Nowadays, there are more and more international students who come to the United States to further their education.  As international students come to the US a very common experience many go through is culture shock. This time, Life Made Simple meets Dr. Elaine Yuan, who is a multicultural communications professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Yuan is a native of Beijing, China and she has been in the US for nearly ten years.  We here at LMS, credit Dr. Yuan as having the right kind of experience to give proper advice to international students who may be in the midst of a transition to a new culture.  As Dr. Yuan is a professional in multicultural communication, LMS hopes that her own experience and advise could help international students start a simple and comfortable life here in the US.

LMS: Having been in the U.S. for nearly ten years, what do you think is the most difficult thing for an international student living in a new environment?

YUAN: The most difficult thing, for me, is to get used to the American culture. Culture is a big all-encompassing term. To be more specific, it means to know the local language well in order to express oneself freely, to know the local social psychology and etiquettes well in order to make friends, build social support and feel comfortable in this foreign social environment.

LMS: What do you think is the easiest way to overcome that difficulty?

YUAN: The easiest way to overcome the difficulty is to learn about cultures. Learning about cultures takes place on two levels. One, learn specific cultural facts in the hosting country such as the local language, social customs, the political system and values etc. Two, understand difficulties are usually caused by differences between what one is used to and what the foreign culture prescribes. Once, you achieve this kind of understanding. Things may get a bit easier. But just a little bit.

LMS: Are there any helpful tips you can offer to maybe help international students live a better here in the U.S.?

YUAN: I’m looking for such tips myself. But there is one thing that may count as a helpful tip: reach out. Reach out for people and make active efforts to make friends. I think it’s particularly important for Chinese students who tend to be shy and passive in social interactions. Sometimes a positive attitude goes a long way.

LMS: Have you found others from your home country that you socialize with or have developed a close circle/community with?

YUAN: Yes, definitely. I have very close Chinese friends. It’s always easier to find friendship among people from the same culture. But I also have good American friends. It’s unfortunate not to make efforts to make friends in the hosting culture just because it is difficult to do so. Again, you need to try. Ask some American classmates to go to movies or join them for parties.

LMS: Do you think that there are communication barriers to overcome for international students living in the U.S.?

YUAN: Yes, definitely. You can say all the difficulties caused by cultural differences are problems in communication. Differences among people with different languages and customs make communication among them difficult. But I think the most effective solution to communication problems is communication itself. So go out to make friends and start communicating.

LMS: How can communication be improved between Americans and international students who may find it difficult to communicate while here?

YUAN: There are two things to do. One, make efforts to learn about other cultures. Understand and respect cultural differences. Two, reach out for people from the foreign culture. Make friends and talk to them.

LMS: Personally, I miss home a lot and I am going through the culture shock period. Could you give some suggestions that could help cope with being so far away from home for an international student like myself?

YUAN: Call home. Find some friends from your home country to share your shocks and grievances. Find some American friends to have some fun. Write a blog. But it won’t be easy to go away. All you can do is to face it.

For those of you experiencing similar transitions as an international student or simply a new immigrant to a foreign country, we hope that the advise Dr. Yuan provided us with can guide you in adapting to a new life in simpler ways.  In the end as Dr. Yuan suggests, we just have to face reality and adapt to a new culture with optimism.


One of Life Made Simple’s main goals is achieving well-being through simplicity.  What better way than to talk about how food may affect our well-being.  Evie Pesheva from LMS sat down with Elena Mitova, a  certified nutritionist, to discuss basic ideas about good and bad nutrition.  Take a look!

For more information on Elena Mitova check out her website:

In the technological world we live in today, its hard for one to imagine functioning without technology. I decided to investigate how some people who were not raised in the present media era lived simply back in the day and how perhaps they view technology today.

I had the opportunity of spending some face-to-face time with 80 year old Ferrell Daste who didn’t grow up with the technology we have nowadays. Ferrell discussed what it was like growing up as a kid in the 1930s-1940s and how life was much simpler when he was growing up.

Do you think life was simpler when you were young? Why or why not?

 Yes, because although we never had too much, we were closer together than people are now and we all grew up closer together.

What do you mean by that?

 We didn’t have television or other modern day things that took us away from one another. At that time, everyone would have a lot of kids so all of the neighborhoods had a lot of kids, ours had around 30. And although there was so many of us, you were able to intermingle more with everyone. I think a lot of technological things take away from that.

So what did you do for fun?

Well back then, movies were only 7 cents and our only form of entertainment. The only games we had, were the ones we put together ourselves. I remember there was only one basketball in the whole neighborhood and the only time we played football was in vacant lots [laughs]. We made due with whatever we had and enjoyed it so if you got something new it was like a Christmas present.

You talked about putting games together yourself, can you explain some of the games you made?

There was bat-the-can, it was like baseball…except with a can. We also played humpty head which was like what kids call hide-and-seek now. We would run through the neighborhood and hide under houses, and when you caught someone you would yell “Humpty Head!”

Do you use any technology now?

I use the computer, but only to send messages to family and for news.

What things do you think people could live without that you didn’t have growing up?


Really? Why is that?

Because I think that there are so many other ways to get around and people only use it for convenience and to get where they are going quicker.

If you had a choice, would you have been born with the new generations or when you were? Why?

I’d be born when I was, because it was simple. We didn’t even feel the need to go out of the neighborhood to meet people in our lives.

Anything to add?

Communication, that is the biggest change. Most people talk mostly through texting now, it’s so impersonal and it’s sad.

Now that you have filled up on all the delicious Thanksgiving food, are you ready to hit the shops and walk off/run off some of those calories as you shop? To help make your shopping experience more pleasant on Black Friday, Life Made Simple reached out to consumer expert, John Hildebrand. We asked John about helpful tips for making your shopping experience a lot simpler. Mr. Hildebrand teaches classes like Consumer Behavior and Marketing Strategy & Planning and other related courses at UIC. LMS proudly introduces John Hildebrand and his professional advice on making this Black Friday a more simple and pleasant shopping experience.

1) Mr. Hildebrand, can you tell the audience of Life Made Simple a little bit about the shopping experience of consumers on Black Friday?

Black Friday can be an adventure in shopping, or a commercial nightmare. Much of that is going to depend on the approach you take to it. This is not a shopping day – it’s a buying day. Crowds and limited quantities are going to make it virtually impossible, in many cases, to be leisurely. If you want to browse and shop, it’s better to wait a few days. If you know what you want and are ready to go in, find it, and buy it, then this is your day. The energy of the crowds and the thrill of the hunt may be exciting for some, for others it may prove more annoying and frustrating than anything else. Know who you are and what you want.

2) What media outlets should consumers look at for advertisement and shopping deals that are trustworthy and reliable?

It’s not so much the outlets as it is a matter of reading the ads–and the small print–carefully. Reputable advertisers can’t afford to have untrustworthy advertising so particular media won’t be as important for trustworthiness. Print ads will give you something to bring with you and reference to (model numbers, price, conditions, etc) if there are any questions–it will also help your team get exactly the right item (see below).

3) What are some things consumers should bring during Black Friday shopping to ease any stress and make their shopping experience more comfortable?

A list, a map, a team, and a plan. On Black Friday you must be strategic. In those stores where there is a big rush when the doors open, many items won’t last long. If you insist on shopping on Black Friday know exactly what it is you want. Make a list, then prioritize that list. Go to the store a day or two before and make sure you know where to find the top items on your list. Know the quickest route to get to each item.

On the big day, when possible, shop as a team–bring the whole family. Designate one person to get a cart and stay with it. If time matters, getting at the carts will be the biggest time waster. It’s also easier to move through the crowds without a bulky cart slowing you down. You can always bring the cart to your prize later if you’re buying big items.

Give everyone an item to go for first (make sure they know the right model number, color, size, etc–bringing a copy of the ad helps) and have a central meeting place where you will gather together to put things in your cart. Use your cell phones to coordinate–you have that family plan for a reason!

Get in the checkout line early. They get long fast. You can always send out ‘hunting’ parties for other things after you have the important items in the cart. If nothing else, you may have to get a second cart and check out a second time with the later items. But this way you have the option of getting out quickly with your most important purchases if you find the lines getting too long.

4) Do you think online shopping could make Black Friday shopping simpler?

Absolutely. No crowds, no stress.

5) Is there anything that consumers should pay extra attention to if they want to do online shopping on Black Friday?

Make sure you know who you are giving your credit card information to. Make sure you read terms and conditions. Watch for hidden charges (get the shipping rate–it may be less of a bargain after shipping). Make sure there is a return policy. Print out the online receipt.

6) Any suggestion for our readers who want to go shopping on the early morning of Black Friday to make their shopping experience simpler?

Plan ahead and know what you want.

So here you have it readers of Life Made Simple! If you are planning on taking part as shoppers this Black Friday, we hope that the tips from John Hildebrand were useful to you. From things to bring with you to planning ahead; we hope you can take these tips and have a pleasant and simpler day of shopping this Black Friday!

Thanksgiving is tomorrow which means there will be a whole lot of cooking and even more eating!  Whether you are a guest bringing a dish to some one’s home or cooking for your own, a seasonal dessert is a must! LMS searched the web for a simple seasonal dessert that had basic ingredients and easy to follow directions.  What did we look for? Some of the Thanksgiving classics; pumpkins and cranberries.  We entice  your taste buds this holiday with….

Cranberry Pumpkin Bread

Try this Taste of Home recipe

  • 3-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, thawed
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts


  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, pumpkin and oil; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in cranberries and walnuts.
  • Spoon into two greased 9-in. x 5-in. loaf pans. Bake at 350° for 70-80 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely. Yield: 2 loaves (16 slices each).

Baking with Fresh Pumpkin

Big pumpkins, small pumpkins, white pumpkins, Cinderella pumpkins: what’s best for baking?   All Recipes can tell you how…it really is simple!

The holiday’s tend to bring out the best in people. It is a time when people are in a giving mood and sometimes reflect more often on what’s important in their lives. In the upcoming weeks, we will showcase simple and delicious recipes as well as highlight some ways others give thanks like those at The Enterprising Kitchen. As we approach Thanksgiving, I would like to encourage you to not only use the day to give thanks, but use the days going forward to reach out to others and give. Give – a helping hand, an encouraging word, or something in need. Don’t allow only the holidays to care and share. Each day brings new opportunities to make a difference in someone’s life.

Since Life Made Simple has covered many simple – yet beautiful things in life, I began to think about life itself. How many times have you wondered “who am I?” and “why am I here”? Does it ever feel like your life is a huge circle? What is the meaning behind the repetitive things we do in our daily lives?

The Myth of Sisyphus is a very interesting story from Greek Mythology about king Sisyphus who gets punished by the Greek Gods for his trickery. King Sisyphus is then condemned to roll a huge rock up to a steep hill forever.  As the story goes, Sisyphus would come close to the top of the hill, but the rock would roll back down – he never gets the rock to the top.

Based on Sisyphus’ myth, I would like you to consider the following: If Sisyphus had known that he could never roll the huge rock up to the top of the hill, would he still have worked so hard to get it done? There is no right or wrong answer, however, do think about what the meaning is behind this repetition.

In China, there is an old folktale similar to the story of Sisyphus called The Little Shepherd. As the story goes, a traveler comes to a small village, sees a shepherd boy and he asks him, “What do you herd sheep for?” “In order to marry a young lady,” the boy answered. “Why do you want to marry?” The traveler asked again. “In order to have children,” the boy answered. “Why do you want to have children?” The traveler went on asking. The boy thought a while and answered, “for herding my sheep!”

Both of these stories show life as a cycle in which we are repeating what we did yesterday and our children will repeat what we are doing now. When people are born, they are born into a world where other people have already worked out ways to manage the problems they will likely encounter themselves. When children are young, they should learn and practice wisdom from the previous generations. Thus, human beings develop generation by generation with repeating traditions. Fortunately, this kind of repetition is not always the same for everyone. We all find our own little beauties and unique experiences along the way.

Sisyphus was condemned to a repetitive action his entire life.  His courage and braveness were so strong that he did not hate or hesitate but just faced his fate. The story of Sisyphus teaches that no matter how difficult a situation might seem, we are strong individuals and we shouldn’t give up.

The young shepherd boy most likely learned to be a shepherd from his own father. Since a shepherds’ life is all he knew, he wanted to pass on his knowledge to his own children, hence to have children the shepherd boy must first find a wife. He too accepts his fate and takes part in this repetitive life cycle.

Hopefully this story has shed some light on life as a cycle. We start as young, crying babies needing the care of our parents.  If fortunate with a long healthy life, we end in old age with our children then taking care of us.  It’s only one life cycle that we each  go through. We might as well enjoy it from the first bud to the very last shriveled leaf!

Leaves as Life’s Cycle…

— CC

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