One piece of advice that floats out there for all new bloggers is to “focus your blog.” This way people who are interested in a particular topic can find each other, create community, and flourish. Or if you are blogging for income you can market yourself easier to generate hits, ad revenue, and income. Either way, it is all about focusing.
However, when you’re studying abroad it is difficult to focus because your experience is not just about the trip. The trip itself is, of course a huge portion of your experience. I am fortunate enough to be able to take weekend excursions while I’m here which broaden my exposure to my host country of South Africa. I get to experience new food, climate, and animals while I’m here. We have also gone on cultural tours of the city since we’ve been here. These help to provide us with a deeper understanding of the place we are living by giving us a richer context to place current events.
Another aspect to my study abroad is my internship. I’m working with students and faculty on their academic writing. My work with students focuses on specific writing assignments that they are currently working on. While the work done with faculty is focused on administering those writing assignments. So, everyday I’m learning about a distinct academic culture, which is different from the one I grew up in. These differences range from the student/teacher dynamic, the types of writing assignments students are given, or the base knowledge about academic writing that the majority of students lack. All of these are topics (plus more) are topics that I’m reflecting on and trying to understand from the perspective of someone who has been airdropped into this country.
Equally important to these other areas of discovery is the experience of traveling in and living with a group of students again. Group travel is just its own special animal that will make you examine all of your quirks. I was surprised how much the group travel aspect of my trip last year impacted me. Something became glaringly obvious to me and that was you have so little control over events when you’re traveling, which becomes compounded when its group travel. I am once again living with people that I didn’t know prior to the beginning of this semester. We’re learning how to live and travel with each other while overcoming cultural barriers between international students.
Finally, study abroad students face the stress of life continuing back home and needing our attention. Seniors are trying to find and apply for jobs. Continuing students are struggling with slow and intermittent internet to file their FASFA and scholarship applications. We are all dealing with being out of touch with people we could reach at a moments notice back at home. Time differences and lack of technology can really make you feel the miles. We have all left behind family, friends, and pets to have the experience of studying abroad; each one of these impacts us when we are home and now we struggle in their absence becoming and changing through the process.
So be patient if you are following this or any other study abroad blog. I am trying to share the whole spectrum of my experience, not just the trip.