Jewelle Bejjavarapu is a life coach and CEO of her business, Simply Jewelle Intercultural Life Coaching where she coaches globally-minded women who feel unsupported or isolated, feel confident and worthy in their relationships.

Jewelle’s passion for becoming a global citizen herself, led her to live abroad in Costa Rica. She’s also traveled to India, Iceland, Trinidad, Nicaragua, Europe, Mexico, Peru and will be living as a digital nomad with her husband for four months around Southeast Asia starting this December.

She draws upon her personal experience of being in many intercultural relationships and in intercultural marriage to her husband who is Indian. She knows what it takes to break the status quo. She coaches women to build a multicultural identity and bridge cultural gaps in their intercultural relationships and lives. Her goal is to empower women, to expand their identities, learn that there’s not one right way of thinking or being, and believe they are enough.

Jewelle holds her BA in Anthropology, Environmental Studies, and Spanish as well as her Masters of Science and Education in Bilingual Education. This multicultural high achiever is talking to us today about cultural differences we see in America, her life abroad and here and her entrepreneurial business.

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Alice: Hi everyone! I’m Alice, the social media manager for Jubilance and today I’m talking with Jewelle Bejjavarapu.

Jewelle is a life coach and CEO of her business, Simply Jewelle Intercultural Life Coaching where she coaches globally-minded women who feel unsupported or isolated, feel confident and worthy in their relationships.

Jewelle’s passion for becoming a global citizen herself, led her to live abroad in Costa Rica. She’s also traveled to India, Iceland, Trinidad, Nicaragua, Europe, Mexico, Peru and will be living as a digital nomad with her husband for four months around Southeast Asia starting this December.

She draws upon her personal experience of being in many intercultural relationships and in intercultural marriage to her husband who is Indian. She knows what it takes to break the status quo. She coaches women to build a multicultural identity and bridge cultural gaps in their intercultural relationships and lives. Her goal is to empower women, to expand their identities, learn that there’s not one right way of thinking or being, and believe they are enough.

Jewelle holds her BA in Anthropology, Environmental Studies, and Spanish as well as her Masters of Science and Education in Bilingual Education. This multicultural high achiever is talking to us today about cultural differences we see in America, her life abroad and here and her entrepreneurial business. So, welcome Jewelle, thank you so much for joining us!

Jewelle: Thank you so much for having me! This is so much fun! Can’t wait!

Alice: We’re so excited to have you on. We just want to start with some fun questions to get to know you a little bit more. Okay, chocolate or cheese?

Jewelle:
Chocolate, 100%.

Alice: Why?

Jewelle: I eat chocolate, one piece of chocolate after lunch every day

Alice: Wow.

Jewelle: Organic chocolate. I eat one piece, that’s my sweet for the day.

Alice: Wow, that’s great, I wish I had that self-control.

Jewelle: Yes, I actually learned it in part of a diet to help menstrual pain and PMS. And they were like, “Get a little sweet in! just not too much”

Alice:
Uh-huh.

Jewelle: I’m like, “Nice! I’m doing it!”

Alice: Wow, that’s amazing.

Jewelle: Yes.

Alice: Okay, TV or a movie?

Jewelle: Probably TV, yes, I love TV series, they’re fun, I watch “The Handmaid’s Tale” and I totally finished watching that.

Alice: It’s so good.

Jewelle: I could not stop.

Alice: Hair pulling but great.

Jewelle: Yes, terrifying, I was like– I had nightmares.

Alice: Yes.

Jewelle: Oh my gosh, it was scary, but it was so good. And so, like, “Oh boy, this says so much.” So, I love it.

Alice: Perfect. Okay, tampon or pad?

Jewelle: I actually use a DivaCup and Thinx underwear.

Alice: Oh, cool! How do you like the underwear?

Jewelle: I love it, I’m never going back. It’s comfortable, absorbing, I wouldn’t wear it just alone, personally? So, that’s why I use a DivaCup, but as far as having something extra there, it’s perfect.

Alice: Oh that’s good.

Jewelle: You don’t feel like you’re in a diaper, that’s what I hate about pads

Alice: Perfect. Thank you!

Jewelle: Yes.

Alice: So, you’re living in Florida now, where are you living there?

Jewelle: So, I’m in Tampa and we moved there for my husband’s job.

Alice: Oh great! What’s your favorite thing about Tampa?

Jewelle: The weather, 100%, it’s like hot, humid, sunny. You could not ask for more.

Alice: That’s awesome, are you at Disney Land all the time?

Jewelle: I’ve actually only been in Disney Land once, and that was when I was in 8th grade.

Alice: No! But you live right there!

Jewelle: I’m not a big rollercoaster rides person?

Alice: Okay.

Jewelle: So, you’d think, “Living in Florida you’re in Disney Land” or like, “Live in Florida you go to the beach all the time.” But it’s kind of like when you live in someplace; you don’t really go and do the sites?

Alice: Okay, that makes sense. Yes.

Jewelle: That was my dream and I was like, “Oh, we’re going to move to Florida! And we’ll get the beach every day!” it like, “hasn’t happened.” but it’s okay.

Alice: That works too; you get the wonderful weather, so that’s great.

Jewelle: Exactly.

Alice: Yes. Do you have a favorite restaurant there?

Jewelle: So, I love this place called Datz and it has really good burgers, really good fries, everything’s really good. And then, next to Datz there’s a shop called Dough, which they also own, and it has donuts, and they even have like a burger where it’s like “Donut, burger, donut!” Which is obviously my favorite?

Alice: That sounds awesome.

Jewelle: Yes! Like, what could be better? Donuts and burgers, done!

Alice: That’s really great!

Jewelle: The American dream! Right there!

Alice: Exactly!

Jewelle: Oh, boy.

Alice: Yes, so, I know you don’t have the typical changing seasons but do you guys have fall traditions that you do nonetheless?

Jewelle: I could go to Starbucks and drink pumpkin spice lattes that are iced? I don’t know if that counts as a fall tradition.

Alice: Yes, that’s great! I think that’s awesome.

Jewelle: Yes, they do have pumpkins and hayrides in Florida? But I grew up in New Hampshire so I don’t do that, sometimes here because it just doesn’t seem realistic. I’m kind of like, “This is fake.” Totally forget about it.

Alice:
Got you. And can you talk a little bit more about that? So, you said you grew up in New Hampshire and you kind of lived all over the world, so, what brought you to living in Florida and then also what is brought you to all of these places?

Jewelle: Yes! So, I mostly grew up in New Hampshire, kind of in New England in general, I was born in Boston and lived in multiple different houses. I think I moved 20 times in my life.

Alice: Wow!

Jewelle: So, it’s a lot. I lived in England for five months when I was in 8th grade and then I went to college in a small town near St. Louis, Missouri. So, I did that for four years and then after college, I moved to Costa Rica for two years and taught English and second grade in a bilingual private school there.

Alice: That sounds amazing.

Jewelle: Then New York City and now Florida. It’s like, “Have to get back to Florida somehow.”

Alice:
Wow, that’s amazing.

Jewelle: Yes!

Alice: And also, you were also in Nicaragua for some time as well, right?

Jewelle:
Yes, I was. So, I went abroad in college to Costa Rica and Nicaragua, first semester.

Alice: Okay.

Jewelle: This group called CELL, Center for Ecological Living and Learning. So, I was a sustainability environmental studies Major in college, so we went down there and studied sustainability and lived in host families the entire time, which was an amazing experience. I feel like I really learned– they taught me so much about myself, because when you’re living in another culture you have to really examine your own values and your own belief systems, and that really puts you out and doesn’t let you just feel, “Oh! This is what I believe” and done.

So, I guess I really questioned thoughts that I had, and why I was thinking that way, and really realized my own thinking is totally culturally subjective. And for example, the families I was living with didn’t have too many creature comforts, like in Nicaragua I stayed with a family for a week, and they didn’t have running water, we cooked in a solar oven. And so, they didn’t have these things that I was used to having, that I took for granted living in United States, but they were so much less stressed and so much happier than I was, I was like, “Why is this?”

Alice: Wow.

Jewelle: My 20-year-old-self was like, “How does this work? I thought having all these things meant you were happy, and then you wouldn’t stress!” and I realized it was because they weren’t thinking like, “Oh, we have to arrive at this place.” And they didn’t have– They felt like they didn’t have to arrive at this place and be like, “Okay! When I do this, I’ll be happier, when I do this, I’ll be successful.” They’re just totally living in the present. This family was really content, happy with the life that they had.

Alice: Wow. And can you talk about how this trip abroad kind of spurred what you’re doing now and how did you even get to intercultural life coaching, and what is it?

Jewelle: Yes! So, this whole trip abroad, really kind of opened my eyes to that people have a different life experiences and different perspectives and that’s okay, it’s good to have different perspectives, it really broadens you out, I think I learned more about myself in those three months during my time abroad than my entire life.

Alice: Wow.

Jewelle: Just because I questioned everything, I asked, “Why?” I saw people doing things differently and realized, “That’s okay, I can do it this way and they can do it that way, great!” and learned so much. And so, I think that realization and that love of immersing myself in a different culture, surrounding myself with people who think differently than I do, people who don’t have the same experiences, really opened my eyes to what life could be like.

And kind of seeing, “Okay, I don’t have to follow this traditional path of go to college! Get a career! Get married, have a house, stay in my job forever.” All that kind of like middle-class traditional things that you follow, and I realized, “I don’t have to do that if I don’t want to, I could do something else or I could do that!” and it really didn’t matter, but just seemed like there where options, that people lived differently.

And so, I think that really spurred my love for other cultures, and my love for other languages, and I went back, after college, I graduated and two-weeks later I packed all my backs, best friend in toe and she stayed six months but I ended up staying two years.

Alice: Amazing.

Jewelle: Teaching English and living abroad because you can’t teach what you don’t know, you can’t advocate what you don’t know about. So, that was really my– immersing myself, and so, I learned how to live in another place and it’s like, kind of proved it to myself.

Alice: Wow. That’s amazing.

Jewelle: Yes.

Alice: And what happened after that? I read on your bio that you came back and you were a teacher and what spurred you to leave that?

Jewelle: Yes, so, after teaching for like a year and not having any experience or a degree teaching, I thought, “Maybe I should get some experience, maybe I should get a degree, maybe I should figure how you actually really do this!” and so, I’ve been, like, faking it until I made it, which I totally loved, I loved it! So, I moved to New York City to go to Bank Street College of Graduate Education, which is one of the best bilingual programs in the nation and studied bilingual education there, so, my masters was half in Spanish and half in English.

Alice: Wow.

Jewelle: And I taught up in Harlem, I worked in the South Bronx, I worked at a private school and international private school on Wall Street, another private school in Brooklyn, so I worked kind of all over the city, and just got to experience that. And then after graduating from there, I moved to Miami with my husband, and just kind of burned out on teaching. And so, that’s when I realized that I wasn’t following my path of the intercultural love of globalization– love of like different cultures really, and it’s like, I almost feel like, “How can I help other people? And share what I’ve learned, what am I good at?” And I’m really good at immersing myself in different cultures and fitting in, might need to fit in, but all while retaining my own self-identity.

I realized that was something a lot of people struggle with and I could share, and I can help other people manage their thoughts, manage their minds without going through this really challenging experience of transitioning to a new culture, or changing a new career, or developing your identity or realizing their self-worth, so that’s kind of how life-coaching was born, and specifically intercultural life-coaching, just because I’m in an intercultural marriage, it’s really important to me, diversity and multiculturalism is important to me, so I coach other women who have similar values.

Alice: That’s really interesting, how does your coaching work? So, you said you do it over Zoom?

Jewelle: I do, yes! I coach over Zoom, so I coach anywhere in the world, coach anyone in the world, it’s so much fun, I love it. I spend an hour with my clients each week, and we tackle all the things, everything. So even though I’m an intercultural life coach, I coach on teaming and productivity and stress management and everything because, it all kind of comes together in the end.

Alice: Oh, that’s wonderful. And you just started this business, right?

Jewelle: I did! I started it in May, so I’m starting something new. Google has been my best friend, I Google everything, I’m like, “Google! How do I market? Google! How do I organize working events?”

Alice: I feel like we’re all doing that.

Jewelle: Exactly! Google and YouTube will tell you everything, all of it.

Alice: Yes. Can you talk about some of the differences that you’ve seen between our American culture and the culture you’ve seen while living abroad or maybe just between you and your clients of what different cultural practices look like?

Jewelle: Yes, so, I talk a lot about this in an analogy called “The Cultural Iceberg” so, visualize that there’s an iceberg or you’re like paddling along in the Artic, I’m just going to take you on a journey.

Alice: Okay.

Jewelle: Paddling along in the Artic and you see this iceberg you see the very tip, the majority of icebergs are underneath the water. So you can kind of think about it like culture, when we’re in another culture you see just the tips when you’re there, you see the festivals and you see the look, the different clothing, you see the different language, you see the different architecture, the mannerisms, the food.

So, those are all the things when we think about culture, we generally think those things first. So, really when we get down and we look, “Get out of the kayak!” you’re snorkeling on top of the water and you’re looking and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, there’s a huge iceberg!”

And that’s really what culture is; it’s all those things that we don’t see at the top, it’s like the food, the mannerisms, the clothing as a manifestation of the belief systems, values, the social norms, the sharing history, the way of thinking that are just so much more complex.

And so, even though I lived two years in Costa Rica and was very immersed into a culture, I actually dated someone there for those two years with a Costa Rican or a Tico as we say. I only was really snorkeling on top and diving down and holding my breath and glimpsing that culture and coming back. So, it just takes such a long time to really understand a culture and the complexities and the depth that needs to get to that full iceberg.

Alice: Do you ever think that you can immerse yourself fully in a culture that’s not your own? Or is your coaching about retaining your own cultural identity while being in a different culture, I don’t know, I’m so curious.

Jewelle: I think it takes a long time to really fully understand a culture. And I don’t think you’ll ever– so, my husband has, my husband’s Indian and he’s lived here for 10 years now? In May it’s 10. He’s lived here for 10 years and he has a really good understanding of American culture but I still explain things to him, I’m like, “Oh!” so this like TV analogy, going back to a “Handmaid’s Tale” because everything connects.

Alice: Yes, great!

Jewelle:
Well that’s what “The Handmaid’s Tale” talks about, puritan culture in the United States and how the traditional values in “The Handmaid’s Tales” totally envelops Puritan culture, which is such a big part of American history, and my husband did not get any of that in the show because he did not understand Puritanism. Just something that growing up in school you learn about or you still have the societal norms a little bit, here and there, showing up in our society, based on that history of Puritanism.

Alice: Uh huh

Jewelle: So, it’s those super subtle layers that like, yes! He’s been here for 10 years he’s married to me, like, I’m very American. But you still don’t quite get and the same kind of thing.

We’ve been married for now a year and a half, dated for four years, and been to India once for a month so far, we talk to his family every week, but in Indian culture, we eat Indian food every day, we celebrate all the holidays but, that tied with the little subtle things about Indian culture, more generalized things, yes. But the subtle things I’m still learning, it’ll take me a while to learn since I don’t live there.

But, yes, it takes a while but I definitely coach, I help women really help them see their own thinking? So, they can kind of see their own experience better, so, in a way, see what your brain is doing and what your brain is thinking, having a coach to help you see that, they understand, “Okay, so, where are my judgments? How am I experiencing this?” So, they can kind of see themselves in an observer’s perspective and decide whether they like it or not.

Alice: Wow, that’s so fascinating, yes, and to think about how you can be a part of both worlds, or, you’re almost creating your own new culture with your husband.

Jewelle: We totally are, we are like these– I think yesterday we were even talking about, it feels like, “We’re American-Indians” I was like, “Well, really? I’m American and you’re Indian” he was like, “Yes if you put them together, we’re American-Indian”

Alice: Yes!

Jewelle:
But it’s true! Like, we’re creating a whole, third culture that’s totally just us, and our family values, and how we decide to blend in, it’s not 50/50 at some things, we’re more Indian, and some things we’re more American, some things we’re neither.

Alice: Yes, that’s awesome. And I’m curious too, from all your traveling abroad and everything, a question that we ask on this podcast is, what does it mean for you, like what’s your definition of being a woman? And has that changed, for you specifically when you’ve been abroad and seen different cultures?

Jewelle: It’s so hard, I feel like I don’t have a definition of being a woman, definitely as a feminist I embrace equality and really try hard to, you know, fashion and beliefs and stereotypes and values of why I think that way? But as far as abroad I just feel like coming back from America, from even Costa Rica, coming back to India; I see how many opportunities we have as women in America. And how we still have a long way to go, for sure.

Alice: Yes.

Jewelle: But not to discredit how far we’ve come and just seeing that the “me too” movement, and not getting too political, but all these movements that are “black lives matter” these all are still right movements really have to be women’s rights and how women’s rights are everyone’s rights. And I think that has just been an eye-opening experience and just how much, like, I’ve started my own business!

I’m working for myself, like, opportunity we have much more opportunity here, and we keep getting more and more opportunity every day as we continue debunking different stereotypes and belief systems that are outdated, no longer needed, and I think women are doing that throughout the whole world, especially, today even right now– In India there’s so many civil rights and movements and women’s movements going on. In Latin America they’re– it’s just, women, I think, are really standing up in this generation, the millennial generation. I think part of that it’s because the world is getting smaller, internet, people are helping each other’s movements from all over the world and supporting each other, it’s not just in the United States, or India or Costa Rica, it’s everyone.

Alice: Yes, that’s amazing. And you’re making this world a smaller place too with your coaching.

Jewelle: Oh, yes.

Alice: Yes.

Jewelle: It’s fun.

Alice: Yes. So, if a woman were to walk up to you and ask you for one piece of advice and you just had like a minute to give them your best tip about whatever it may be, what would it be?

Jewelle: So, I would ask the question, in life-coaching we ask a lot of questions.

Alice: Great!

Jewelle: I’d ask the question that if you are already 100% worthy, from just being born, and you really believe that you’re already worthy, and you don’t have to do anything to make you more worthy, and you haven’t done anything in your life to make you unworthy, how does that change who you are?

So, for me, if I’m going to answer it, I thought a lot about this a couple months ago, and so, realized that my life purpose and how I wanted to live my life was really just to have fun, because if I’m already worthy there’s nothing I need to do, there’s nothing that can take my worthiness away? Then everything else is just icing on the cake, it’s all just for fun and when you can let everything just be for fun, then you have so much more power, you have so much more passion, because in the end, it doesn’t really matter, you’re able to go out on a limb and fail and experience and try again because they’re not making it mean anything about your worth. So, I think that’s a big one for women, worthiness.

Alice: That’s wonderful, and something that I definitely need to remember too.

Jewelle: Yes.

Alice: I don’t know the answer to that question right now, Jewelle, but I’m going to be thinking about that tonight.

Jewelle: Think about it! You think about it and it like kind of bends your mind and you’re like– and your brain wants to be like, “I don’t know, I don’t know.”

Alice: Yes, or like, “I’m not worthy, what are you talking about?”

Jewelle: Exactly!

Alice: Like, that’s totally myself.

Jewelle: But don’t! Like, push your brain when it says, “I don’t know.” And be like, “Well, what if I did know, what if I am already worthy?” like, maybe think new thoughts.

Alice: Yes. That’s awesome, yes, and I like your idea to just have fun with life and what you can uncover and do, which seems pretty amazing with how you’ve moved on to this new career and made yourself an entrepreneur.

Jewelle: Yes, with teaching, I was definitely thinking like, “I have to prove myself, I have to prove that my space in the world, that my body taking this space is doing something good and helping other people, and I need to prove myself, basically, to the world and prove that I’m doing good.” But like, why? Why do I have to do that?

Alice: Yes.

Jewelle: I want to get out! And it just changes my whole mentality, if I’m feeling anxious or worried, it’s because I’m not having fun, it’s because I’m thinking “I need to be proving myself, I need to be doing something to make myself worthy.”

Alice: And it sounds like you have the best possible career now too because you’re doing everything that you’re interested in, everything that you– you are teaching in a way, you’re teaching me right now.

Jewelle: Good.

Alice: But then also, getting to, you said you’re traveling abroad to Southeast Asia for three months?

Jewelle: Oh, my gosh–

Alice: –you’ve been everywhere! Oh, my gosh, can you talk about that?

Jewelle: Yes! So, from when we first met, my husband and I were like, “We want to be digital nomads in Thailand.”

Alice: That’s amazing.

Jewelle: And I was like, “No.” I was like, “I’m a teacher, I have a steady job, steady income, during the school year, we can go in the summer” Obviously I’m not a teacher anymore. That’s not my lifestyle; it’s not what I’m doing. And so, when that kind of transition happened, it kind of opened so many possibilities for us, and a really cool one is like we– and we decided we were going to do that, and so, we’re traveling to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Bali, Singapore, and India for four months and just hopping around, working when we need to work on our hour work hours since there’s a time difference and exploring and I’m having the travel of a lifetime.

Alice: Wow, that’s incredible, I was just in Vietnam and Cambodia this summer, and it was amazing I– you’re going to have the best time.

Jewelle: I can’t wait!

Alice: It’s so good, like, all I ever want to eat is Vietnamese food now, like always.

Jewelle: That’s so exciting because I’m a little worr– I don’t really love Asian food but I’m really excited because I feel like I’ve just had not the right thing.

Alice: Oh my gosh, it’s so good and Vietnamese food is so healthy and fresh and delic– oh, my God, you should take a cooking class while you’re there.

Jewelle: Really? Great.

Alice: They have great cooking classes and you can kind of like, learn how everything comes together.

Jewelle: Yes, I totally will, I’ll even suggest that to my husband because he’s the cook in the family?

Alice: Oh, okay.

Jewelle: It’s like, “You should go take a Vietnamese cooking class and cook for me.”

Alice: No, I’m not a cook either really, I want my boyfriend to cook, he’s like such a better cook, but it was really fun, just to kind of see how all the spices and things that you’re tasting come together in that culture.

Jewelle: Okay, I’m going to totally do that, thank you so much for that advice and I feel like offline I’ll have to be like, “Tell me the itinerary! What! places did you go?”

Alice: Yes, to end a little bit, do you have a book that you would suggest to read on a plane?

Jewelle: It was really fun, I loved it, it was a good read, like a culture book to read? Is– I’m just looking at it, The Culture Map by Erin Meyer? Super good, totally stunned me on even little things that my husband and I were doing that we had no idea that was cultural related but it was, so, definitely recommend it.

Alice: I’ll have to check it out, very cool. Jewelle, is there anything else you want to add?

Jewelle: No, I think we covered everything.

Alice: Awesome!

Jewelle: Thank you so much for having me, this is so much fun.

Alice: No, thank so much for being on! And so, everyone, you can see what Jewelle is up to on her website, www.simplyjewelle.com and it’s J-E-W-E-L-L-E or you can check out her Instagram @SimplyJewelleCoaching to see what she’s up to.

Jewelle: Yes.

Alice: Yes.

Jewelle: Go check it out, it’s fun, I post a lot! You’ll get a lot of good tidbits.

Alice: Perfect. Thank you so much for being on!

Jewelle: Thank you, Alice, I appreciate it, have a great day.