Students Traveling Abroad Share Their Stories Close to Home
By Melissa Jones
One of the biggest challenges for students studying abroad is relaying their experiences to family and friends back home. Sure, once the student gets home, there will be the inevitable three-hour journey down memory lane through photos, but pictures can only convey so much and it is hard to cram a semester’s worth of experiences into one photo album.
Fortunately for Mary Baldwin students studying abroad this semester, the Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement has the perfect solution. A blog.
The MBC study abroad blog arose when Robyn Stegman ’09, Spencer Center staff member, and Heather Ward, director of international programs, wanted to find a way to keep the MBC community in touch with students studying abroad.
“I know many of our students want an easy way to share their story with us. The study abroad blog is a way for students to stay connected to the MBC community no matter where in the world their adventures take them,” said Stegman, who got the idea to start the MBC blog after blogging about her own study abroad experiences in India, Thailand, Uganda, and El Salvador.
“This is the most students we’ve had studying abroad since the spring of 2003,” Ward said of the 10 students studying in six different countries. “We think the blog is a great way for the rest of campus to get a taste of the international experience.”
Felicia Byrd ’11 is one of four social work majors doing their field placement with Organization for Youth Empowerment in Honduras this semester. While she has never written an online journal before, she plans on using the MBC blog to share her experiences.
“I feel as if I am taking this experience in and not sharing it with anyone but the classmates who are here with me,” she said. “Honduras is teaching me a lot and I think the blog is a good way to document [the experience], as well as share it with family, friends, and peers back home.”
According to Ward, blogging can also help students adjust to living and studying in a foreign country, giving them an outlet to help process the monumental experiences they are seeing and feeling.
Stegman agrees “When you are traveling you are often doing so much you never have time to stop and think about how this is affecting you and what you are learning. A blog can help you slow down and reflect,” she said.
Kelsey Heathcoat ’13 spent the fall semester in Japan at Doshisha Women’s College in Kyoto and then spent some time traveling around the country before arriving at Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata for the spring. In January, she took the opportunity to update the MBC community on her activities and travel plans for her winter break. Now that she’s settled in, Heathcoat plans to start blogging again.
“I think that having a study abroad blog is a really great way to let those back at MBC know about all of the new things I’ve been learning and experiencing,” she said. “I also think that it could be a really useful tool for students who are considering studying abroad to be able to read the thoughts of students currently in a program.”
To read Heathcoat and fellow study abroad student Jackie Stutts’ entries, go to http://studyabroadmbc.posterous.com . Check back for more or subscribe to get email updates whenever there is a new post by clicking the subscribe link on the page.