Bama Bloggers Abroad offers international voiceBy Matthew Wilson | 09/22/2014 7:52am
Alabama student Sarah Justus took this photo while studying abroad in New Zealand. Photo Courtesy of Sarah Justus
BamaBloggersAbroad is a blog site created by Capstone International Academic Programs where students are given a $500 scholarship to blog at least three times about their experiences abroad. Chad Berry and Holly Henning, who started the blogging site, said they hope the blog will give students an outlet to express their experiences.
“We wanted to have a way for students to blog about study abroad and engage in their experiences,” Henning said. “They’re only required to write 250 words. The funny thing is a lot of them are posting, like, a thousand words and a lot of entertaining stuff.”
Berry said the program is meant to add blogging, an activity many students already take part in, to the study abroad experience in the hopes that it will garner interest for study abroad in other students.
Novick has already taken advantage of the site to write about her experiences. In her first blog post, she offered tips to other people looking to travel abroad. Novick said people in Spain are friendly to foreigners once they get to know them, but it is still important to prepare for culture shock.
“Strangers don’t talk to each other,” she said. “They’ll stare at you in the streets. They keep eye contact for a really long time. It’s like a game for them. You learn to stare back. The people are friendly, but you have to get to know them.”
For Sarah Justus, winter has just begun. Justus, a senior majoring in music education, teaches intermediate schoolchildren in Auckland, New Zealand. Justus has written about pre-travel jitters and encourages others to follow their dreams.
Justus said cultural differences were overwhelming at first, and simple tasks like visiting a grocery store were confusing due to dialect differences.
“It’s pretty much all the same foods, but they all have different names,” Justus said. “Granola is not called granola. It’s called muesli. A bell pepper is a capsicum.”
In a technology-driven world, Justus said staying in contact with family and friends is simple. One of Justus’ friends is teaching in South Africa, and she has been able to connect with her through blogging.
Novick said although she misses her family and friends, it is comforting to know that with modern technology, they are only a text or call away. Her family has been able to read all about her experiences in Spain.
“My little brother, who’s 19, wouldn’t read it,” she said. “He said it was too many words, but my mom liked it. She corrected my one grammar error.”
The blogs can be a source of comfort for the students’ families and allow parents to check in on their kids.
“I talked to a dad a few weeks ago,” Henning said. “Somebody’s dad was reading the posts. It’s a human connection. He was excited about it. It was a good way for him to know what’s going on without being intrusive. He doesn’t have to worry if she’s ok.”
As the assistant director at Capstone International Academic Programs, Berry said reading the students’ blogs has helped him become better at his job.
“This idea wouldn’t have been possible 10 years ago,” he said. “Now it is an instant thing. They have an experience in Spain, and we can hear about it a few minutes later. Technology has really shrunk the world.”