Advice From A Mentor On Pursuing A Writing Career

by Sydney Kahl / May 31, 2014 /

Throughout the past four years of high school, I have been crafting ideas about what I would like to do with the rest of my life, and particularly how I can prepare during the next four years of college. I am committed to writing and sharing about my travel, cultural, and educational experiences. This summer I will travel to Russia on a US State Department funded program, and in college I plan to study abroad. Jessie Voigts, founder and publisher of Wandering Educators, has been a writing mentor of mine since I joined the Wandering Educators Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program in spring of 2013. I have grown as a writer due to her creative assignments and thorough feedback. While writing for Wandering Educators, I have realized that writing is a type of career I would like to pursue. Since I will be a college student next year, I’d like to explore how I can best take advantage of resources and opportunities that will help me grow as a writer. I will continue to turn to Wandering Educators as a resource and for inspiration.  Here are some questions I asked Jessie relating to her career as Founder and Editor for Wandering Educators and her answers might help other young writers like myself persevere:


How do you see students who have completed several youth travel blogging class terms best able to provide help to students new to the process?

I think that one of the best parts of this program is the community. Students help each other, mentor each other, and even travel the world to see each other. Some of the students have traveled together, many of them skype or text or call daily. We’ve built a community of like-minded people – global travelers, who aren’t all third culture kids, but all have experience in being different from the norm. These students are all globally aware, extensively traveled, and live a life that embraces intercultural learning. When we get together on google hangouts or on Facebook, it’s like a family reunion.


What role do you see blogging playing in formal travel study programs for college students? How can students travelling together write together? Any ideas? I’d like to promote these ideas when I travel with other students.

One of the problems with study abroad today – indeed, the world, in a way – is that people can be too connected. Before the internet, when you studied abroad, you wrote letters and occasionally called home for a special treat. Now, people text, facebook, skype, and interact with friends and family on a daily, if not hourly basis. What does this mean for study abroad? It means that students have less of a cultural immersion than if they were disconnected. While students keep their ties, they are less involved in exploring a new place, language, culture.

That said, one of the best ways that students can process their study abroad experience on the ground, as it were, is to blog about it. If students use this as a critical thinking tool, a way to analyze their experiences and share thoughts of intercultural growth and cultural awareness, then I applaud the concept. I have seen study abroad blogs sharing the worst of study abroad, as well – tales of getting drunk, or complaining about the culture in which they are a guest. As with anything we do online, it is important to be responsible and remember that our digital footprint never goes away.

Blogging together is a great idea. I think a group site (for 2 or more people) would be fantastic. Students could write on the same theme each week, or just share their experiences. In terms of writing articles together, I think it would be better for each student to build their writing voice separately before trying to join together. If you are serious about blogging and taking it to a more professional level, then have a talk with your co-bloggers and decide on name, who is paying for what, who will be running the social media, and making sure you’re on the same page for everything. If you’re into simpler blogging, then grab a tumblr blog (free) and get going! Whichever you choose, be sure you are all clear on purpose, content, and look of the site.


If you could individually design an undergraduate degree program for students interested in travel writing, based on what you learned in your doctoral program and from your personal experience, what would the major look like? 

This is a fantastic question. Travel writing and travel blogging are two different beasts. For travel writing, I’d be sure to include at least 2 years of study abroad in the major. Classes would include extensive writing and creative writing offerings, journalism, and global studies. Ideally, students would work one on one with a faculty advisor, to edit and hone their voice and craft. Topics covered would include flaneuring, intercultural awareness and knowledge, a bit of psychology for people watching, geography, anthropology, ethnography, art, history, languages, and sociology.

Travel blogging should include most of that, but also offer economics, marketing, and entrepreneurship classes. There should be internships with travel-related companies so that students could learn marketing, sales, and sponsorship in person. There should be at least 1 year of advanced social media, as no travel blog will succeed without it.


Jessie’s answers to my specific questions were very informative and provide helpful guidance. I thought her word “flaneuring” was a typo when I first read it; I had to look up the meaning. “Wandering” is a synonym, so it doesn’t surprise me she used the word. The best definition I read of “flaneuring” was “being one with a place,” this is worth remembering as I continue to travel, write, and immerse myself in other cultures. I found some writing courses at my college that I want to take; I wonder if flaneuring will be discussed? I am interested in integrating environmental studies/English/economics and global studies as a major.


Advice From A Mentor On Pursuing A Writing Career



There are other interviews with Jessie that are illuminating, in regards to a career in international education and writing:





Sydney Kahl is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program


Photo created by Sydney Kahl



One educator's advice on pursuing travel writing as a career

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