Blog Tips 1: Why Blog about your Fulbright Experiences?

The Communications Director at the Fulbright Commission in Ireland asked me to provide some tips on blogging to share with other Fulbrighters.  I’ve created a series of four blog posts on the subject:

  1. Why Blog about your Fulbright Experiences?
  2. Choosing and Adapting to your Blog Platform
  3. Finding your Blogging Niche
  4. Publicizing your Fulbright Blog
Fulbright header

Header from a CIES webpage.

So then, why blog?

Blogging experts say the main challenge is to continually generate new content that’s of interest to others. With blogging, they say, you have to stay very active and load new content regularly or you’ll lose the attention of your audience.

We’ve all seen stale, dormant blogs.  That is a viable way to go… if you simply want to meet your grantor’s wish that you blog about your experiences without investing much of yourself in the process.

I’ll admit I wasn’t thrilled at the request to blog when it arrived.  I’ve never followed blogs and didn’t see the merits or the potential for growth.

As a Fulbright, you have content that’s of great interest to others.  Blogging provides a quick and fun way to share this content. It can provide an opportunity to learn more from your own experience and also learn about writing for a real live audience. You can track your statistics to see what interests people in different parts of the world, for instance.

So, who’s your audience? My own has grown over time. It includes people I’ve known a long time and the folks I’m meeting here each day.  It includes regular visitors from across the US and Europe, and occasional visits from people in Africa, Asia, and South America. Watching the statistics page on WordPress gives me some idea of who I’m reaching and how often they visit.

The notion of sharing in this way comes fairly naturally to me.

When I lived in Switzerland in 1997, I emailed many dozen friends and relatives each day.  They were interested to know about what I did, saw, and thought while living alone in a foreign land. They’d send questions and encouragement. That helped me feel support during a challenging time in my life.

Blogging is an even better platform for me to do what I was attempting then. It lets me share photos and ideas with many more people, and do this very quickly. Most of all, it lets me address the goals of the Fulbright program by promoting the work that I’m doing and the cultural exchange I’m experiencing.

My cousin lived in Paris for a year in 1993. She wishes she had Internet tools then. They make staying in touch AND growing your social network so much easier.

A few parting thoughts for this introductory blog:

  • Choose your blogging platform and template carefully. Some are easier to use than others.
  • Watch tutorials about your platform so you can learn the tools quickly.  You’ll need to develop your own set of approaches over time, so that blogging doesn’t consume too much of your time.
  • Craft a catchy title and consider purchasing an easy-to-recall domain name for yourself.
  • Determine your level of desired privacy so you can adapt your activities accordingly. You can keep your URL under wraps and share it with select friends, or you can go public and connect in to search engines like Google and Bing.
  • Learn to keep some content in reserve (saved in draft form) to pull out when you don’t have time to generate text but you want to get something fresh posted.

If you’re determined to do this well, then you might as well learn to enjoy blogging and to see it as a way to document, reflect, and share. Just think: in the end you’ll have a beautiful log of your experiences. It will help you remember and record all you’ve done. Best of all, it will help you stay connected with people back home as well as those you’ve just met.

10 Comments

  1. I can’t imagine that someone who is curious and who observes and writes as well as you do would have any problem blogging. Not only is your sharing a gift to those of us who read, but over time you may find satisfaction in looking back at your observations.

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    1. Thanks, Chris. It’s always great to know you’re out there reading! Puts a face to my audience.

      I really wasn’t comfortable with the idea of blogging until I got started. It took Fulbright and SCUP and my W&M students all asking. But then I wasn’t comfortable having everyone I know standing in the same “room” together on Facebook, either, and that generally works out okay.

      I must admit, it’s much more fun to look back over the blog than old emails.

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  2. Shannon, I enjoy so much keeping up with your Fulbright experience. I’m not a big reader of blogs, as time is limited, but I almost always make a point to drop by yours! Thanks so much, and keep sharing all your are doing and learning, it is valuable!

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