TRAVELERS.CONNECT: COFFEE BREAK WITH "IT GIRL" CULTURE BLOGGER AND ADVISOR TATIANA (CONNECTEDINTERNATIONAL)
Hello everyone! Welcome to Travelers.Connect on The Rissa Rissa Blog where we will be featuring fellow travelers from across the world and from different walks of life. I have created this segment to inspire those who wish to travel, want to make traveling a career, or for those who are seasoned travelers and want to gain more insight on what other travelers are doing.
Today we are conducting my very first Travelers.Connect interview with my dearest friend Tatiana. Tatiana and I go way back to our high school French class days. We've reconnected, bonded, and collaborated through our shared love for culture and traveling. I feel that she is the perfect person to help introduce Travelers.Connect and am so thrilled to have her on here.
You may know her as Prepalamode on Instagram or know her blog Connectedinternational.org. Tatiana is the “It” girl when it comes to being immersed in different cultures, living abroad, trying new beauty products or trendy foods, and anything Paris. Most importantly, Tatiana is passionate about culture and makes cultural consciousness a lifestyle through her career, creative work, travels, and daily routine. For you Paris lovers who have not seen Tatiana’s blog or Instagram yet, you are in for a treat!
So tell us a little bit about yourself?
I'm an international advisor for those going to other countries and offer my support if they should need it while they are abroad. I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and have always had a love of other cultures. Growing up, I had many friends from other countries or friends who had parents from other countries. It was a great way to learn and see our differences as well as our many similarities that we shared. During elementary school, I began helping exchange students and often found myself trying to explain situations they did not understand about the US. Along with this, I also took many opportunities to travel abroad while in school.
I became an international student peer mentor during my time in college quite accidentally and really found my passion. I went abroad to Germany and saw the struggles students went through when not having pre abroad courses to go to as I had with my college's international department. But college was not going to last forever, so after coming back to the U.S., I decided to continue to help others after my college career was over. I then moved to Paris, France after graduating and lived and worked abroad for two years. After two years, I found a new job and moved back to the U.S., but continued helping international students and giving advise to those who might feel alone abroad.
What was it like growing up in a German household in the States?
My mom is German and my dad is an American who has a love for the German language. This influenced my life, from growing up with two languages to eating the European food we could get our hands on. I travelled often when I was young and was always interested in going back or seeing other places. This drove me to find my own opportunities to travel; from doing exchanges, to school trips, to finding the right college, and pushing myself to live abroad more than once.
What are some advantages of having both cultures in your life?
The great thing about having both cultures has been picking and choosing what I like and making my own spin on things, like with Easter or Christmas. This background has helped me understand the nuances of other cultures and find how some things might shock or not be understood by others coming into a new culture/environment, something that has honestly driven me to help internationals.
Did you travel a lot growing up?
I sometimes traveled with my family growing up, but I also loved it and begged for opportunities. That's how I got an exchange student from Germany my first year of high school. It's also the reason why I worked hard to get on our high school winter school trip to central and eastern Europe. It's the reason I chose my college for its study abroad programs. Loving to travel gave me the courage to take a leap and move abroad to France. A country I didn't even speak the language of. Traveling is the perfect opportunity to see different things, learn new languages or learn about new cultures. Anyone can do it, but you often have to make your own opportunities to do so or jump on the opportunities that present themselves to you. Its also about finding your personal balance and what makes you happiest.
What is one country you have not been to and would like to visit? Why?
I actually have quite a list, from Australia, to Sweden, to Japan, and South Korea, and each for their own reasons. Australia I'd love to visit because my best friend is living there (shout out to Kinga!) and I would love to check out the nature and the food I keep hearing about from my favorite amateur pastry chef (her name is Chelsea, the former winner of Meilleur Pâtissier, the french version of the Great British Bake off). Sweden I would love to check out the countryside, the buildings, and its food and clothing stores. Japan I'd love to see the mountains and cherry trees like the ones I keep hearing about from my exchange student friend who has them surrounding her home, and oh the food! Another friend of mine and I constantly send pictures of the newest foods from Japan. Mmmmm. And finally, Korea. Awhile back, I was introduced to Korean pop and Kdramas and just fell in love with the cutesie style (not too far away from the french vibe I like) so I'd love to see the places I've heard about, check out shops, and of course partake in a bit of Korean cafe culture.
I must say, that is an awesome list! Along with traveling and growing up with two different cultures, you also have experience in adapting. You left Chicago at one point to move to Paris and now you are back here! Can you give us insight into moving to a new city and adapting?
Moving is almost never easy, but there are little things that can always help. Nowadays there is a ton of technology and old school ways to make new friends. Having friends is one of the biggest things to make you feel at home anywhere. Go visit where you are living, check out cafes, museums, libraries. Easy rule, find something new that you might enjoy. Recently I've been using Meet Up, an app where you can find people who go out for coffee, or have bookclubs, or speak in multiple languages. It's great because you're publicly meeting new people and doing new things that might make you feel more at home. You can even take classes, which is wonderful if you are moving somewhere where the language might not be your native language. Adjusting and even readjusting have a lot to do with how open you are to situations and the culture around you. In an ideal world, this means you observe what others do and try not to push your own ideas too much into others. However, you should share ideas because it's a great way to learn and laugh!
If someone is interested in moving abroad, what should be their next steps? What should they keep in mind?
There is a bit of planning involved, which might not always feel exciting when you first start, but don't worry, it ends a lot sooner than you expect! If you want to go somewhere specific, check out visa requirements, languages spoken, and even government tips on things like vaccines, or travel guidelines. Make sure your bank knows your going abroad and check with your insurance to get coverage abroad. Its always better to be safe than sorry. Everything is at our fingertips, so that's wonderful and makes it really easy. Make sure you pack all the things you might need, warm clothes, cooking clothes, day to day provisions, the right kind of credit cards, and then you should be good to go!
Let’s talk about the birth of your blog. What was the inspiration behind creating one?
As an international advisor during college, I really missed seeing students and talking with them on a daily basis. I also often found myself having similar conversations with coworkers.
I'm the person people come to when they want to find out the newest food trend going global, what to buy when your visiting a new country, the tricks of traveling, or wanting to how to live somewhere completely different. Its definitely easier to go to someone who has personal experience than finding a travel guide or spending hours on the internet. So that's what I did, and I love it!
What makes your blog unique from others?
Every blog has a different focus. I'm not a story teller, nor am I someone taking a backpack and going around the world. Everything comes from my experience and most importantly, my knowledge of the issues people face living abroad. It's really a mix of what you love as a traveler or culture lover with international advising in the mix. My most recent post, for instance, is about what to buy for a person who loves to travel, so it's not always posts about what to pack, or how to survive a new city. This keeps it fresh and relevant to pretty much anyone... Including those of us needing a bit of travel inspiration.
Where do you see yourself and your blog in the next 5 years?
I'm really hoping that ConnectedInternational can become a hub for those living or moving anywhere in the world. I want it to be a place where they can find anything they need to know about the places they are going to. I would also love for it to be a place for people to share their experiences, funny stories, etc.
Before we conclude, I would like our readers to leave with words of wisdom.
What advice would you give fellow travelers that helped you with your journey or wish you would have known beforehand?
Two different things. When in another country, you should not close yourself off to people who are not natives, even though all you probably want to do is meet people from the place where you live. Sometimes it is better growing more with those who find you than those you search for. Second, if you like things from another culture, or speak a language no one else does, be you, you don't have to completely change yourself for those around you. Find that thing you love and be uniquely you.
Thank you so much Tatiana for your time with us and words of wisdom! Fellow readers and travelers, let us know what you think of Tatiana's advice or send us follow up questions. Also, if you like this article, please like and share. You never know if one of your social media friends or followers may enjoy this interview as well. Keep on the lookout for my next guest in January. We have a lot of exciting things to share with you. 😉