Cole Taylor is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2016, sharing their story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A journalism and media writing major at Lasell College, they are studying abroad in Dublin this semester.
In this post, Cole tackles the popular topic of using social media while abroad.
- - -
It is in our blood; it is our generation. Social media is what we are accustomed to. It is how we communicate and often times, it is how we express ourselves. Being said, I like to think I am old fashioned. I prefer face-to-face communication, but I am well aware that connecting with people through various social platforms is essentially the norm. I have also realized that being in another country does not leave much room for face-to-face interaction with loved ones.
Up until the early 2000’s, social media did not even exist. Students who studied abroad wrote letters and made international calls. They sent emails and sometimes waited days before hearing from loved ones. While I admire the concept of escaping the grid for days, even weeks at a time, I have found that using social media while abroad is beneficial; in moderation. Just by posting a simple picture on Facebook of the cafe where you ate breakfast provides instant gratification to those pondering your every move in a foreign place.
Social media has provided me with the opportunity to ‘communicate’ my journey in a virtual manner. If I were to email or text each person who was riveted by my travels, I would be on my laptop or phone constantly. The immediateness of social media is a saving grace.
All in all, I have found a happy medium.
My parents, sister and girlfriend come first. I take the time to connect with them via text or Facetime as they are my closest loved ones; my supporters. Not only do they want to know how I am doing, but they are the ones I miss the most. Hearing their voices and seeing their faces through my mobile phone is both consoling and bolstering. Bearing this in mind, I contact them in moderation. It is imperative that any study abroad student engage in their host city and be sure not to miss out on experiences of a lifetime. It is valid and plausible to miss home, but it is equally as important to see your host city as home; temporarily.
Personally, I wait until I am in bed at night to check my social media. I scroll through notifications, I see what people are up to at home, and I connect with friends. Also, I wait until the end of the day to post pictures. This way, my followers can live my journey through me. They get to see where I went, what I saw and what I did through a handful of captured moments. Not only does this keep me linked with people back home, but it is a way of virtually saving my journey in online albums.
Posting pictures at the end of each day prevents the bombardment of questions, texts, emails and messages on Whatsapp.
Parents: It is natural for them to seemingly nag you each day. Cut them slack. They sometimes forget you are five hours ahead.
Siblings: They care about what you are doing and they want to know, but they will often times wait to hear from you or send you an occasional “I miss you” text.
Significant others: They are considerably patient because they support you. They want this for you. Your journey is their journey and it adds to your story.
Friends: Incredibly patient. They will wait to see your photos and posts on social media. That is where they are comfortable anyway.
Grandparents: They often do not even know how to answer a Facetime call so they will just ask your parents how you are doing.
Ultimately, I have grown more appreciative of the ability to post updates and pictures about my journey ever since my arrival. It is easy to do and keeps everyone content.
Going abroad is a time to immerse ourselves in new cultures, take part in local activities/traditions, reflect on American values, meet new people - both locals and fellow students, receive a multi-perspective education, and explore the host city.
Social media is a powerful tool while studying abroad, but do not forget why you left your home town. You are embarking on the most amazing journey of your life. Capture the moments and share them, but do not become overly absorbed by the cyber world because the actual world is much more incredible than that.
The more you look down at your phone, the more you miss.
Don’t read about it. Go see it.
Cole's journey continues every Friday so stay tuned.