Wry Exchange

Foreign Exchange Student Blogging
10-01-08, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Program | Tags: , , ,

 I love FES blogs.  It’s amazing that I can keep up with students in almost real time.  It’s incredible reading about Bolivia, France, or Korea.  The descriptions of daily life aren’t available anyplace else.  I think the small insignificant details are what I most enjoy.

When I first started volunteering, students wrote home.  I’d get a letter 3 or 4 times during their year.  Kids phoned home on Christmas and Mother’s Day or in case of a disaster.  Exchange program rules and advice haven’t changed quickly enough to keep up with technology.

Students can now publicly share their experiences with the world.  I don’t think the students realize everyone has access to the internet.  They seem to think only friends and family back home will read their blogs.  That misperception causes problems.  Problems for me, them, and the program.

“They can’t read English.”  “She doesn’t know how to use a computer.”  “He doesn’t have internet access.” “How could they ever find it?” “They’ll never find it.”  All false.  Host families and counselors find the blogs.  If they can’t read English, they’ll find someone to translate for them.  Sometimes they don’t like what they read.   Can we say “causing an international incident?”  We had a student in Asia write (mildly) about how boring school was to him.  You would have thought he wrote his family was sacrificing goats in the living room and virgins in the garden.  His host parents, school, program chairman, country chairman, and counselor all complained to our country chairman here.  Many people were involved, trying to smooth things over.  The student was close to termination.   We’ve had problems with devious hostfathers.  Some of them spend hours looking for their student’s blog.  Then they complain when they find it.  It happens more often than you’d imagine.

Feelings get hurt.  People become angry.  I get bitched at.  It could all be avoided if the students would just follow my advice.   I don’t want to hear “I’m just being honest.”  That’s fine, but you don’t have to tell everything.   I believe you can either be honest with your writing, or honest about your identity. 

  • Don’t blog under your real name. 
  • Change the name of your school.  People here in the states don’t know or care about the school’s name.  
  • If you’re the only student in your town, change the name slightly.  
  • Change the state where you’re from online.  Your friends at home know you’re from Illinois, not Indiana. 
  • Someone ‘knowing’ you write a blog, and proving you’re the author are very different. 
  • Never name your program.   “Don’t bite that hand that feeds you” comes to mind.  The program sent you abroad.  In return, you have to put up with rules and boring inconvenient meetings.  
  • Don’t write about your wild night making a porn movie while you were drunk, and how difficult it was to drive without dropping your bong. 

I’ve written about anonymity before.


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I do agree with most of this. But I have named my state, and my program. But as I am not snarky about either and keep my problems to myself (not that I really have many), I dont think I am giving too much away. I think it all depends on how you handle and redistibute the information and experiances you have.

By the way what does “Someone ‘knowing’ you write a blog, and proving you’re the author are very different.” mean, I didn’t get that.

Comment by Nicole

You’re right, of course. I wrote this with problem blogs in mind. Students have been disciplined over insulting their hosts because of blogging.
If you look at the FES Bolivia blog, the student publicized the blog and Bolivians have read it. They don’t agree with the author, and are upset and angry. If he keeps writing like this, he could be terminated. He’s staying in a family, and they won’t be pleased what he writes about them. They’re embarassed that they have offered him hospitality, and he’s writing that Bolivia is horrid.
“Knowing” and “proving” are very different. Many people think they know my identity. They can’t prove who I am. I don’t name myself, my program, or my location. I change small details, and never use anyone’s real name. I want to be able to write honestly, but without anyone identifying themselves or me.

Comment by Wry

a girl i know on a fulbright is doing the exact opposite and she is a college graduate! some people never learn. here’s the website:

Comment by kat

yeah, I do agree with you. Common sense is all you need really though. When people know that it is you writing the blog, it is even more important to be discrete. I wouldn’t write anything about anyone that I wouldn’t say to their face.

Comment by Nicole

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: