Social Media Best Practices for Study Abroad

Going abroad? It’s time to get social. But maybe in a way you’ve never done before.

When I studied abroad in Spain, I brought along my new friend, my new iPhone 5s I received for Christmas just three weeks before my trip. This was my first time with a smartphone, and while it came in handy while studying abroad,  having a smartphone meant I had another device I grew attached to. What I learned, though, was I also loved disconnecting from technology while traveling around Spain.

A lot of people right now debate on whether Facebook can ruin study abroad or whether social media can enhance study abroad programs. In many cases, we study abroad in order to get to know another culture. In some ways, we end up becoming less reliant on technology, since it’s hard to have international data or cell service while studying abroad. In other ways, social media helped me learn more about my Spanish community and helped me find events to go to and practice my Spanish. So what are some tips for using social media when we study abroad? When do we disconnect?

How to Use Social Media When Studying Abroad

Before Going Abroad

  • Understand how social media is used in your host country. Is having Internet access common where you are going? What social networking sites are popular in your host country?

  • Research your host country online. Find Youtube and Twitter accounts from your host country. Like brands or businesses on Facebook around your area.

  • Understand the appropriate times to use a phone in social situations in the host culture.

While Studying Abroad

  • Set up an intentional time to use social media. Perhaps in the morning or evening time. Try to limit yourself to a specific amount of time, at least for the first couple weeks abroad.

  • Join Facebook groups in your host country with other university students to stay updated with important events.

  • Keep a blog or journal while studying abroad to share what you learn during the experience.

  • Try traveling around your city without a phone for a day, week or longer.

  • Use Facebook or other social media sites to find out about activities, events, churches, fitness clubs or gyms, outdoor trips and more in your host city.

  • If studying a foreign language, change your social media accounts to match the language and try to chat with others in the language.

Returning Home

  • Be intentional in staying in touch with the people you met abroad. Check in with them regularly.

  • Reflect on your experiences through posting photos, blog entries or updates. Perhaps make a video about your study abroad experience.

While social media was sometimes helpful in connecting with the culture in Spain and helped me meet new people, as well as practice my Spanish, it was refreshing to leave the phone at home sometimes. I really learned the importance of disconnecting, so I could connect deeper, to others, to the culture, to the world around. Because the world doesn’t live in a screen and we don’t live there either.

Did you use social media when you studied abroad? Do you think it helped you connect with the culture? 

Check out 4 Steps to a Phone Fast | Disconnect from the Tech 

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