Developing YOUR Social Media Strategy While Abroad
October 04, 2021
When studying abroad, it is best to devise a strategy on how to communicate with the folks back home. This is best planned before leaving in order to avoid random expectations or having to deal with lots of twisted emotions based on presumptions. There is no magic answer to the dilemma of keeping in touch, however like any travel issues, you should have a plan. Here are some things to conside
College students today spend as much time on Social Media as they do in classroom, certainly more than their parents spend watching TV. Communicating online has become standard practice for many college-aged people. It's part of daily life and the lifeblood of social structure. For those who embark on an education abroad experience, social media has the capability to be quite disruptive to the experience or quite enabling.
When studying abroad, it is best to devise a strategy on how to communicate with the folks back home. This is best planned before leaving in order to avoid random expectations or having to deal with lots of twisted emotions based on presumptions. There is no magic answer to the dilemma of keeping in touch, however like any travel issues, you should have a plan. Here are some things to consider:
- Bandwidth is expensive – While overseas, understand that bandwidth, especially on smart phones and tablets can be very expensive. Travel between countries also brings with it issues around different carriers; rates also vary by country, which is something to be mindful of during weekend excursions.
- Access can be slower – Being online abroad is slower and filled with disruptions, especially in connecting with web services back at home. Even if you find Wi-Fi, the connections to home may be sluggish and certain functions limited based on the overseas location.
- There are better things to do – Students abroad will get to experience once in a lifetime opportunities. Get out and live life to its fullest, forget about sitting in a Starbucks typing happy birthday messages to friends, reading and commenting about favorite sports team or being embroiled in the romantic discords of friends back home. - Everyone wants news – Human nature is what it is, and everyone wants to hear how it's going. Keep in mind that students studying abroad need time to get fully involved with the experience.
This last item is the prime concern. Understand that everyone wants to hear everything, but the student will benefit from being away from normal communication patterns is the rationale in developing a personal communications plan while abroad. This communications plan might include:
Put on hold the highly interactive and at times contagious snapChat and Instagram. Pick a preferred outlet, build a list of followers and think about a rational plan to publish your news and build a timeline for people to follow.
- Blog, Instagram or Pinterest - For those who love to write, a blog is a great way to chronicle your story and keep everyone informed. Most blogs now allow photo galleries, but for those who love pictures, maybe Pinterest, or Instagram with themed boards is a better way to let those at home know you're doing well and having the time of your life.
- Skip the phone calls, minimize Skype – shoot some videos. Skype is a real cost saver and is the practical alternative to using your mobile phone, but to best deal with time zones, consider a gocam or video messages to your followers.
And then there's Facebook. Recent numbers from Facebook show that 1 out of 6 humans have a Facebook account and if you're already in college, you already have an active account. For your time abroad, an active Facebook account may be just the place to keep connected with the folks at home, but it is also very, very tempting to get drawn into one to one comments. Turn off comments; speak one way.
The core concept for communication while abroad is shifting communications from one-to-one, or one-to-a-few into one-to-many. It's important to get that message out to those in your family and social circles before you go, plus put announcements as to your hiatus on your old accounts. Let them know you are away and provide a link to your central broadcast center. Turn off the comments and time-consuming features and build protection around yourself.
For those at home, be patient with the student as they will also want to use social media to keep in touch with classmates and their program provider and also use it to connect with new friends overseas. As part of the communications strategy, the student might want to create new accounts for their time overseas and use this in the moment. Several program providers will communicate with students in the host countries foreign language, adding to the immersion.
As we suggested earlier, there is no magic formula for building a communications plan, but you should have one. Recognize that students and parents both have an obligation and desire to keep in touch with things at home, while at the same time getting the most out of the time abroad. The ones abroad will have a need for face-to-face, one-to-one or one-to-a-few dialogs. For the folks back home, keep the one-to-many concept in mind and wait patiently for news from abroad.