I am starting this series because many people have asked me - "How do you know if students are actually using these various forms of social media?" I figured rather than me tell you about it I would get the story straight from the users themselves.
So I will be asking several current and former study abroad students who I know have used some form of social media while abroad how social media affected their time abroad as well as how they used social media while abroad.
Here is what one student has to say:
This spring semester, I’ve been studying abroad in southern Spain to improve my Spanish and to live in and understand another culture. Before coming here, I had a blog that I used for my experience in technical theater at my college and beyond, since that is my chosen career track; and I decided to upkeep the blog while abroad despite the fact that I knew I wouldn’t have a lot to do with theater here.
Working on my blog while abroad has been a great experience. I know my family, even my grandma, can keep up with my traveling and enjoy my pictures. It’s better than a personal journal because while I write small things in that journal, on my blog I write about the big things and details about traveling. It’s a perfect record that I can look back on later, and since it’s in the public domain I know the things I included were things I felt were worth reading and sharing.
Facebook and Skype have also been a big part of my time here. I don’t know how I would have made it without being able to talk to my boyfriend, friends, and family at home. Studying abroad is a roller coaster every day, and when you have strong relationships you want to share every little new experience with someone you love. With Facebook, I can post fun facts about Spain that no one really knows to my friends’ walls; I can watch videos of the theater events and other fun things that happen at school; I can get the personal news from home; and I’ve kept in touch with people that I would have regretted losing.
I was worried at first that spending too much time online, even if it was to update my blog, would cut into my experience here. My parents didn’t even want me to bring my computer, but I knew I’d need it for schoolwork and brought it along. And the truth is I do spend some time online almost every day…but it’s all a balancing act. I don’t think I will look back on my time here and have regrets, because I took every opportunity to go hiking, to take pictures in the city, to go on excursions even when no other Americans were there, and to try new things. In fact, keeping up with social media has really made my experience here even better because I can share these adventures with the people I’m close to and allow them to enjoy Spain with me.
Keelia Liptak is a junior theater major at Saint Michael's College. She has worked extensively in the central Vermont area in various theaters. She is currently studying abroad with Academic Programs International in Granada, Spain. This summer Keelia will be working as an electrics intern at the Gateway Playhouse in Bellport, NY, on Long Island. For more information, please visit http://backstageatsmc.blogspot.com/