Through talking to students about their experiences communicating across time zones, we found that people don’t usually have a big problem with the time zones. Generally technology provides people with a way to connect to family and friends outside of Australia. People found that connecting to people overseas was very relaxed and that they were able to reply whenever they have the time, even if it’s not instantly, thanks to social media, allowing them to pick up conversations where they left off. However, if people were put into a situation where they needed to contact home immediately, they have found this difficult due to time differences.
We found that the greater the physical geographical distance, and therefore time difference, the less consistent communication that people had with family and friends back home. The people who contact friends and family in America all discussed the fact that their communication is much more sporadic, as in they respond to messages and Snapchats on their on time when they wake up and see them. Multiple people that we interviewed mentioned the convenience of using Snapchat, as it allows them to follow their friends days and lives through their Snapchat stories. Overall, communication to home and friends abroad lessens as time goes on, regardless of the geographical space, because students become more comfortable and confident in their own environment and establish a way of life. Students can be more relaxed about their communication since technology and social media has made it extremely easy to communicate across time zones at almost any given time.
I remember the day I got an e-mail from my Student Exchange Coordinators saying that I had been placed with a family in the city of Eindhoven (The Netherlands) and that I was going to be a part of this family with a mum, dad and younger brother and younger sister. I was super excited because I am the youngest here in Australia and I have ALWAYS wanted to be the oldest!
I e-mailed them as soon as I had the chance and we made a few international phone calls as well to get to know each other. After that, we skyped about 2 times before I disembarked from Australia to the Netherlands when I was 15. I had a stopover in Dubai and all I remember is walking through the terminals walking past guards, fully clothed with big guns for protection, this was the first time I was exposed to anything like this, so I quickly moved along to find my gate, sat down and got comfortable with my Harry Potter book while I called mum explaining that I was starving but too scared to walk anywhere!
When I landed in the Netherlands, I was scared to go through customs so I chose to go through a different gate which then impacted the fact that I walked straight past my host family that came to pick me up! I tried calling them, but my phone wasn’t working, so I curled up, sat down next to the information desk waiting for someone to come and claim me. Once all the drama of ‘lost Sam’ was sorted, I was on my way to where I called home for the next 5 months. I skyped mum as soon as I was there letting her know that I was safe and sound and I was off exploring town with my new brother and sister.
The first few months, keeping in contact with family and friends was hard – adjusting to time zones, my new school and learning a new language. Communication was always over Facebook, WhatsApp or Skype which was easy and convenient especially when I had a terrible Nokia phone that didn’t want to pick up any signal in the foreign country and no laptop besides the family computer which was limited when all 5 of us needed to use it!
Click here to see Charlotte’s initial experience communicating while abroad.
When we realized that we both had studied abroad, Charlotte and I began talking and found ourselves comparing and contrasting our experiences. Since we were in our BCM 240: Media, Audience, Place class, our conversation began to focus on our communication while abroad and how media shaped our experiences abroad in a way that is different to what they would have been even just a few years ago. Therefore, when it came time to decide on the topic for our final project for BCM 240, we decided to look deeper into our own as well as other people’s experiences with communication across time zones, either while abroad or while communicating with friends that they met when those friends were abroad. Through a series of blog posts beginning with this one, we created a compilation of people’s experiences with media and communication across the world to create a story that shows how communication changes while people are abroad and once they return home from being abroad. We interviewed a variety of people from four different countries with varying backgrounds and levels of communication that bring together their individual stories and experiences into one narrative of comparing and contrasting experiences.