In this week's post, Danielle tells us why she chose to become an official CAPA blogger and shows us how she writes her blogs.
Never would I have thought that I would be a blogger – especially while studying abroad. I knew I wanted to keep a journal or some type of documentation of my memories and experiences while I studied abroad. I talked to some people who had previously studied abroad and heard that one of their biggest regrets was not keeping a journal. Writing in a journal is a way to capture how you feel and your reactions to experiences you're having at that specific point in time. In a way, it freezes that point in time. When the entry is looked at in some point in the future, you can be taken back to that moment and how you felt during that event. While documenting, it may seem like nothing but later on when it is reread, happy memories will come flooding back. In the moment, writing may seem like a hassle and at times a burden but by the end of it you will want to read it to re-live those memories. Being the CAPA blogger for Shanghai was the perfect combination. Through the blogs I am not only able to reflect on my new environment but I am also able to share my experiences with more people.
Prior to this blogging opportunity, I had never written periodically and had it shown to the public. The first few posts were difficult for me and took a while to write. This was mainly due to not being accustomed to writing and my constant over-thinking. I would continually think about what other people would think reading what I wrote, which caused me to second-guess myself and make the posts impersonal. Once I focused on writing for myself, the words came flowing out. I write my posts as if I am telling someone a story so there are more personal touches to them.
How To Create Content for a Blog:
Step 1 – Figure Out a Topic
There are some weeks where I know exactly what I will write about based on the activities I had or will participate in. From previous posts you have probably noticed that I have written about my travels around China. Those were posts I had no problem writing. Some weeks got a little bit more difficult to write about, where I blank on what I will write. During those times, I browse through other travel or study abroad blogs to gain some inspiration. If I really get stuck I get advice from my friends.
Step 2 – Take Pictures
To make a blog come alive, add pictures. Pictures are a great way to show someone what you are talking about without them being there. Sometimes words are not enough to explain a point. Snap a few pictures wherever you go – even if the place is not picturesque. In China, everywhere is a photo op. People are posing with objects, other people or various things. I was walking out of a bakery when I saw a closed, rusty wagon-kiosk on the side. There were a group of girls posing with it. I would not have even noticed it if it was not for those girls taking photos. Taking pictures in China is different than in the United States. What I would be getting judgmental looks for taking a picture with in the States is what is considered normal in China. Looking through pictures also helps bring up topics to write about.
Step 3 – Incorporate a Story
From looking through pictures, events from that day come to memory. One picture has the ability to capture a moment perfectly. Through a picture, a story is attached. I have my fair share of embarrassing moments so those stories tend to be the ones I include in my posts. Those stories make the post more relatable and give the reader a good laugh.
Step 4 – Include Some Tips
In addition to the stories, readers should get some advice. Travel blogs are a great way to read about someone’s experiences and what they did or didn't do to gain some insights. The best blogs are ones where the blogger gives the reader tips because they have already gone through the experience so they know what to expect. If the reader is planning on visiting the destination mentioned in the blog, they will get the most out of the tips given.
Step 5 – Write
Starting is the hardest part. I will admit I have had my fingers on the keyboard and have stared at the blinking cursor for at least half an hour. The best way I have found to start a blog is to type anything that comes to mind – do not edit it before typing it out. In my opinion, the best content comes from someone’s stream of consciousness.
No moment is too insignificant to write about. Write about what you find important because others will too. You don't need me telling you this but go do something exciting – something that you wouldn't expect to be doing. From those experiences, you have another fantastic story to talk about.
Until next time,
Danielle Thai is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2017, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A resource economics major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she is studying abroad in Shanghai this semester.
Danielle's journey continues every Tuesday so stay tuned!