Social Media Versus Social Life Abroad

best-cell-phone-plans-2-11ep8kqLong before I arrived in Moscow, I knew I would need to find some way to communicate with family and friends back home. Three months is a long time, especially for parents who send their daughter to a country which frequently makes the news for riots, political tensions and anti-American sentiment. My family wanted to periodically make sure that I was still alive and well. I myself wanted to stay updated on the lives of everyone else. Some of my friends were graduating, others joined the army and even more were studying abroad themselves. Amidst that were breakups, hookups, stresses, successes and major life events galore.

In order to keep up with all of this, I needed a couple things. First, there was the technological component; I would have internet access, Skype and Facebook and a phone with an international data plan which would allow me to use all of the above even when away from my host family. These things were relatively simple to find and everything was figured out ahead of time. The next, more complicated part involved time management skills and balance.

When my family hosted a Turkish exchange student my senior year of high school, we learned that her provider’s policy was to allow her only two hours of internet communication per week. Considering the amount of time their American daughters casually spent on Facebook every day, my parents considered this rule pretty drastic and more or less let Alara do as she pleased. However, my reasons for traveling to Russia did include learning the Russian language, growing close to my host family and making new Russian friends. I wanted to find a way to accomplish these things without going to the extremes of Alara’s program.

When I was in Russia, I spoke with American friends about once every day or every other day. I Skyped around once a week and called my parents once every other week. I used Facebook regularly. In order to make up for what I felt were decently long periods of time

speaking and writing in English, I would follow up these conversations with Russian activities. I tried to watch movies and cartoons in Russian, work through Russian texts and listen to Russian music or the radio. After a Skype call with my best friend, I would sit down in my host family’s kitchen and start a conversation with Sasha, my host sister. After a couple weeks, I found my solution. This way, I felt like I was able to keep in touch with family and friends without losing touch with my current reality in this amazing new setting.

While what I did worked for me, I wouldn’t prescribe it for every Bobcat abroad. My advice for the traveling student: find out what you want from your experience and shape everything, including Facebook usage, around that. Balance means something different for every student; it is up to you to figure out how much is too much when it comes to keeping in touch.

Anna Mendlein is a junior Social Work and Russian major who studied abroad in Moscow, Russia during the Spring 2014 semester. Anna is also a Peer Adviser at the Office of Education Abroad. Visit her during walk-in advising hours every M-F from 1-4pm or email her at

Meet the Staff – Keely Davin

KeelyeditedName: Keely Davin

Position: Senior Program Coordinator. I advise students who are interested in global programs and work with Faculty Directors who run programs.

Education: Gannon University (undergrad) and Arizona State University (graduate).

How long have you been at the OEA: I’ve been with the OEA since May 2011.

Favorite aspect of work: I really enjoy helping a student find a program that is a great fit for him/her personally and academically.  Especially for those students who think that an international experience won’t fit into their plans.  It’s very rewarding to find a way to make it happen for those students. I’ve gotten emails from students abroad in which every sentence ends in an exclamation point.  It is an exciting experience to help students discover. I also enjoy working with our faculty members who put so much time and energy into making these programs a success.  I feel lucky to be involved in facilitating such unique programs for OHIO students.

Experiences Abroad: I studied abroad in Costa Rica then spent some time volunteering in Guatemala after graduation.  I’ve also visited France, Honduras, Mexico, Spain, Czech Republic, Ireland, England, Morocco, and Brazil.

*The post is a part of  a series of “Meet the Staff” posts. Each week different staff members from the Office of Education Abroad (OEA) will be featured. You can contact Keely at 740-593-1798  or

Moscow – Land of the Sincere Strangers

AnnaMoscow quickly broke me of the habit of smiling and nodding at people on the street. First I noticed that people typically ignored each other on the street, unless they were looking for money or directions. Seeing as I was equipped to give neither of these, I started to look away. Then I realized that a young woman’s smile would mean something completely separate from her actual intentions, so I learned to keep my gaze down – or at least forward – and carry on my way. When talking to my professors about this difference, I heard two opposing viewpoints on the subject. The first was that American smiles are insincere and thus make up a negative cultural practice. This is compared to Russians’ glares, which can at least be considered accurate representations of their moods at the time and as such are honest and commendable. On the other hand, one professor argued that we Americans are in the right because smiles can be contagious, regardless of the actual level of happiness behind them. While I definitely appreciated hearing from this professor, I found that her thoughts were definitely in the minority.

This idea of honesty behind everyday Russian interactions became strengthened every morning as our professors started class with the typical “Как ваши дела?” or “how are you?” At the beginning of the semester, everyone answered “хорошо” (I’m good) or “отлично” (excellent). But our professors were suspicious that we all could truly be in good moods early in the morning and corrected us, saying more common answers are “нормально” (alright) or, if you’re even grumpier or sleepier, “так себе” (so-so). While in America we feel the need to demonstrate to even strangers that we’re feeling well, in Russia, it’s understandable and expected to truthfully describe your mood.

A third example of this part of the Russian mentality is the general attitude toward political correctness and protection of others’ feelings. As a social work major, I’m always concerned with semantics. Part of my future job is to carefully phrase statements as to offend no one, include everyone and make sure all parties’ interests are considered. If I were discussing anything – a book, movie, political leader, etc. – which might elicit different feelings from different people, I might wait until I heard others’ opinions before freely disclosing my own. Before that point, I would remain neutral and diplomatic. This was not the case in several interactions with my professors and host family in Russia. My grammar teacher would openly tell you that she hated the movie you went to see or disliked the prominent political leader who just made the news. In addition, terms for specific groups of people, whether in discussions about race or religion or any other factor, were less carefully used than we generally see in the United States. Yet while I might see some of these practices as being rude, cold or offensive, Russians take pride in the fact that they are speaking honestly.

I might not have picked up the straightforward social habits during my stay in Russia, but I did take home an admiration for such direct dialogue. While it took more time to acclimate to some of these changes than to others, I began to understand the Russian mindset and respect it for its values instead of measuring it against our own.

Anna Mendlein is a junior Social Work and Russian major who studied abroad in Moscow, Russia during the Spring 2014 semester. Anna is also a Peer Adviser at the Office of Education Abroad. Visit her during walk-in advising hours every M-F from 1-4pm or email her at

Farang Me (or how this blog got its name)

Originally posted on Farang Me:

I can’t really say being a travel journalist is a dream I’ve had for as long as I’ve remembered. My childhood fantasies of adulthood were just as filled with firemen and superheroes as the next kid in kindergarten class. No, my goal to be a ramblin’ roamin’ writer is a more collegiate one, to be sure. It’s one I picked up while reading some of my favorite books and novels, still my favorite escape from reality (though Netflix and it’s devious convenience is quickly becoming a close second).

I always envisioned myself there, while hungrily flipping through my favorite American authors’ accounts of their travels. Burly Hemingway in Paris and Africa, posh and opinionated Eliot in London, and, of course, cool Anthony Bourdain wherever it is he would be writing from in the world that week. I saw myself, sun-glass bespectacled, a traveler’s stubbly beard poking through as I sat at…

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Meet The Staff – Lori Lammert

LorieditedName:  Lori Lammert

Position:  Associate Director, Education abroad.  I oversee our office’s program management, advising services, and office management.  I facilitate many aspects of risk management for study abroad.  I work to ensure successful student experiences by making sure all of the nuts and bolts are in place in terms of process.

Education:  BS in Journalism (at OU) and MA in Spanish (also at OU).  Go Bobcats!

How long have you been at the OEA:  Nine years.

Favorite aspect of work:  I love that we facilitate global opportunities for students and they get so much out of these experiences. We have a lot of satisfied customers.  We’re helping OHIO students toward a path of global citizenship.

Experiences Abroad: I studied abroad in both Spain and Mexico as a student  – both were immersive language programs during which I lived with a host family, which was such a great experience both times.

*The post is a part of  a series of “Meet the Staff” posts. Each week different staff members from the Office of Education Abroad (OEA) will be featured. You can contact Lori at 740-597-2730 or


Become a Global Ambassador @ OU!

Studying abroad and subsequently working in the Office of Education Abroad, has been one of the most rewarding experiences that I have had in college. Before I traveled abroad, I would describe myself as being shy, unable to make new friends, and all around socially awkward. I would have never imagined that I would be doing anything that resembled public speaking or just speaking to strangers in general! But once I went abroad, I feel like I became a new person; I became a better version of myself. While abroad, I was forced to make new friends, talk to complete strangers and to become independent. I feel like I did an entire 180-degree change.

When I got back to OU, I learned of an opportunity to help promote studying abroad for the Office of Education Abroad. I loved studying abroad so much and all of the life lessons that it had taught me, I wanted to make sure that other students were able to take advantage of this opportunity. I began working as a Global Ambassador my fall semester, junior year and I absolutely LOVED it. I loved tabling and providing information on the program I went on and the company I traveled with, it was really fun helping with the Study Abroad Fair and just speaking with other students who were afraid to go abroad but just needed a gentle push. Through the Global Ambassador program I was also able to learn how to speak about my trip in a professional setting, and how to use my experience abroad to my advantage, especially when applying for jobs. My work with the Global Ambassador program eventually led me to a Peer Adviser position in the Office of Education Abroad, where I am able to reach more students, and help more students explore the world!

Interested in becoming a Global Ambassador at Ohio University? Email Stephanie LaCava at for more information!

Alexis Chambers is a senior studying Political Science and African American Studies. She traveled to Meknes, Morocco the summer of 2013 and she is Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Recipient.


Meet the Staff – Catherine Marshall


Name: Catherine Marshall

Position: Director. I have the pleasure of working with extremely talented and dedicated staff and faculty devoted to creating educative and meaningful global experiences for OHIO students.

Education: AB in German Area Studies from Kenyon College, MA and PhD in German from University of Cincinnati.

How long  have you been at OEA: I began working at the OEA in 2001 as the associate director.

Favorite aspect of work: Facilitating transformative learning experiences for students and working with an incredibly diverse and engaged group of colleagues at OHIO and abroad.

Experiences abroad: I’ve had many opportunities to travel internationally in my professional capacity, but it all started with a junior high spring break trip to Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein in 9 days (including international travel!). It was a crazy, whirlwind trip, but it really whet my appetite for more global experiences. I spent my junior year abroad in Freiburg, Germany and a year of my PhD program in Hamburg, Germany. I’ve had the pleasure of taking students to Regensburg, Germany as well.

*The post is a part of  a series of “Meet the Staff” posts. Each week different staff members from the Office of Education Abroad (OEA) will be featured. You can contact Catherine at 740-593-4583 or