New Year, New Traveling: Beaches You Should Visit in January


alex travel jan

Many of us made resolutions to make the best of the new year whether that means working out more, hanging out with friends more, or  traveling more, the goal is the same. Be happy. What better way to be happy and start off your new year than on a beach? Below you will find a list of some of the best beaches to visit this month!

The Gambia

The Gambia comes highly recommended for a fun and warm vacation spot for January. This enchanting beach is located on the along the shoreline of the West African coast and has highly enhanced lodging, not to mention an extremely agreeable climate.  With 9 hours of day by day daylight and an average of 87°F, The Gambia is a great place to celebrate the arrival of the new year.  

Cape Verde Islands

Although the Cape Verde Islands is a diverse archipelago between West Africa and South America, it is still accessible with flights leaving regularly from the US.  The average daily temperature for the Cape Verde Islands are around 75°F. Add that with their extraordinary beaches and great lodging quarters and you have a world-class vacation.


The interesting archipelago of Indonesia offers a portion of the world’s most lovely marine parks, alongside stunning sanctuaries, woodland and untamed life from Komodo monsters to Orangutans. If you’re searching for for winter sun, with sensational shorelines and entrancing culture, Bali is the destination for you.


If you are budget conscious like most us, you should look into Goa in India. In Goa you can get beautiful sunsets, 9 hours of every day daylight and 82ºF temperatures, white-sand beaches, and delicious food for prices that won’t bust your bank. As a vacationer in Goa you will also have the option to choose between a beachfront inn or rent a room from a local family.

St. Lucia

St Lucia has been described as one of the most friendly and picturesque islands of the Caribbean. The rich wide open scenery, volcanic crests and beguiling fishery towns will make you question whether or not you ever want to leave.

Teaching ESL | What to do in the Classroom

Alexandra ArrivillagaAs someone who has had the privilege of Teaching English as a Second Language and helping others in my community who don’t speak English through translation work, I have had the opportunity to see  first hand what kinds of aids can help others learn both informally, and in classroom settings. Learning a new language is a process, and the most important thing is to cultivate a supportive and encouraging environment. In addition to how you prepare before you even set foot in the classroom, I would suggest that you consider the following as well.

Get to Know Your Students:
The educational needs and background of any given student will vary. So in addition to getting to know your students before they come to class, make a point to continue to get to know them as the term progresses. Making a point to get to know your students not only provides inspiration for your class plans, but also creates a true learning environment for your students.

Maximize Use of English Speaking:

Focus on the importance of speaking English in the classroom, and speaking English only. This creates an environment where students are forced to put their language skills to work. They can practice reading aloud, and practice conversation in pairs or groups. Practicing oral communication is necessary for ESL success. SWRL or Speaking, Writing, Reading and Listening should be exercised regularly.

Body Language:

An important tip for knowing you’re being heard and understood, as an ESL teacher, is by reading the body language of your learner. If they’re non-responsive, and they have their arms folded and held tightly to their bodies, they may be uncomfortable. Encourage students to loosen up at the beginning of classes while doing stretches and practicing English words relating to human anatomy, and push students to use gestures, facial expressions and body language in partnership with their English-only lessons.

Limit Dictionary Use:
It’s easy for a student to rely heavily on a translation dictionary or the glossary of a textbook when learning a new language, so encourage students to limit this practice. Rather than flipping to the back of their books, students should verbalize difficulties, which will help them to better absorb and retain words and phrases.

Practice Common Phrases:
Common introductory phrases are important because they help students to become comfortable with a language, and they’re useful. Learning greetings, directions, idioms and salutations can minimize discomfort in an English-dominate situation.

As you continue to develop into the role of the instructor teaching English as a Second Language, it’s important that you check in with students regularly – both in group settings and individually. Standard rules and practices that apply to teaching any subject matter apply to teaching English as a Second Language, but it is of utmost importance that you encourage your students as much as possible as it is a critical skill to have when residing in countries where the dominant language is in fact English.



How to Prepare for Class as an ESL Instructor

Alexandra Arrivillaga ESLMastering the English language can be difficult, but helping others to develop functional and capable language skills can be near impossible if English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers aren’t equipped with proper resources, tips or tools to facilitate their pupils’ needs and growth. Conquering the third most common native language in the world (surpassed by Mandarin and Spanish) is best done when teachers have a slight edge.

ESL teachers should consider a number of things when acting as a language guide. Learning styles, culture, education and comprehensive skills should be taken into account, and ESL teachers should be understanding of the cognitive abilities of non-native English speakers when instructing them. Whether teaching someone English in a traditional classroom setting, or coaching someone in a private home, consider the following tips when instructing your non-native English speaker(s).

Get to know your students:
The educational needs of any given student will be different, whether that student is learning math or English. Becoming familiar with a student’s country of origin, English language or literacy, or their literacy level in their native language should help you determine a starting point for your student, and eventually enable their success. Before your class begins, feel free to send students a survey, or answer basic questions about their backgrounds. In this way you can do some research about your students’ countries of origin before you even meet face to face.

Develop an Exciting Lesson Plan:Learn more about the cultural or educational backgrounds of ESL students, and incorporate that into the lesson plan. Also, introduce students to foods they may or may not be familiar. Additionally, introduce them to English-language films, music and other bits of culture.

Be Thoughtful About Homework Assignments:
ESL students should be given homework, which will encourage them to practice during evenings and weekends. These extra hours of studying are fundamental for practical use of the language.

Read Through All Language Assessments:

Before giving your student a particular language proficiency assessment, you should read through it and make sure that it’s comprehensive for a new language learner. If there are terms or words being employed that might be difficult for a young English-proficient reader, then it may be difficult for someone who is new to English to understand.

Find Great Visuals:

Photos, pictures, drawings and tangible things are helpful when learning a language. Utilize magazines, menus, train schedules, post-cards and mail, and encourage students to name things and read words aloud. This will be helpful for them in their day-to-day.

These are just a few tips on preparing yourself as you embark on the exciting journey into the world of teaching English as a Second Language.

Good Luck!


Don’t Forget to Pack Your Gratitude:Thanksgiving Travel Tips

alexandra arrivillagaThanksgiving is a holiday that is often associated with spending time with loved ones, indulging in delicious comfort food and traveling near and far in order to be with family. Unfortunately, this time of year can also prove to be fairly stressful for some. And with the U.S. State Department issuing a travel alert warning of terrorist threats, it’s no doubt that transportation will prove to be even more stressful and delayed than usual. With that in mind, I thought that I would share a few thoughts on de-stressing the travel process.


  1. Allow for extra time to travel. In general I think that it’s always wise to allow extra time for travel. Although the idea of spending extra time in an airport, train station or in traffic isn’t all that appealing, it beats the alternative. Transportation is often stressful because we are worried about getting where we need to on time, by allowing yourself an extra hour or two, the stress of getting where you need to on time disappears, and you can focus on other things instead. Like figure out how you are going to make time to volunteer over your break.
  2. Pack a snack and buy some water. No matter what mode of transportation you’ll be using this Thanksgiving, make a point to bring some healthy snacks, and water. (If you’re flying, just bring an empty water bottle to fill up at the water fountain once you get through security). You will likely be so focused on the travel details that you may forget to eat. But don’t do that! Stay satiated and stay hydrated. Not only is this important for your health, but it’s good for your mood too.
  3. Alexandra ArrivillagaMeditate. For those of you who don’t meditate regularly, I think that now would be a great time to start. Really the point is to just take a few moments to quiet your mind, and turn inward in order to recalibrate and get centered. Here are some great tips on meditating in five minutes.
  4. Think About What You are Grateful For. Remembering your gratitude and what you are grateful for will not only help the smaller stressors of the holiday in perspective, but will put you in a better mood. Studies show this kind of practice is also good for your health!
  5. Bring a Great Book and Some Headphones. If you will not be driving, but instead using some other form of transportation, make sure that you bring a great book and headphones. Given the busy pace of our lives these days, it’s not often that we get the opportunity to just read, listen to an audiobook or music for long stretches of time. So take advantage, and enjoy yourself.

Most Importantly, enjoy yourself, take a few deep breaths, and travel safely.


Happy Thanksgiving!


Travel Hack : How to Pack a Carry On

alexandra arrivillagaWhile it may seem as though we have discussed travel tips quite a bit here, I still want to share one of my favorite videos about how to pack carry on items in a way that is smart and effective. These hacks ensure that you won’t have to pay that extra baggage fee for checked luggage, and instead you’ll be able to save a little bit of cash and hit the ground running! Watch the video and remember the following tips!

1. Make sure that you select a sturdy bag that meets the size requirements – usually a total of 45 inches (double check with your airline and airline standards for the dimensions before you choose your bag o

2. Make a list of what you need to pack

3. Use the outside pockets for easy access items like books, sunglasses, snacks, electronics and more.

4. Think ounces – wear your heaviest items on the flight (ie shoes and jeans).

5. Bring Clothes that are great for mixing and matching. This allows for the greatest number of outfit possibilities.

6. Try to avoid bringing a heavy coat, but if you must, wear it on the flight and fill up those pockets with socks, underwear, anything you can think of!

7. Bring an extra tote bag – you will be shocked by how handy this will be during your trip, and especially on the return trip!

8. Roll up clothes that won’t wrinkle, and use them to pad other items in your luggage.

When B-School Advice Gets an F

Alexandra Arrivillaga ThinkingAs many of us know after years in the real world, graduate school doesn’t always prepare you for the realities that you will face when you graduate. Business school is known for acting as a stepping stone for many to their career. And the contacts that people make in class can often have huge effects on the course of their professional lives when it comes to networking and eventually launching a business venture. However, before we continue singing the praises of business school, it’s important to be aware that what you learn in those classrooms won’t always apply to the real world scenario. In fact, many could argue (after graduating of course) that there are a handful of falsities told to business students year in and year out. However these myths are worth examining. 

The Problem with Planning

Business schools are notorious for demanding constant outlines and plans for everything. Really, most academic environments place a lot of emphasis on the value of planning things out and getting organized. While this is a lovely idea, often times in the real world, all of the best laid plans can still fail. While thinking ahead, reflecting and having a vision are all important in building a successful company, the reality is that being too attached to one plan or way of doing things can be detrimental to a company’s growth. The beautiful thing about cultivating a new business or venture, is the fact that things will change quickly, and there will be that element of reaction and change that will have very little to do with the plans that you so thoughtfully wrote out. While planning can be a helpful exercise in clarifying your vision and identifying aspirational timelines, flexibility and awareness are just as key.

Paying Your Dues

Another common misconception often reinforced in business schools is the notion that you have to pay your dues by working for someone else or in a particularly corporate environment before branching out and working independently. While one can gain a lot of valuable experience and insight through starting off in the corporate world, this isn’t the only way of doing things. If you already know what you want to do professionally on your own, you don’t have to go through the motions of due paying  just because that’s what so many others seem to do. 

Hard Work equals Success

While hard work and developing a strong and dependable work ethic are two keys to success, it’s important to realize that quantifiable success takes much more than that. So many other factors come in like, developing a strong network and knowing how to use it, devoting your time to understanding your business inside and out and most importantly (but often wildly overlooked) self-care. With so much attention paid to how many hours a new CEO logs at his or her startup, maintaining one’s health is often overlooked. Maintaining a life that involves relaxation, a strong connection to friends and family, exercise, good nutrition isn’t a point that is necessarily encouraged or acknowledged in business school, but these are important factors in preventing burnout.

While business school provides a great step in preparation for the workforce, it’s important to keep in mind that not everything that you learn there will necessarily apply to your situation once you graduate.

How to : Best Vacation

Alexandra ArrivillagaNow that you know how to prepare for your next journey, there are some things to keep in mind while you’re there.

Must Haves

On a practical level remember  to bring a scarf with you (this is surprisingly handy, no matter the temperature). A cotton scarf can be used for everything from a blanket to eyeshades to a bag. You won’t regret bringing such a versatile item with you. When you’re walking around exploring, it’s also a good idea to have some water and a small snack on you particularly if you take the non-touristy exploration route. It’s easy to get dehydrated when traveling, so make sure to drink a lot of water. It’s not a bad idea to have a few tissues, cash, your phrasebook and sanitizer with you as well.

Treat Yourself

While you’re on vacation, try to wake up early so that you can see as much of this destination as possible. You will also beat the crowds by getting to more popular sites early. Along with getting up early, try to be good to your body. In addition to drinking a lot of water, try to get enough sleep and keep up your exercise routine. It’s easy to let these things slide when traveling, but the experience will be better if you treat your body well while away from home.

Be in the Moment

Plan, but don’t be too stringent. You want to have some flexibility in your agenda. Try to stay in the moment. Also, make a point to meet local people. You didn’t travel all this way just to be in familiar surroundings with familiar people. Because of that, I suggest that you explore non-touristy areas, meet locals and just keep an open mind. Be aware of the customs, but don’t be surprised when people don’t act as you expected. Take some time to observe people and write about what you’re seeing. Take lots of pictures. And also, make sure to check in with your family and friends from home every now and then. Figure out what you really want to do or see while on your trip, and try to do that first.


Most importantly, have fun!


Prep Tips : How To Travel Right

Alexandra ArrivillagaWhether you love your career or are temporarily stuck in a job, it’s important to take time and re-charge outside of the office. Traveling is a great way to reconnect with the world around you. Whether you are taking a weekend trip to a location a few hours away, or spending a year in a completely different country, these tips can help you make the most of your time away before you leave.


Figure out that Flight: If you want to get the best flight deals, either plan very far in advance, or wait for those last minute deals. It all depends on your schedule. There are plenty of sites and apps to choose from when it comes to comparing flight costs, and getting alerts for good deals. If you’re planning a big trip find out what kinds of miles you can get for future trips!

alexandra arrivillaga de castroPack Light: This may be easier said than done, but come up with a list of basics for when you travel so that you’re not burdened with heavy bags and excess stuff. Bringing too many things just means you’re increasing the number of things to potentially lose. Another advantage to packing very light, is that it will be easier to bring back things that you buy on your trip. But do make sure you bring good walking shoes. Hopefully you will be exploring this new destination which means a lot of walking.

Bring Extra Cash : Although this may not be completely necessary depending on where you are going, it’s always good to have a bit of cash (both in your home country’s currency, as well as in the currency of the place that you’re traveling to) in case of emergency, a credit card loss/freeze, etc. Keep some of it hidden, and make sure you don’t keep it all in one place. Along those lines, make sure you alert your bank to where you’re traveling.

Medicine: Make sure that you have all medication with you and an extra supply kept in a separate place in case anything gets lost, or if you end up staying  longer. Ensure your vaccinations are up to date for where you are traveling and don’t forget your passport and a copy (also kept in two separate places).

Tie up loose ends before you go: Pay your bills, finish your work, take out the trash – you don’t want anything hanging over your head while you’re away.

Culture Prep: Learn a few expressions, and get a small phrase book. Do some research on the areas you’re visiting to get to know a little bit of the history and culture before you go.


The Road to Entrepreneurship

Alexandra ArrivillagaThe path of an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. This professional path often involves taking a risk, forging ahead into the unknown and is often littered with obstacles. However, if you have the drive, passion and discipline – there is nothing more satisfying. Seemingly every entrepreneur has his or her own unique narrative about how he or she arrived at this career. While everyone’s story is different, and that’s what makes this such an interesting professional choice, there are some tips that can help with transitioning into this career .

What business is best for you?

While knowing that you want to be an entrepreneur is an important first step, make sure you have a vision. And if your vision is still unclear, start with the basics. Ask yourself what type of business interests you the most that doesn’t require much more training or more certifications than what you already have. If you don’t have much experience, then take time getting to know different businesses that interest you. Reach out to people within your network who are employed at companies or organizations that you’re interested in. In addition to connecting with people that you already know in your network, make sure to do research on your own. Read about the businesses you’re interested in, and start to make new connections.

Share what you know:

Even if you haven’t enjoyed every job or turn that your career has taken in the past, chances are you gained marketable skills and experience from each opportunity. Take some time to re-familiarize yourself with what these learned talents are and consider how they can help you in your journey going forward. With a slight re-packaging, or some tweaks here or there, these skills can be used in your new endeavor as an entrepreneur, and used as an example of how qualified you are.


Before you invest capital into a new venture, make sure that you have planned. Make sure that you create a business plan that outlines your goals, strategies and actionable steps to help realize your business. Figure out what it is you are trying to create through your business, and how you are addressing client needs.

Know your Audience:

Before spending money, make sure that you have taken time to understand your market. Do some research to test your product or your business to see if there is a true interest in what you’re trying to do. Unfortunately the best laid plans can’t account for interest. Read census data, test people for free and see what you can learn. Is your business providing something relevant to a particular demographic? How marketable is it? Make sure to ask a lot of questions, and truly listen to the answers.


When just starting out as an entrepreneur, there is a good chance that your personal finances will be deeply connected with your professional expenses. When just starting out, you may be the sole or primary investor in your enterprise. Because of this, it’s critical to fully understand your finances, and are very organized in managing them. When developing your business plan, it’s important to consider the financial needs of the particular  type of business that you are investing in. A lifestyle business may require a smaller amount of capital upfront than a technology based business. Be realistic about costs, and set up an organized system to monitor your spending.

Find Support:

Once you have begun to create the infrastructure for your company, make sure that you seek out support in the form of advisors and mentors and that you start to get involved in your industry. Gaining insight from others who have gone through the same sort of experience or are currently undergoing similar growing pains is invaluable and will grant you perspective that you might not otherwise have access to. This will also add a certain level of value to your company if you are using pooled knowledge and experience as opposed to simply relying on your own.

Spread the Word:

It’s easy to get tunnel vision when focusing on the development of your own company. However, it’s critical that you share the exciting news of your new company and its services with as many people as possible. Make sure that you are finding a way to connect with your target audience while being open to finding new markets. You and your company can’t exist in a vacuum, so make sure that you are connecting with people. Utilize social media, word of mouth, articles, speeches, emails – find imaginative ways to connect with people that can truly use what you’re making.