Editor's note: This story is part of a community-oriented, weekly article series in which Community Manager Caira Conner discusses how to get the most out of PolicyMic.
PolicyMic pundits are going places. Literally. If you're one of them, the good news is, you can take PolicyMic with you! (Just the news you were wanting to hear). No, but seriously, writing for PolicyMic overseas is just another way our pundits bring fresh angles and original analysis to current events.
We believe in providing smart, engaged millennials with a platform to leverage ideas and experiences, and having an on-the-ground or in-country perspective of the issues you're writing about is supremely educational — for us, for you, and for the PolicyMic community at large.
This week's column features several points of view on the ways PolicyMic can be used to stay in touch with fellow pundits interested in similar issues, and share worldly insights with a broad community.
Are you going abroad? Join me on Twitter (#TalkPM) with your questions, feedback, and good jokes for a live community discussion Wednesday, August 28 at 12:00 p.m. ET.
1. Karl Lindemann, Syria
Karl Lindemann lived in Syria from September 2010 until May 2011, with the goal of improving his Arabic.
I enrolled in a year-long program run by the French government, and vastly improved my understanding of the Arabic language, and Syrian culture and perspective. When writing for PolicyMic on Middle Eastern issues, especially as it relates to Syrian policy, it has been incredibly useful to understand the thought processes behind the opposition, the loyalists, and Syria's relations with its neighbors (especially Jordan, Lebanon and Israel). These are all things you can read in a book, but having conversations with my Syrian roommates, teachers, and friends have added useful nuance to sometimes oversimplified Western analysis of the situation.
With that said, PolicyMic is only as effective as you make it. While international relations is not a topic that draws as much interest among millennials as domestic policy, I know of no better forum to voice my concerns and opinions about what is happening in the Middle East. If you're abroad, PolicyMic can be a great way to both stay in touch with the West and spur interest in topics that might not otherwise be prominent.
2. Todd Elfman, Scotland
Todd Elfman is entering his final year at the University of St Andrews in St Andrews, Scotland, where he's lived since 2010.
I decided to pursue my undergraduate education outside of the U.S. to have more international opportunities for travel and to meet friends from all over the world, instead of simply spending a semester abroad in conjunction with a U.S. institution. Learning outside of my home country has allowed me to adapt to new situations as well as become an independent person. Not to mention, studying at a 600 year-old university (older than the Taj Mahal and predating Columbus' sail across the ocean blue) is an irreplaceable experience no matter which nation you're from.
PolicyMic was an effective platform for my particular voice, but my longer-term journalistic ambitions have actually ceased since I started writing for the site. Watching PolicyMic develop over time has been interesting as the editorial staff balances the need for attracting traffic to the site, while still providing a professional medium for which millenials' ideas are taken seriously. PolicyMic allowed me to take a serious stab at journalism to assess whether it would be an industry of interest and for that I am thankful. Additionally, watching the community grow to include voices from all over the world is inspiring and makes me want to continue reading.
Writing while abroad is a fantastic experience simply for the transferable skills. Being able to tell employers that I coordinated with an editorial team to meet a deadline while working with serious time zone differences as an 18 year-old is invaluable in the increasingly globalized work world. If you want to be competitive in the current landscape, being able to manage time zones effectively is essential.
People pursuing interesting experiences abroad can gain a lot more exposure for their stories than if they were to publish a personal blog. The blog world is completely over-saturated (especially with millenial travel blogs) and PolicyMic is a unique publication that allows you to share your travels and newly-gained worldly knowledge with a captivated audience of your peers, instead of getting lost in the Internet ether.
3. Elena Sheppard, Thailand
The week I graduated from college I moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand. I had no idea what I was in for. It was terrifying, but also entirely amazing.
After a year in Chiang Mai, I decided I wanted more Thai time and moved to Bangkok where I worked as a copywriter and travel journalist. While living there, I was constantly looking for Western outlets where I could write and publish about life in South East Asia. PolicyMic would have been an ideal platform for that. Now that I'm back in the U.S., Asia is still a very big part of my life. First and foremost, I think I always have one eye on what's going on in South East Asia (and Thailand in particular)...that was definitely not the case before and I think has helped me in the way I think about the news. And then of course there's that added bonus, which is that I think you really change as a person once you spend significant time abroad. But that's just a secret bonus.
4. Nolan Kraszkiewicz, Turkey
Nolan Kraszkiewicz spent the summer of 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey studying philosophy and the sociology of religion at Bogazici University.
Although I was not yet writing for PolicyMic, my experience in Turkey definitely serves as a reference point in my life (i.e. Before-Turkey-Nolan and After-Turkey-Nolan) all the time.
Now, PolicyMic is a great platform for my voice. The mixture of opinions from all political and ideological spectrums really help create a unique canvas of the millennial perspective.
I like that my voice is generally preserved in the final publication, for better or for worse. And while it probably goes without saying: whether it is sharing our story, engaging in debate, or discussing current international affairs, PolicyMic is hands down the best platform for millenials to broadcast their opinions to the world.
My perspectives formed abroad really compliment the subject matter I choose to write about. Additionally, the cities I lived in are known for being multicultural hubs on the international stage. Historically, Istanbul is the bridge between Asia and Europe, East and West, Christianity and Islam. As a political science and Islamic studies student, this locale was a perfect compliment to my coursework.
For those who are abroad and already writing for PolicyMic, really emphasize the connection between your international adventure and your subject matter. Also, pick somewhere unique! My suggestion is to branch out — perhaps travel to the Balkans, the Middle East, Africa, or South East Asia. The more atypical your destination, the better chances there are for earning a specialized scholarship for such a unique destination. Even writing about a local interest piece in the town you are in could be big draw for readers, as it may be foreign and exciting for those stuck back in the States. I wrote about NATO and Syria while I was just a stone's throw away from NATO's political headquarters.
Lastly, the experience of traveling abroad, coupled with avid journalism, really rounds out your curriculum vitae. This helps draw the connection between just visiting somewhere, and actively imbibing the foreign culture you are immersed in. Coming from someone who spent all of his university summers abroad, I would highly recommend traveling to my fellow pundits and/or those who are in college.
5. Anaam Butt, Pakistan
Anaam Butt worked with an organization in Islamabad, collecting data on the recovery efforts following the 2005 and 2008 earthquakes in northern Pakistan.
My parents are originally from Pakistan and always strive to teach us more about their heritage and culture. I have been able to use PolicyMic as a platform to be a part of the political dialogue and also keep other millennials informed about what’s going on in the region.
PolicyMic helps me keep my connection to Pakistan alive by allowing me to voice my opinion about political issues facing the country.
Going abroad really opens up your eyes and shows you a different perspective. Growing up in New York, I would read news about Pakistan and was always frightened by the prospect of even visiting the country. The media always manages to frame the country in a negative light. My experience in country actually opened up my eyes and showed me that while the country may have problems, the citizens of Pakistan (especially millennials) are hopeful and are working towards reforming the system. It was refreshing and inspiring. It has helped me realize that there are two sides to the conversation and I want to help represent the side the media might forget to cover.
If your experience abroad changed your life, even in a small way, write about it. Even if you fear that no one will care or that people might think you are just bragging about your experience, write about it. You will always have critics, but the key thing to remember is that your experience might just inspire someone else to travel abroad and make a difference. Every perspective helps connect people on a deeper level and can help build bridges between groups that are constantly at odds with each other.
6. Nicolò Donà dalle Rose, Jordan
Nicolo Dona dalle Rose is a Georgetown student, currently spending a semester in Amman, Jordan.
I have long wanted to continue studying Arabic immersed in the vast and fascinating culture and history of an Arab country. Jordan provided the best option considering the quality of education and the current situation in the region. PolicyMic has been a fantastic platform so far on which to share my views, and participate in conversation about every major current affair you can think of.
I hope my presence in Amman will be able to contribute different angles to the dialogue PolicyMic is having regarding the current social changes constantly taking place in the Arab world. Being on the ground may help gather opinions and analyses that I would not otherwise have access to from the United States.
I hope to use PolicyMic to report and blog from Jordan —other pundits abroad can use the platform to promote a cause or mission depending on what their work is. My one piece of advice for PolicyMic-ers going overseas? Do not hesitate to interact with the rest of the PolicyMic staff to better understand how the platform can maximize efforts you are already involved in!
For more news on how to make the most of your PolicyMic experience, join me on Twitter (#TalkPM) every Wednesday at 12p.m. E.T.