Congrats! You’ve decided to move abroad to study, volunteer, or teach, and now you’re packing up and shipping out, ready to take on your new city. You’re probably bubbling over with excitement (and maybe some nerves too), and your family, friends, teachers, and mentors are excited to follow you on your journey.
With social media, you can keep everyone informed and share your experiences with others. However, you don’t want to be "that guy," either - you know, the over-sharer. Just because you are in another country living it up doesn’t mean your online reputation does not follow you. With schools and businesses checking out students’ online presence before they admit or hire them, you have to be very careful about what you say and don’t say. In fact, according to a 2013 Jobvite survey, 93 percent of recruiters admit to reviewing a candidate's online presence as part of the screening process. Eek!
Here are seven tips to help you find those boundaries and put your best social media self forward.
1. Establish a rule of thumb.
Start by making a social media rule for yourself. Before you post anything, keep in mind that anyone can see your photos and updates. If you wouldn’t want your grandmother or kindergarten teacher to see it, don’t post it! Your digital footprint stays with you far beyond your trip.
A great “check in” with yourself could be asking, “Would I be okay with this photo or post being published on the front page of a newspaper?” If the answer is no, it’s probably better left unposted. Remember this rule of thumb with every post, tweet, or photo.
2. Be safe.
Sure, it seems like everyone shares their locations all the time, but it might not be the safest thing to do, especially when you are in another country. Turn off any location based apps, and only share your whereabouts with people you trust. Your location information could put you in danger if broadcasted to the wrong eyes.
Turn off the geotagging on your Facebook, and don’t check in anywhere specific on Foursquare or similar tools. Be sure to check your cell phone to make sure all geotagging is turned off there too. Are you an Instagrammer? Avoid adding a location to your photos, as to not put your location on public display. It’s fun to share photos, but it shouldn’t put your safety at risk.
3. Know your privacy settings.
Not only should you know how to manage your geotagging, but you should also understand how to use the privacy settings on your social media platforms too. On Twitter, make your account protected so people can’t read your tweets unless you approve of them. On Facebook, choose to keep your posts private, so only your friends can see them.
Go through each platform that you use and double check to see that the correct settings are on. It might seem like a hassle, but it’s worth it in the end (especially if it saves you from sharing something you'd otherwise keep private!).
4. Be selective.
Share the best moments of your trip— like when you saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time, the giant delicious waffle you ate in Belgium, or the photo of you hiking through the jungles of Costa Rica. Don’t spend the entire time trying to share every moment in your trip, as you may miss out on what’s happening in real life!
Many people spend so much time trying to document their trips that they take for granted the real life experiences they could be having. Try putting a limit on how many times per day or week that you share, and stick to it. You’ll be able to enjoy the moment more and have greater memories.
5. Use the right networks.
Try a social media network that is specifically made for students! You may also want to consider starting a blog to document your trip. You can choose to keep it private, and only share the URL with a select group of friends and family members. A blog is also a fun way to capture experiences, and you aren’t limited to a word count like other social networks. You’ll have full control over the theme and design, so your blog can reflect your personality and style. It’s an excellent way to be creative, and something fun to share for years to come (a great souvenir from your trip!).
There are a few blogging platforms out there for students specifically: GoEnnounce is a platform for students to connect with their networks and share their latest updates in school—which includes study abroad. Another fun one to check out is Students Gone Global.
6. Monitor your reputation.
Think of your social media networks as an extension of yourself and your reputation. You wouldn’t want to do anything to hurt that, right? Consider using an online monitoring tool like BrandYourself to see what is being said about you. Remember, Google searches last for 7 years!
You don’t want an incriminating photo on your trip abroad to affect any opportunities for you in the future, whether that’s higher education, an internship, or a career. No one wants to work with a grump either - be conscious of conveying a negative attitude or sharing a multitude of complaint-filled posts.
7. Leave out the personal details.
We’ve all seen it, or maybe even done it… those Facebook posts or tweets that are MUCH too personal. You’ve probably read something that made you a little uncomfortable before, so don’t be the person behind the post! Keep those details to yourself or tell a close friend offline if you need someone to talk to about it. It’s never a good idea to share those details publicly online where it can live forever.
On that same note, on your trip abroad and beyond, don’t post when you’re feeling angry or upset about something, you might say something that you don’t really mean. While you’re bound to have some low points along the way, it’s best kept in conversations off of social media platforms. Keep your content positive and show your best self, while being yourself.
Remember, you’re embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and you should absolutely share it. Just make sure to be smart about it to keep your digital footprint clean. Be creative, share with the people who care most, and have fun.
Additional Resources for Study Abroad
- Do's & Don't's of Technology & Study Abroad
- Date a Girl Who Studied Abroad
- 13 Most Unique Study Abroad Programs
- Get Awesome Flight Deals for Study Abroad