Many people come back from their adventures abroad and think “Now what?”
They have told brief snippets of their tales to all of their family and friends and they have shown as many pictures as people can take. However, they have so much more left in them they want to share about their time abroad. Additionally, they are still processing some of the things they were able to see and do and relating that to what life is like, or was like, for them in the U.S. and they need an outlet for all of this cultural energy.
From my own personal experience I know how frustrating it can be to want to talk to someone about what you have experienced or an “Ah ha” moment you just had but have no one that can relate and to not have an outlet to share it. Luckily, for most world travelers in this day and age, we have social media and new organizations and groups to help us connect with people and share our adventures, moments, frustrations, and more. This blog will discuss ways returning world travelers can stay connected and continue to process all they have seen and done.
One of the easiest means of sharing, reflecting, and making connections is through blogging. Today, all it takes is a few clicks and you can have you own blog in less than five minutes. Depending on your computer skills you can even stylize it to fit your creative side. I really enjoy blogging because I am able to express myself without worrying too much about being judged, if I am writing according to MLA style, or if I have covered the topic thoroughly enough. Blogs are a freedom of expression. With that being said, you still need to remember they are being published for the world to see, so you need to at least spell check and look over the grammar before you publish and you do need to think about what you write because you don’t necessarily want to offend anyone. Sometimes you may want to push the envelope on a topic a little but not so much that you are going to offend. Remember there is still a line between freedom of speech and being out rightly rude.
Blogs are also fun because they are a great way to start a conversation. You may write a blog that for you is simply a way for you to express what you are processing as a part of returning home but, triggers others to realize the importance of thinking another way and starts an important conversation. This then serves a second purpose of connecting you with other likeminded people. Some of the closest connections I have were built from starting a conversation via a blog or other social media channel.
Blogging is a commitment. If you are going to start a blog you do need to commit to generating a blog on a regular basis. For you, this may be a new blog every day or one every week. For some of us, the idea of writing a blog length piece on a new topic every week or day seems extremely overwhelming. Well, have no fear guest blogging and publishing is here. Now there are great opportunities for return study abroad students to write guest posts for a variety of different outlets including magazines, newspapers, blogs and more. Sometimes these are online pieces and sometimes these may actually end up in their print versions. Life After Study Abroad is one of these great places that allows students to talk about what life has been like for them when they return home. Topics are almost limitless, especially for something like Life After Study Abroad. It can be anything from tips, to reverse culture shock, to how to talk about study abroad in a job interview. If you have a story, they want to hear it.
I should also point out that one does not need to be an English major, a Journalism major, or received an A in English class to write a blog or write for one of these magazines or blogs. You simply need to have a story to tell and a passion for what you are talking about. You do need to be able to write well but they have editors that can help you sound awesome!
Blogs are not the only way you can share you story and stay connected. You can also use some of the same social media networks you used to stay connected while you were abroad. Many students and their organizations/institutions they went through create alumni groups through Facebook, LinkedIn, or other sites that allow you to continue to share photos and to share fun memories as they pop into your head. For example, in the middle of the next semester when Jane remembers, “You remember when John tried to ask for bread at the store but asked for a screwdriver instead?” Everyone can reminisce and talk about other language faux pas they had and ones they have had at home in their classes.
Other less known social media avenues students can leave their mark is through reviewing their program for future students. This allows them to, hopefully honestly, let future students know about what they will experience as well as share a little bit about what they were able to do. There are numerous review websites out there from GoAbroad to StudyAbroad101.
While not social media, it is also important to remember you can and should volunteer to work events or in your study abroad or international education office when you return to campus. This is important for several reasons. No, it is not because we are trying to get free labor out of you! It is important for you because all of the people that generally work in these offices have been where you have been. They have been on a study abroad program and know what it is like to transition home and can be a friendly ear to talk to. Additionally, these offices always have events going on and they are always looking for students to talk to fellow students about what they will experience abroad. This is the perfect avenue for return study abroad students since they never have enough opportunities to share their stories. So go look them up and volunteer. It is not indentured servitude but paying it forward as well as helping you process and reflect.
In reality, there are limitless possibilities to be able to talk about your study abroad experience because, as you can see, you can make a career out of it and talk about it almost every day of your life. However, if that isn’t quite what you are going for there are a number of ways to express small as well as large impacts of your time abroad in ways that you cannot even imagine the impact of. I encourage you to not put your study abroad experience in a bubble but look for opportunities to continue to share it with others whether it is in a continuous fashion or in a guest post manner.
Mandy Reinig is the director of international education at St. Mary’s College in Maryland. She is also the owner and founder of Mandy’s Mashups. Her experience includes presenting at the state, regional, national, and international level on a variety of social media and international education topics.