Study Abroad: Social Media & the False Sense of Home

“In my imagination home was a place of radical openness, of recognition and reconciliation, where one could create freely” – Bell Hooks

What does home look like when you’re studying abroad? Is home a place, a feeling, or a person? These are the questions hovering in my mind while I am currently studying in Fortaleza, Brazil. My first month abroad I was on the quest to find my home. I had the intentions of being as present as possible in my program, in order to observe and participate in a Brazilian cultural exchange to my fullest capacity. But in the back of my mind this wasn’t home and as time has passed, home doesn’t even feel like home.

In the beginning, social media gave me a sense of interconnectedness to home that was fulfilling and refreshing. My social media platform of choice is Twitter. I spent a fairly significant amount of time everyday scrolling through my timeline, contributing to discussions about things going on back home, and actively keeping up with current American politics. Twitter began to feel like home, being plugged into my iPhone was essential. Unfortunately, the utopia I had found myself in via Twitter simply was not my reality. The conversations I participated in were one sided, the discussions were irrelevant to my current state of mind, and in some ways I was setting myself up for failure.

Within a timeline full of people from home and various places I’ve traveled, alongside the limiting space of 140 characters, there was no way for me to actively share my experience. I had lost the present in Brazil in an effort to conserve the past in Denver. Twitter wasn’t home.

I have reached the six-week mark of my study abroad program. I just arrived in Salvador from Manaus which included a three-day boat trip up the Rio Negro making various stops to visit indigenous communities and explore the rainforest. I’ve finally experienced home, the type of essence I believe could never be experienced via social media. The people I’ve encountered have shown me home, showing up authentically, and free. Home has been a new found sense of freedom and determination.

So what is home when you’re studying abroad? Home is a journey, not a destination.img_6772

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