The 21st-century is truly a great time to communicate globally. The ways we have to keep touch with each other are staggering, so much so that we’ve been forced to come up with arbitrary limitations (140 characters?) when it comes to communicating with people on the other side of the world. The very idea of communicating instantly with hundred or thousands of people around the globe on a daily basis would have left our grandparents, and probably parents, completely blown away.
There are great reasons to use Twitter and similar services like WeChat- namely the fact that they are instantaneous. Facebook is also immediate, and Instagram can provide a rich visual texture to the story of your travel. But in my opinion, the best thing you can do to allow people to really follow your amazing adventure in America is to set up a good, solid, old-fashioned blog.
It encourages elaboration
Unlike Twitter, with its self-imposed restrictions (which aren’t necessarily bad, artistically), a blog post can be as long or as short as you would like. It allows you to fully express your thoughts, moods, and experiences, to expound upon them, and to take your time in developing a full and entertaining narrative for your friends and family. In doing this, you can sift through your thoughts and feelings rather than having to come up with an instantaneous quip.
Take this, for example: say you go to the Niagara Falls, in upstate New York. There, you are confronted with the amazing power of the Great Lakes tumbling toward the ocean, water that started in Lake Superior roaring over a huge cliff. There are things you can say about this in 140 characters, but having a blog allows you to meditate more for your readers about the power of nature, the time it took to carve such a natural monument, hydroelectricity, and best of all create a full illustration of what you’re experiencing. The only limits are self-imposed.
It gives your classmates friends and family a way to know you better
For students who are shy, this can be a great way to express yourself in a manner that your American classmates (and friends at home) can use to understand and get to know you better. It isn’t always easy to say that you are lonely or scared when talking to someone face-to-face because it is human nature to fear judgment and misunderstanding. But expressing your feelings in a blog post may help you to work out your own feelings, and in turn help your classmates and friends at home understand you better.
It isn’t all gloom, of course. Maybe you’re too shy to ask someone about, say, baseball, but you blog about how you’re curious about this sport. Perhaps someone reads it and invites you to watch a game, attempting to explain the delightfully complicated rules. It is sometimes easier to write than to talk, and you’d be surprised at how many doors this can open.
It encourages others to follow in your footsteps
Studying abroad can be scary, but many more students, especially students from China, are studying in the United States. Your blog can be a source of inspiration to those who are still wondering if they’d like to study abroad. Perhaps they see that post on Niagara Falls and decide that would like to come to the U.S., eager to see other sights here; or maybe they see that you’ve become a baseball fan and want to know more, too; or, suppose they see that you are learning an incredible amount and having a good time, and want to have the same experience.
Blogs can be valuable for documentation of experiences, explorations of feelings, and sources of inspiration. Take a look at other blogs by international students. It helps to know that blogging can create online communities. In reading your blog, future international students may realize that they aren’t alone and can overcome their fears.
Your personal record
Finally, a blog provides you with something to look back on, whether right at the end of your journey, or years later. Yes, you could keep a diary or journal, but those are so easy to neglect and they can be misplaced or damaged The benefit of a blog is that others are reading it, and having an audience encourages us to write. The important thing is to write down what you are feeling, thinking, seeing, and experiencing. Also, since a blog is digital, it can be easily shared, can’t be lost, and can include text as well as photos and videos, which means you’ll have a much more entertaining and complete account of your experiences.
You are embarking on an incredible adventure. Years from now, when looking back, you’ll be happy to have a record that is more than a picture album. Having a blog allows you to record what you are thinking, seeing, and doing on a particular day, at one specific moment, and it is something you can share with the world. Letting people know about your journey allows you to bring the world with you. To get you started, here are some popular free blogging platforms.
The international student experience is both challenging and exciting. Whether you are a student considering studying in America, their parent, the host family, the Head of School, an international coordinator, or even a potential classmate, there are as many opportunities for confusion as there are to learn. The ISPA is here to help bridge that gap, to ensure that this opportunity and adventure is met with the highest level of success.