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Laura Marenco

5 Ideas For Being Productive at Home During the Coronavirus

DISCLAIMER: Besides the links pertaining to our own products and services, Golden Beacon USA does not endorse nor is it affiliated with the companies and/or their products or services whose links are included in this post. In addition, we cannot control or guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in these links. Golden Beacon USA does not earn commissions from any of these companies.

Going crazy during your self-quarantine? You’re not alone. There’s a whole world out there grappling with day-to-day life coming to a sudden halt. But in addition to sleeping and bingeing on Netflix, here are some ideas for passing the time and most importantly, feeling very satisfied with your productive self:

Take an online class and learn something new — or refresh the skills you already have.

Online learning has revolutionized the way in which people acquire knowledge and skills in both their personal and professional lives. Many sites, such as Skillshare and Udemy, have popped up in response to those seeking opportunities for learning on their own schedules. Below I’ve rounded up the top places for online classes and their price range:

  • Skillshare: Explore videos on a variety of subjects, from the creative – illustration, web development – to business – entrepreneurship, marketing – to lifestyle topics, including languages and health and wellness.

Pricing: Free membership to watch any of the free classes or upgrade to a premium membership for to access all of the classes on the site.

  • Udemy: Currently offering more than 150 courses, you can connect with expert instructors from around the world to improve or learn new skills. Topics range from business and IT to design and personal development such as learning how to read tarot cards or becoming a life coach.

Pricing: A little pricey but depends on the individual video. Pricing ranges from $50 – $200 per video.

  • Coursera: This website focuses on providing professional training and development courses from leading universities and companies. You can even earn a certificate or bachelor’s or master’s degree. Learn anything from English to Business Foundations to Anatomy to Self-Driving Cars. Enroll in a specialization to master a certain career skill.

Pricing: You can join for free. Price varies according to the track you choose – course, specialization, professional certificate, Mastertrack certificate (fundamentals of a Master’s degree), or degree. Auditing a course for free is available in some instances or you can apply for financial aid or scholarships to help you pay for your courses.

  • LinkedIn Learning: Have a profile on LinkedIn, the networking site for professionals? The company has launched LinkedIn Learning, an online educational platform with more than 5,000 courses taught by expert instructors. Subject fields include business, technology, and the creative. When you complete a course, you can add your accomplishment to your LinkedIn profile and attract job opportunities.

Pricing: You can choose from a monthly or annual plan. Monthly is $29.99/month while the annual plan offers a slight discount at $19.99/month.

Work on your ESL skills.

Learning English is one of the key skills to survival in America. Taking the time to practice it can only make perfect! Since most on-site ESL classes are cancelled right now, take advantage of these virtual opportunities:

· Have a friend who is a native English speaker or has perfect English? Ask him or her if you can practice your skills through video chat.

· Golden Beacon USA offers customized ESL tutoring through Zoom and Skype! We start with an evaluation and then create a specialized learning plan for you to improve your reading, writing, and speaking skills. Contact us today for more details!

· Access free ESL handouts and worksheets online to test your knowledge. YouTube is also a great resource for videos on learning the English language. These two sites provide an exhaustive list of practice activities for both kids and adults at all levels of their ESL journey.

· Go old school and make flashcards to practice your English vocabulary. Label items around the house and test your knowledge!

Learn more about your community to make it feel like home.

Even if you are not new to the area, it never hurts to find out more about the culture, resources, and activities available to you. In addition, you will be better equipped to find what you need during this very difficult time.

Check out our orientation e-learning videos on American culture and the metro Washington, D.C. area. Each video comes with a script translated into Spanish and Chinese and you can test your knowledge at the end with a fun quiz.

You can also visit the website of your county, city, or state to learn about:

o The school system and its enrollment requirements

o Departments and agencies, such as health or family services

o Arts and entertainment

o Taxes and how to pay them

o Libraries

o Public transportation options…and more

Legitimate county, city, and state website addresses end in ‘.gov’ because they are run by the local government (of the county or city) or the government of the state.

TripAdvisor is another great resource to learn more about the United States. Though travel is not advised at the moment, you can still use this site to find short historical and cultural summaries of popular places in the country. You can explore attractions from the comfort of your own home!

Make or adjust your household budget.

It may have shocked you to learn how high the cost of living can be in the United States when you moved here. Creating a household budget and sticking to it, especially now, is important for easing your financial anxiety.

Check out the 7 best budgeting apps for 2020 as ranked by NerdWallet.com. Most of them are free.

If you’re weary of linking your accounts to an app or don’t wish to budget online, there are free budget calculators out there such as this one and this one. If none of those are to your liking, a good ol’ Microsoft Excel spreadsheet can also help you to plan out your finances.

Dust off your resume and edit it.

In the midst of this economic crisis, you may not think it is important to update your resume since no one seems to be hiring right now. However, if you have been laid off or facing reduced hours at work, having a resume prepared will get you one step ahead in finding a temporary job or an online job should you want one.

Have a skill that can be done over the computer? Find freelance work through sites such as Fiverr and LinkUpFlexJobs is another option, but requires a membership to access the full job listings in their database. Pricing starts at $14.95/month and you can cancel anytime. Right now, they are running a 50% off deal on membership prices through April 30th. And remember, searching for jobs on LinkedIn and using your social networks are great places to find work as well.

When you find a position you’d like to apply for, tailor your resume to the individual job. One size does not fit all. Read over the qualifications and duties expected of the job candidate. This will help you to identify keywords. Then, match those keywords to your skills and knowledge as you write your resume. For freelance work, you may have to write a proposal, or a document that outlines what you understand to be the problem the employer faces and how you plan to solve it. For more information, this site provides a good explanation.

If you need help with writing your resume, cover letters, or proposal, we offer career coaching sessions over the phone or video chatClick here for more details.

We hope these suggestions help you pass the time while life is at a standstill. Thank you for protecting your community by staying home and above all, stay safe!

In Today’s America, It’s OK to Hate

What Has Happened to America?

Since the 2016 election, America has been under an eternal cloud of darkness. Every day is yet another story about hate, racism, unfair advantages, denial of the rights of the most vulnerable –  it’s enough to make life seem hopeless and depressing. I am grateful that my three-year-old daughter and newborn son are too young to understand what is happening and I’m relieved that I don’t have to explain it to them.

In ten years, however, when this time period comes up in their history classes, there will be a need for explanation. How will this taxing moment in time be characterized in textbooks? As a time when all of America’s hateful underbelly came to the surface? When vulnerable people seeking a better life were no longer seen as people but as terrorists? When our democratic processes were threatened? Or will they gloss over all of it and paint the Trump administration’s policies as necessary and warranted to combat the supposed war on America being forged by non-whites? Regardless of the description, history will certainly teach my children one thing: that this was a time when displaying hate became socially acceptable again.

Though hate has existed since the beginning of time, today’s climate harkens back to the same forms of discrimination faced by African Americans in the 1950s and 1960s. The fear of ‘the other’ that led to the creation of separate but equal facilities. The disgusting use of racial slurs. Although we no longer have separate but equal facilities, this principle still exists in the hearts and minds of so many. If you’re a white refugee/asylee/immigrant, the American Dream is yours. If you’re not white and you come to the United States seeking protection, refuge, and a better life, you have many more hurdles to overcome to achieve that same dream. Specifically, others’ fear of encroachment on their country, which fueled the ban of immigrants from Muslim countries and separated children from their parents at our country’s southern border in 2018. These inhumane policies are supported by the population who had enough clout to vote Trump into office. And they continue to be OK with their president relaying their hate this way.

In 2015 when I created Golden Beacon USA, an organization aimed at helping immigrants assimilate into the United States, the country appeared to be on a more positive path. Immigration was treated as a humanitarian effort helping those most in need. Immigrants enjoyed more opportunities to stay in our country with policies such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Central American immigrants did not have to worry about losing their temporary protected status and being deported back to their home countries. The American Dream was more within reach.

Now, with the election of Donald Trump, our country and culture has experienced a complete turnaround: people are now free to be blatantly hateful and proud of that behavior, as if the uncool kids at school have overthrown the popular kids and climbed to the top of the social ladder. Branding yourself as a white supremacist is no longer frowned upon. The leader of the free world espouses hate without suffering any consequences, so why can’t the average Joe or Josie do the same?

Hate Begets Hate

All of this hate has spurred even more hatred. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 2018 was the peak year for the number of hate groups in the United States. Extremism propelled the seven percent increase in hate groups between 2017 and 2018.1 This is not surprising as we are surrounded by stories of hate every day.

But how does the rest of the world, and more importantly, the people who want to immigrate here, see us? Are we known as the United Hate of America? My thoughts about our reputation were confirmed when a foreign vendor told me their company was very interested in helping me with Golden Beacon USA because she knows “what a hot topic immigration is right now in your country.” Upon hearing this, my heart sank and I felt embarrassed, not of something I had done, but of what our country has become.

America used to be a beacon of light guiding people to a better life. Now our immigration system and America in general has become a trainwreck that the world cannot stop gawking at. Through the actions of our president, who is supposed to represent the American people, the world now understands that in America, diversity is a value of the past and anyone attempting to attain the American Dream will be persecuted. Unlike the poem associated with the Statue of Liberty, America doesn’t want ‘your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free’ – we have enough of those here whom we are currently trying to push out.

All is not lost. A glimmer of hope came to me as I was researching organizations that serve the immigrant and refugee populations. The anti-immigrant policies of the Trump administration seemed to have the opposite effect on the American population by rallying people to form organizations and campaigns, such as ‘Hate Has No Home Here’ to help immigrants and refugees in this difficult time. This exploding call to action shows the world that we have different ideas of what our country stands for. Hate is not one of them.

1 “Hate group count hits 20-year high amid rise in white supremacy.” 20 Feb. 2019. Accessed on 13 March 2019. USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/02/20/hate-groups-white-power-supremacists-southern-poverty-law-center/2918416002/

Our Community Resources Workshop with Catholic Charities!

I was honored to team up recently with Catholic Charities Hogar Immigrant Services and Migration & Refugee Services to welcome newcomers to the U.S. and Prince William County, VA. Our first lesson focused on transportation options and major roads and highways so they can easily navigate around their new county. Such a great experience! Thank you, Catholic Charities!