In this week's post, Maisie shares several tips on how to start a blog and document your experiences through words, photos, and music.
You will notice that I have only posted two blog posts thus far, but you will also notice that my posts are what my gran would call “spectacular.” If you want to know a thing or two about how your blog can be equally spectacular, give this little post a read!
Here's what it looks like to arrange and design your own blog
to chronicle your study abroad experiences.
First of all, you are going to want to choose a topic or theme that you feel comfortable writing about—you want to write A LOT, pupils. For school-sponsored or study abroad blogs with a student or parent audience, such as the one I am writing for you now, many of my blog posts will be about the study abroad experience as it relates directly to my location and my interests. I find it important for the topic to stray from vagueness, as posts with a narrower subject are inherently more eye-catching and, frankly, worthwhile. To illustrate, I would rather read a blog post titled “The 80’s Japanese Synth-pop You Need for a Shimmery Summer” than one called “Summer: An Essential Playlist”. Essential is such an overused adjective in the music journalism industry, and I do not shy away from a summer that shimmers.
This isn’t something you necessarily have to decide, but at the very least acknowledge how the story you are telling will be told. Will the story revolve around or depend on a selection of photos/images? Will you write chronologically? Are you documenting an interview, or will your blog post be driven by quotes? In my experience writing, it’s helpful to have some sort of layout in mind that keeps me on track.
The important bit—the phrase I’ve heard a lot for no particular reason in the past week is “the meat of the sandwich”—is the idea that a blog is more or less read like a diary. In other words, each experience should read as individual to you as possible. There are plenty of blogs out there about x, y, and z, but it is your voice and inherently unique perspective and provision of details that set your blog apart from the rest. For the most part, I start of with a brain dump of ideas and cold hard facts, but then I always go back through to ensure I am responsible for the meatiest sandwich in my area. You might even want to add a slice of gouda cheese (absolutely not smoked, in my opinion, not a fan of it), a lil squirt of mustard, some pickles (I hate the sandwich analogy more than you do): in my blog, I add mp3 files and videos to spice it up. I also know for a fact that with my accounted for college radio disc jockey resume, the accompaniment of music personalizes what I have to say, and it’s a fun way to link my everyday life to art that I love. You can do something similar and you also cannot if you so choose.
Bringing this picture back to show what would be good to include in a travel/study abroad blog.
Photos are an absolute MUST. A block of one thousand words is a more appealing feat when there are visual aids as you are catering to a (probably) student audience, craving a much-needed break from the usual pictureless text of the textbook. The composition is entirely up to you, and you’ll find that you probably have a style you like to gravitate toward. This is good (unlike the constant use of “this” at the beginning of sentences, but sue me)! You also want to deliberately choose images that complement the writing. Similar to many pre-departure posts from CAPA students, I included a packing list and a photo showing some of the things I brought with me. I am showing this photo again because it is an exemplar of a photo that directly relates to the writing at hand—quite literally the items in the photos are the items listed in my post. Wild.
An example of a more abstract and complementary image for a travel blog.
Another style of photo that is fun to include, especially in an abroad-centric blog like this one, is more abstract. Yes, the photo still relates to the writing in the post as it should, but in a more ideological way rather than a literal way. What you may be looking at may not be an aspect of the writing, and that is okay (I think)! This picture of shoes, on the one hand, may seem irrelevant as I have not brought up the topic of shoes until this very moment in time.
Conceptually, however, I could use the photo as a pleasing visual disruption of text that does loosely relate as studying abroad is very much tied to the idea of walking/traveling. Photos such as these do not really seem out of place, because of the contextual meaning and alluded ideas that the majority of people might associate with the objects acting as subjects in the composition.
My diary-style blog that I am keeping while abroad.
The biggest key idea for me when writing an awesome blog is to make sure to not to leave yourself out of it—blogs need unique voices, which are naturally brought out by being yourself! Another thing to keep in mind, as we want as many details as possible, is to write the blog as if you are writing an informative essay in the second grade. Mundane details may seem ridiculous to include, but your reader may not know everything and explanation/detail is always appreciated. Rock the blog world, please.
Maisie's journey continues every Tuesday so stay tuned.