How many study abroad blogs / books will tell you that? Not enough! – Quote from ebook Twenty in Paris: A Young American Perspective of Studying Abroad in Paris
I am in love with Melibee Global and its blog which are dedicated to elevating the discussion about education abroad, culture, and diversity and the lifelong path to global citizenship by offering trailblazing tools, speakers and professional development for the global education and travel communities.
What a perfect mission statement, right?
One of the first blogs on their website that caught my eye was about IIE’s (a study abroad program) new initiative called “generation study abroad” where the goal appears to just be about increasing the number of students going abroad. Check out that article here http://www.melibeeglobal.com/2014/05/generation-study-abroad-bold-or-harmful/
However, the article that really spoke to me was “Are study abroad blogs ruining the field?”. In the past few years since I studied abroad, study abroad blogs are popping up all over the place and in more mainstream places, too. The author of this exposé is spot on when she said “These [study abroad] posts are meant to be silly, fun reads that are geared towards 20-year-olds about travel. Some of these articles do include good information. But it is mostly information on travel, accommodation, shopping, or food; rarely anything about academics in another country, cultural immersion, or topics of re-entry, mental health, and other not-so-glamorous aspects of studying abroad. These mainstream articles often take creative approaches and do generally help promote and make study abroad seem more accessible to interested students. But could they be doing more harm than we can initially see? ”
The answer is yes! Blogs like these (no name calling out but they are out there) contribute to the romantic notion that studying abroad is this magical partying time where you travel and only have lots of fun. That studying and the immersion into another culture and language are merely things that you do once in a while between parties and jet-setting. It’s not that websites/people like Melibee and Twenty in Paris are trying to deter you from studying abroad; we’re trying to steer you clear of the hype and better prepare you by showing the whole study abroad picture: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
As a student, I bought the study abroad hype so much so that I thought Paris was going to be magical and perfect from day one. I was not prepared for the cultural, linguistic and academic hurdles that awaited me in Paris. And looking at the popular study abroad blogs today, is it any wonder that a student would go abroad with these unrealistic expectations? So whose job is it to prepare you for studying abroad and to help you see through the smoke screen which are typical study abroad blogs? I believe that it is you, the student, and the study abroad program. Most students primarily get their information on studying abroad from their program before seeking outside sources like these unrealistically happy blogs. Study abroad programs are the first and constant source of information for students to find out the in and outs of studying abroad and how it will impact their college career. Students need the abroad office’s experience to tell them what to expect or useful resources (like blogs or books) that will provide information on the experience/ transition and immersion into life and college abroad. As college students and adults, it is your job to make sure that you are finding out this information or asking where you can find it. At the end of the day it is you going abroad, not your study abroad program director.
Studying abroad is gaining more exposure now than it ever has before but is more always better? Melibee and Twenty in Paris agree that more students going abroad isn’t necessarily better, especially when they haven’t been prepared for the actual academic and cultural experiences. More preparation and focus on these academic and cultural differences is what needs to increase for study abroad students. Studying abroad is a major change in a college student’s life which needs serious blogs/ books and programs to support them and show them the whole picture. Typical study abroad blogs are fun but they are not sufficient preparation for the study abroad experience.