simply cozy up to your partner on a bench and watch the people go by. You can do it all in Old San Juan.

Numerous restaurants in the old town also provide memorable experiences. Whether you’re in the market for seafood, steak, pizza, or vegetarian cuisine you’ll find it all. For local cuisine, try Raíces, Vaca Brava, or Latin Roots. For Mexican and vegetarian/vegan options, La Madre is the best and it’s very reasonably priced. Mediterranean, Latin/Asian fusion, and Indian food are also available in the old town.

Want to work off those calories after dinner? Head to Latin Roots or Nuyorican Café for some of the best salsa music on the island. Whether you can dance or not, just being there is fun, but if you want to learn, Latin Roots offers free lessons nightly. Barrachina also has bomba and plena shows that feature local dances typical of previous generations.

On Valentine’s Day, and all year long, Puerto Rico really does do it better. Come find out why!

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