Regardless of where you are along the study abroad timeline (about to start, in the middle, or just finished), I guarantee at one point you’ve thought about starting a blog. The most common excuse I hear about starting/updating a blog is “well, I’ve been thinking about starting one but…” or “I will when I have more free time.” Blogs are not requirements for study abroad.
Maybe it was a friend who told you to start a blog, so they could “stalk you during your entire study abroad in Tokyo” or whatever country you plan on studying in. Maybe it was a family member who politely asked for more detailed emails. Or maybe you were reading someone else’s (like my) blog and thought “hey, this is easy. I can totally do this!”
Study abroad blogs are incredibly important.
But they also require a lot of work. It’s easy to start, but difficult to keep posting, once the initial motivation runs out. Beyond this, blogs can have a lot of long-term damaging effects. The more you write, the easier it is for someone to find something and use it against you. Since there’s not a lot of these posts out here (and I’ve learned a lot, both positive and negative) about blogging since I’ve started, I wanted to write about the negative aspects of blogging.
1. Study abroad blogs are a lot of work
My Study Abroad blog in Tokyo is one of the most frustrating things I’ve committed to, well, ever (except for one especially awkward relationship in high school that ended very early). Writing takes work. Originality takes work. Routines, commitments, searching for photos, or researching topics all take work (believe it or not, I actually do outside research for a majority of my posts).
You do all this work, trying to make funny, thoughtful, and engaging posts, only to realize…
2. No one except for your close friends and family members will read your study abroad blog
When I first started, I thought a good day was when I got five to ten views. If I got twenty views, I was stoked. It’s really hard to continue writing your study abroad blog if no one is reading it. I had my study abroad blog for Tokyo, Japan about seven months before it “took off.”
I went from being thrilled for 15 views a day to being depressed if there were any less than 400 views a day. And even if I am getting a solid 400 views a day, it’s still hard to write every day. The easiest way to explain it is that I have too much to write about. I never know where to start. And I know regardless of how much time I spend on a single post, it might be a dud. Some posts (like the one I wrote about the Problems facing Interracial couples in Japan) are a hit and get shared throughout Facebook; others I work hard on are a complete flop (like the one I wrote about the Pros and Cons of Ghostwriting/selling what you write as a freelancer). I never know what will be a hit – and that makes it incredibly difficult to invest more than an hour or so on a post.
3. Your opinions are probably awkward
Sometimes, when I’m feeling overconfident and good about myself, I like to go back and scroll through my old posts. It’s pretty mortifying. And by “pretty mortifying” I mean “OH MY GOD, WHAT DID I WRITE?? HOW DO I DELETE THIS??”
Sometimes I go back, read a popular post, and am like “wow, I’m so cool,” but most of the time, I kind of just want to crawl into a hole and die.
4. Whatever you write on your study abroad blog might make people hate you
And by “might” I mean will. One thing I’ve learned in life is it is impossible to make everyone like you. Think of Mother Thesera, for goodness sake. Type her name into Google search and navigate your way over to any forum. I guarantee you’re going to find some very offensive, flaming comments that criticize every aspect of her life. And remember guys, we’re talking about Mother Theresa, the living saint, here.
I read all my friends blogs. I like to support the arts (and I like to believe Karma will come around; if I read their blogs, they will read mine). But every tenth post (sometimes more, on a bad day) I read something that offends me.
It ranges from “ummm… ok?” to “wow, I didn’t know you were that racist.” The problem with reading the inner musings of someone’s study abroad blog is, well, you read their inner musings. A lot of the time I don’t agree with their thoughts, and then it’s just awkward.
5. What you write can (and will) be used against you in the future
I’m not just talking about friends – writing offensive things can have a serious and permanent effect on your future career. Let’s be honest, it probably won’t… but it could.
The best example of this would be the Journalism class I took back when I was 15 years old and living in Sapporo, Hokkaido (Japan). I had never written before. I had no desire to write anything. I liked the teacher and he convinced me to join – mostly because nothing else fit my schedule.
It was around the time the whole “Hey, did you hear Dumbledore from Harry Potter is Gay?” thing came out. I didn’t think much of it; I had to write a post twice a week, so I wrote a short one about “Dumbledore is gay? Why did JK Rowling suddenly decide to do that? That’s so weird.”
I didn’t think much of it. I turned in the article; fifty copies of the “newspaper” got printed that Thursday (it was a small school). A couple days later, one of my friends sent me a message on Myspace (remember those days?) saying he thought the article was a bit offensive. I was shocked – mostly because I didn’t think anyone actually read the newspaper. Or cared. So I read over the article I wrote again and realized it might have been a little offensive. I apologized via Myspace and the next day I went to the teacher, asking him what to do. He just kind of laughed and told me this kind of thing happens all the time.
“You have to be careful about what you write, Grace. This –“ he said, holding up the newspaper, “lasts forever. Once it’s printed, you can’t take it back.”
When I wrote it, I wasn’t thinking about anything except for turning in something on time and getting my ‘A’ in the class. I walked on eggshells the next couple days, terrified someone else would say something about the article. I also went into the computer lab and threw away all the extra copies of the school newspaper. No one ended up mentioning it after that.
In retrospect, I wish I had kept a copy. I don’t remember what I wrote; I have no way of finding out.
I’d like to say after that I’ve been much more careful about what I write online. But I haven’t. I know full well some of what I write on this blog might eventually be used against me when I job hunt. However, I’m about to get married and living in Japan for the next couple years. They’re not exactly technology savvy when it comes to job hunting over here. I don’t need to change my facebook name (to avoid detection) or be worried about what the internet turns up.
Besides, I’ve posted nearly 150 posts. By the time I start job hunting, it should be up to 300. If someone wants to sit in a dark room and read through all my posts for several days before they hire me, go ahead. I’m betting my money on the fact they will find me adorable and charming.
(Job recruiters, if you’re reading this, you should hire me. I’m awesome.)
6. The more you update your Study Abroad Blog, the more people think you have “too much free time on your hands.”
I spend an hour a day blogging. Sometimes, if I’m freelancing or ghostwriting for another blog or company, I will spend up to five hours a day blogging. I blog because to me, blogging is more fun than watching tv (most of the time). Blogging is my hobby.
I don’t have free time. I dislike the idea of free time. Free time makes me depressed and it makes me crazy.
Just because I update my blog all the time doesn’t mean I have time to kill. I have friends (especially in Tokyo) that get mad at me pretty regularly because I can’t go out with them. They want to spend the evening drinking; I would rather spend it inside slamming out a new blog post. Then, later, when they see a new post up on my Facebook they get upset and say “I thought you said you were busy tonight? How come you’re too busy to hang out, but not too busy to write?”
Good question. I can’t answer it. But I made a promise to myself to write one new post a day for 100 days. I can’t quit now. Maybe what I write will come back and bit me one day. But maybe, the next time someone asks me:
“Wow, you were in Japan for 14 months? What did you do?”
I will be able to point to my blog and say “Read it. You’ll love it.” And then not hear back from them for several weeks, and they shift through all the stuff on my blog.
Add me on Google Plus: +Grace Buchele