Coffee, Wine, Weed & Health

The past few weeks have included buzz-worthy info on coffee, wine, weed and health. The three stimulants can be addictive, enjoy a robust retail market (weed in limited states) and may have health benefits. My clients and readers of this blog know my mantra-“There is no one thing that is all good or all bad and moderation is the key.” Though the research on the three is still a work in progress, the following is a brief overview of how they can impact your health.

COFFEE

According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, 54 percent of Americans over the age of 18 drink coffee daily and 65 percent of these drinkers are consuming the coffee during breakfast hours. The key component associated with coffee consumption is caffeine. Coffee is a stimulant that can improve mood, increase energy and cognitive function. When coffee is consumed, caffeine is absorbed in the bloodstream, and travels to the brain where it blocks a neurotransmitter. This blocked neurotransmitter leads to a stimulant effect, thus people may feel more alert, energetic and positive, with improved cognitive functions.

WINE

I’m a wine enthusiast and I enjoy drinking wine in moderation. U.S per capita consumption of wine is approximately 3 gallons, much less than in other countries. Wine does have benefits for heart health, reduced risk of cancer and long-term depression. Red wine is high in antioxidants which are linked to heart health and reduced blood pressure. One of the antioxidants that has been touted recently is resveratrol. Although resveratrol is still being studied, this antioxidant in red wine is thought to protect blood vessels, reduce LDL (Bad) cholesterol and prevent blood clots.

White wine also has positive effects on heart health as a result of the antioxidants found in the wine grapes. There has also been early research which links drinking two to three glasses of champagne a week to the prevention of brain disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Now a glass of bubbly is always a good thing, however, note this research continues in search of definitive proof.

WEED

Still considered taboo in many circles, weed, aka marijuana, may also have health benefits. One-fifth of Americans live in states where marijuana is legal. The label medical marijuana refers to the use of the whole, unprocessed marijuana plant or its extracts to treat symptoms of illness and other conditions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has NOT approved the marijuana plant as medicine. However the FDA has approved the scientific study of chemicals in the plant called cannabinoids, which have led to two FDA-approved medications that contain cannabinoid chemicals in pill form.

To date research by the National Institutes of Health has focused on two cannabinoids-THC and CBD. CBD is a cannabinoid that does not create a “high.” Findings indicate that THC can stimulate appetite and reduce nausea which can be beneficial to patients undergoing chemotherapy. Researchers continue their work and are conducting preclinical and clinical trials with marijuana and its extracts to treat symptoms of illness and conditions of diseases that affect the immune system including HIV/AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), pain, inflammation and seizures.

This post is a brief overview of trending topics on coffee, wine and weed. These subjects will continue to be of interest and the upcoming California Wine and Weed Symposium will certainly be a catalyst for more conversation.

Take Away: There may be undiscovered health benefits with coffee, wine and weed in the future, however my caveat is to make wise choices and moderation is essential.

Top 4 Business Studies Trips With School Travel Companies

Overseas trips take groups of business studies students into the hearts of other economies, where they can hear experts speak and visit the production centres of key economic goods. School travel companies can arrange trips around the world, from the European stalwarts of Frankfurt (in Germany) and Geneva (in Switzerland) to the banking and computing centres on the West Coast of the United States of America and the rapidly growing economic powerhouse that is India.

Frankfurt

Frankfurt is a thriving commercial hub in the strong economy of Germany and the wider European Union. Business studies students can learn about the responsibilities and organisation of the European Central Bank on a tour of its facility in Frankfurt, or visit the large manufacturing plant at Opel to see the use of robotic operations in modern industry. Sports fans will especially value a behind-the-scenes visit to the Commerzbank football stadium to explore the complexities of conducting business in the sports sector. Tailor-made trips give students a wide range of valuable and exciting experiences.

Geneva

Geneva is at the heart of banking and business in Europe, with many international companies siting their headquarters in the city – and, famously, their wealth. It is Geneva’s role in European history, rather than its local resources (of which there are few), that has made it so important, giving students on business studies trips an opportunity to consider the role of history in contemporary business. School travel companies will also arrange visits to major businesses in Geneva, providing insights into its famous timepiece industry and companies such as Evian, Nestle and Gruyeres.

West Coast USA

San Francisco began its business history as the banking centre of the California Gold Rush. Now it is home to the Silicon Valley and many multinational banks and venture capital firms. Itineraries developed by school travel companies include the Intel Museum, where business studies students can learn about the world-changing development of the silicon chip. They can then step outside the skyscraper-filled cities to see a different aspect of the West Coast: its food production industries. Following olive oil from its harvest to the milling room and the bottling process offers an insight into the complexities of food businesses. Students can also visit the home of the Jelly Belly bean for a sweeter food industry case study!

India

India is one of the fastest growing national economies in the world, with a recorded growth rate of 9%. Anyone entering the business world cannot ignore its importance in the contemporary and future markets, which makes a business studies trip to India especially relevant for young business students. School travel companies can organise many opportunities to learn about business in India. Students can listen to local experts from the UK India Business Council; visit the Mahindra World City to understand the role of public-private partnerships in India’s economy; investigate production processes in the multinational plants at Faridabad; and consider tourism’s role in India’s economy at the Taj Mahal or Japiur’s Amber Fort.

10 Study Abroad Tips and Suggestions

1. Read Up. Read up about your study abroad destination. Try and read the local newspaper and familiarize yourself with the general state of affairs in the country and city you will be visiting. Pick up a travel book, like a Lonely Planet, to get to know the major monuments, transportation, local sites, as well as the good and bad areas of town. Read RateYourStudyAbroad.com’s reviews of your program and other programs in the area, as well as other blogs devoted to the student experience abroad. Check out Glimpse.org, abroadview.org, and transitionsabroad.com for first hand accounts of student expats and their experiences while abroad. Not only will you be able to converse with the locals better, enhance your own experience with insight into the cultural quirks of your country, but you will be more in the know compared to your other study abroad participants.

2. Travel. There is no easier time in your life to travel than when you are young, have the time, are willing to go the extra mile to save a few bucks and adventurous enough to check out the out of the way towns and festivals. If you are in Europe, head over to Munich for Okterberfest in the fall, check out hiking the Alps in October, before the ski crowds, high prices, and cold move in, go to the Greek Islands in May before the crowds roll in and when the weather is great or Southern Spain in the winter months. Investigate opportunities for cheap travel within your region. Check out RateYourStudyAbroad.com’s Helpful Links section for links to websites and resources for low cost airline, lodging, package travel, as well as travel blogs. Don’t forget that much of the world travels by train and bus, which can be both cost effective and one of the more interesting cultural experiences you will have. There is nothing quite like sitting on a 10 hour bus ride with a family and the family pet pig or catching a taking an overnight train to your destination and bundling up the cost of lodging and transportation all in one.

3. Student Discounts. Take advantage of student discounts if they are available in your study abroad country. Depending on the country you study in, student discounts can save you money at museums, tourist attractions, transportation, shopping outlets, and even the movie theater. Also, many hostels and other businesses have negotiated discounts for holders of the international student card or ISIC which you should take advantage of.

4. Communication Abroad. Figure out how you will be communicating with your loved ones and friends back in the United States, your new friends and the locals in your new home, as well as the local emergency number (it probably isn’t 911). For calling your friends and family in the United States, as well as others with an internet connection, VOIP options, including Skype and Vonage may be a great, cost effective option for you. You may have to invest in a microphone and speakers for your computer, if you don’t already have them, but these VOIP options are cheap, reliable, and you can call anywhere, as long as you are by your computer. As far as keeping in touch with your local friends, check into cell phone plans that are available. Some countries do not allow you to sign up for a monthly cell phone plan unless you have a local bank account, but most countries offer pay-as-you-go cell phone plans that can do the job for only slightly more than the cost of a monthly plan. Don’t forget to also check out the landline options while you are abroad, for calls made locally (from landline to landline as well as landline to cell) and internationally (from landline to landline as well as landline to cell). Sometimes landline rates can be quite reasonable.

5. American Food. If your idea of comfort food is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, chances are you should stock up on peanut butter before you leave the US. Most countries have either their own version of some American foods, or nothing at all. You may not realize until you are already abroad, but you will come up with food items you CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT and that you cannot find anywhere abroad. In my experience, living without a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup, brown sugar, real BBQ sauce, or even American ketchup made the one trip my mother made to come and visit that much more exciting because she brought these staple American items I had been missing so much.

6. Money. One thing you will notice after your first month of living abroad are the foreign transaction fees your credit card company charges on all purchases made in another currency as well as the transaction charge for most ATM withdrawals. Although the bank offers no service for these fees, which range from 2 to 3 percent of the charge, they can add up quickly. So if you are not planning to open up an account at a local bank, check to see if your American bank has any agreements set up with international banks and affiliates, to cut down on this expense. Capital One does not charge foreign transaction fees on credit card purchases, but does on ATM transactions. If your bank does not have any special arrangements with a foreign bank, another idea is to withdraw a large sum of cash each month and go through that as needed. Don’t forget that if your debit or credit card is lost or stolen, it can be difficult to replace quickly. Check out this article from the NYTimes Here to read more about credit cards while abroad.

7. Do Something Different. Many who go abroad are happy to spend time with other Americans, party until all hours of the night at different bars and dance clubs, and speak in English for the duration of the trip. However, I encourage you to do something out of your comfort zone, whether it is studying in the local language, living in a homestay with a local family, joining a local club or sports team, volunteering or finding an internship locally, or simply getting off the beaten path when you travel. Not only will you get a better flavor of the cultural nuances and how things work in the country you are living in, but you will be more resilient and gain a different view of the country you are in. Don’t forget that when you return to the United States, you and others will be most impressed and have the best memories of how you integrated into new environment.

8. If you Play a Sport, Get Involved. Although most Americans associate college sports with intense practice and competition schedules, the rest of the world does not think of college sports in that way. At most colleges, there are sports clubs and teams with more casual practice and competition schedules. Not only can you play a sport that you love, but you can meet other students and it is always a great study break. Depending on your skill level, you may also think of giving lessons in your sport, or volunteering your time coaching a youth team or league. If you do plan to play a sport overseas, don’t forget to bring your gear, as sports equipment can either be difficult to find or very expensive. Click Here for an article on one student’s experience with swimming while living in Paris, France.

9. Act Like a Local. You will always be an American, but it is worth reading up and respecting the history of the country and people you are living with. Take behavioral cues from locals, especially in regards to dressing more conservatively in churches and the local tolerance for public drinking. Know what is an appropriate tip when at a restaurant and for a cab ride.

10. Take Pictures. Studying abroad will provide memories that will last a lifetime, make sure you capture these moments to share with friends and family as well as to reminisce in later years. Using photo sharing websites like (ophoto.com, flickr.com, webshots.com, shutterfly.com, kodakgallery.com, etc.) may help you organize your photos, without taking up a lot of space on your hard drive. Many of these sites also allow you to create photo albums and photo books (check out Blurb.com for photo books, as well) that will allow you to create a hard copy version of your experience abroad.

Study Abroad, to Do or Not to Do?

Ever since I started college, I always knew that staying in one single place for the whole time of my student years was not going to be an option. Traveling and discovering new countries and cultures has always been one of my biggest passions.Therefore, combining studying abroad and seeing the world seemed like a great plan!

I am sure that many of you have also considered this option. In that case, before embarking on this journey, here are a few notes that you might want to consider as studying and going abroad both have their positives sides and negative sides.

What do you gain from studying abroad?

  • As globalization increases, understanding different cultures and customs has become more and more important for many companies worldwide. Thus, studying aboard is a great way to learn about other countries, to meet new people and maybe learn a new language.
  • The experience of studying abroad will strengthen your resume. Going abroad often results in students being more open-minded, mature, and with better communication skills. Furthermore, your future employers will most certainly be very interested to hear about your experiences and the skills you’ve learned while you were traveling.
  • One of the great advantages you will gain from studying in a different university and in another country is the fact that you will learn a unique way of working. Every culture has its own way on how to approach and deal with a problem. By working and studying with people from various countries and origins you can assimilate their techniques, ideas and skills and put them to use in a real working environment.
  • Going away from home is also a great way to gain independence. Traveling alone will force you to make decisions from which you can learn from.
  • During your studies, you may have the opportunity to visit nearby cities and countries.

Why you should think twice before making your decision:

  • Studying abroad is often very expensive. You must take in account that you’ll have to pay for your travel ticket, accommodation, food, tuition fee’s, insurance, visa etc… Yes, financial aids are often available. However, you’ll often have to be responsible for a large amount of the expenses on your own. This could mean that you might have to take on a job which could interfere with your studies and traveling plans.
  • Bear in mind that leaving your friends and family behind is not an easy task. Leaving home can be challenging for many young students. This feeling of “loneliness” can make you feel down and depressed thus once again, interfere with your studies. Also take in note that you will most probably have to confront yourself with the problem of culture shock. Settling in and adapting to your surroundings is important for your experience to be successful. Some individuals never feel at ease in their new environment and this can really compromise their studies and their experience.
  • Finally, academic issues can often arise during your exchange. The biggest problem is obviously the language barrier. Remember that you are going to study. Starting in a new place with the language handicap can make the difference between falling and succeeding. You also want to make sure that your credits abroad will be transferable to your university back home. Make sure that this does not become an issue before you commit.

As you can see, studying abroad has both its pro’s and con’s. It is important before you make your decision to look at both the positives points and the negatives points. You should be prepared to face different problems and to find solutions to them. Studying abroad can be a great opportunity if you’re ready for the challenges you may have to face.

Top Tips for Studying Abroad

So, you’ve started to have a few thoughts about studying abroad? Think you’d like to get out in the world and expand your educational, cultural and social horizons? If that’s the case, here are a few top ‘scene setting’ tips to consider.

What are you hoping to get out of it?

If the answer is experience, that’s fine – but remember if you’re expecting a qualification that you plan to use elsewhere, make sure it is internationally recognised. Some overseas diplomas, certificates and degrees obtained while studying abroad are virtually worthless in terms of helping to secure work or entry to other educational establishments etc.

Check the accreditation of your institution

Some establishments are expert at attracting overseas students and the finance they bring, but in fact, they’re not actually academically registered in the country concerned.

Check that carefully.

Select expert study trip providers

If you’re planning a shorter-term study trip, use an established expert provider of such services. Shorter-term studying abroad can be very rewarding and beneficial if the arrangements are all professionally made.

Think carefully about safety in certain countries

It is an unfortunate reality that not all countries in the world are acceptably safe to travel in – for local citizens and perhaps particularly for foreigners. So, studying abroad in a given country may look exotic but take objective travel and study advice before deciding.

Keep clear in your mind the difference between a holiday, studying and volunteering

These are three very different things though they may overlap in some small respects.

A holiday is typically where you pay a lot of money to be taken somewhere to enjoy yourself; volunteering typically means giving some of your time and money (for travel and food) then working hard for a good cause upon arrival. Note that some moderately expensive holidays may describe themselves as being voluntary work primarily for marketing purposes. Studying involves typically paying modest sums for travel and accommodation then following a planned itinerary and programme of learning activities. They may be short-term or very long-term running into years.

Be flexible in cultural attitudes

If you plan on studying abroad, you’ll need to adopt many of the local customs and be flexible about at least some aspects of what you eat, drink, wear, the hours you keep and what you consider to be politically correct. For example, many societies outside of Northern Europe, North America and Australia/New Zealand, have very different attitudes towards urgency and punctuality. Complaining and getting upset or stressed-out is useless – so learn the ropes and adapt.

If possible, travel in a group or on an organised study tour/college programme

Travelling and studying alone is perfectly possible, but in many parts of the world your risks of culture shock and psychological isolation will be much reduced if you’re doing so with others or at least a second person. This is perhaps truer on longer-term assignments than shorter trips. The experience can be a unique and positive life-changing one – just make sure you arrange it correctly and sensibly.