My tips on keeping a year abroad blog
Elizabeth Gibson is a student of IPML French and Spanish at the University of Manchester and is spending her year abroad as an English Language Assistant at a Lycée in Perpignan, France. Whilst on her year abroad, she's kept two blogs, one in English and one in French, as well as sharing her experience on Twitter. Here are some of the things she's learnt.
As a budding writer I had kept several blogs before my year abroad. So, when I set off for Perpignan, everybody assumed I would blog about this experience, too. I was slightly reluctant as I thought life would be busy enough without a blog. I was right – yet now I’m so glad I kept one. Here are my blogging tips: I really hope you are moved to create one if you haven’t already and that you have as great a blogging experience as I have had.
1. Why to blog
1. For you.
Year-abroad life can be hectic and I found blogging to be quite therapeutic. It can be helpful if you’re feeling low: writing about good times you’ve had and looking through photos can remind you why you decided to study abroad. A blog is also a great memento, something I didn’t really appreciate the first time I kept one, at sixth-form. Now, reading that one back four years later, I’m so glad I created it.
2. For your family and friends.
Yes, you can post on Facebook but a blog can better capture the spirit of your travels. I like to have something I created, full of my personality. It’s also a way for those who don’t use social media to keep up with you.
3. For future year abroad-ers.
I looked at several blogs while deciding where to go and what to do. I really hope my blog is helpful in the same way.
2. Getting started
1. Choose a host site and create your blog.
I’ve tried Blogger, Wordpress and Tumblr. I chose Blogger for my year abroad blog as I find Tumblr awkward and I feel Blogger gives you more freedom than Wordpress. Of course, it’s up to you which you prefer.
2. Consider adopting a class.
In parts of the UK there is the Adopt-a-Class scheme run by Routes Into Languages, where language students abroad can “adopt” a class in a school local to you (in the UK). A big part of what you have to do is keep a blog so if you are already doing one, why not kill two birds with one stone? You can inspire kids while having a guaranteed readership. You are also expected to visit the school before leaving for your year abroad to speak to the pupils about your plans.
3. Do as much as you can before you set off.
I cannot stress this enough. You’ll be super-busy when you arrive so it is worth writing a few posts in advance to publish at intervals over the first few weeks. This will keep the blog ticking over and your readers happy until things have settled and you can give it your full attention.
Posts you can do from home include:
- Why you chose to study, work or teach
- Why you chose your city/region
- Five interesting facts about your city/region
- Ten things you are determined to do there
3. During the year
1. Publicise your blog.
Every time you put up a new post advertise it on Facebook, Twitter (tag @thirdyearabroad; they may retweet you) and any other social network you have. Look for Facebook groups for students or ex-pats living in your town or area; they love to hear the thoughts of a newcomer and see photos of their region.
2. Consider writing for GlobalGraduates.com.
I like writing for the site as it challenges me to write in a different way to how I write my blog. It’s also a way of getting a wider audience for your blog as you can include a link in the intro to your articles.
3. People love photos!
That is the overwhelming sentiment I have picked up from my readers. They love the writing but adore the photos. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in them or not: most of mine are of nature, architecture and – of course – food!
4. Keep it reasonably child-friendly.
Your target audience probably won’t be small kids but they may still see it and I know my young cousins look at my blogs every now and again. As a result I’m careful not to have anything that could be upsetting and I check photos of graffiti for anything offensive.
5. If you fall behind, don’t worry!
It isn’t the end of the world. An idea is to leave any posts that won’t date, such as talking about local food, to the end. That way you can focus on finishing the posts that will date such as accounts of Christmas and Easter. But don’t let it stress you out – your readers understand that you have a busy life!
6. Enjoy it!
Blogging shouldn’t be a drag. If you feel it’s getting that way have a little break, putting up minimal posts to stop people worrying. There will be times you think: Why am I giving myself an extra task when there are so many other challenges living abroad? Trust me, one day you will look at your blog and feel a huge sense of pride and happiness and it will all be worth it.