The End of an Era

By the time I post this I’ll probably be at London Heathrow, preparing to leave England. I left Southampton on Saturday, made my way to the Holiday Inn at Heathrow and enjoyed not having to rush to the gate and board my plane. The staff here has been wonderful and even gave me a free drink voucher because my room needed 5 more minutes to be ready. Not going to complain about that!

But what’s really going through my head is this emotional tug of war battle. On the one hand, I am overly excited to head back to the US. I have never appreciated what we have more than after living here and learning about what my friends from other countries have. In the least cliche way possible, I am very proud to be an American. I’m also over the moon excited to see my family and friends…and dog. It’s been almost 9 months since I was last home, and a whole year since I started this journey, and I’m looking forward to reuniting with those who supported my decision to pursue a master’s degree.

On the other hand, my heart is breaking. This past year has been one of the most amazing years of my life. Full stop. Period. I have met some of the most interesting, courageous, caring people that will always hold a special place in my heart. They have taught me so many things, both in and out of the classroom and library settings! I can not imagine that this past year would have been as impactful as it was had those people not been a part of it.

While I try to figure out if I’m really happy or not about leaving, I’ve reflected a bit on myself. This year has brought many firsts into my life, including:
-Living in a foreign country for an entire year
-Traveling alone, to places where I don’t speak the language, eating alone, and making myself talk to others in the hostels
-Opening my mind to the world
-Giving football (soccer) a chance, and actually enjoying it
-Not being afraid to put myself out there and live a little

It has also taught me many things, such as:
-Understanding how hard English is for those who do not to speak it as their first language
-Stereotypes are just that – stereotypes. You have to give people a chance no matter who they are or where they come from

And these are just some of the initials things I thought of over my wine and pizza last night. As the days pass, I find a job and move on with my life, I know this past year will play a huge role into my personal and professional development.

So, to my new friends, I love you and miss you already. To my friends and family in the USA, see you all very, very soon!

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Forming Friendships

During my master’s programme, I have the opportunity to work on a variety of group projects with people from all over the world.  One of these groups is for my Communications and Media Management course.  Let me introduce you to my group members!

MANG6268 Group

First on the far left is Sunnie. She is from China and plays the Guzheng, which is a Chinese plucked zither.  Next is Natalie who is from Hong Kong.  Natalie likes to play tennis and basketball and is currently studying the art of Kung Fu.  Bonnie is on the far right and is from Taiwan.  She is a member of the University of Southampton Table Tennis Team.  

These are the three lovely ladies who I work with on a variety of in-class and out-of-class projects.  But, we don’t just work on our course work when we’re together.  We’re girls, plain and simple.  Though we come from different backgrounds and countries, we still talk about shoes and boys and everything else in between.  They’re introducing me to Chinese food restaurants and Oolong Tea and I’m helping them with their English (hopefully!).

Though we were put together to work on course projects, we’ve formed a friendship that I  hope last for a long, long time!

The Importance of Social Networks

In our Marketing in the 21st Century course, we were asked to use our social networks and post messages encouraging our followers to check out the MOOC.  What’s that?  A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course.  The University of Southampton’s first MOOC focuses on, “Web Science: How the Web is Changing the World” (Future Learn, 2013).  For more information of the MOOC, click here (sotonscomms, 2013):


 After posting, we were then asked to record the reactions we received from our social networks.  Now, having 974 Facebook friends and 143 Twitter followers, I thought it would be easy to get people to like/share/favourite/retweet the link.

Low and behold, it wasn’t.  Two of the four Facebook likes I received were from coursemates, while the other two were from one of my housemate and my aunt in Arizona.  I had a little more luck on Twitter – one retweet from a coursemate, two retweets from a fellow DigiChamp, and one retweet from someone outside my network, @LeanneF.  But, these still weren’t the results I had hoped for.

This assignment made me wonder how companies today are beginning to combine their traditional marketing goals with their social networks to market their products and services. Or, if they aren’t using their social networks, will they ever?  From my experience, there are still companies out there who have separate marketing/advertising budgets for their traditional and digital media components.  Yes, traditional media will always be important, but it’s the integration of traditional media, digital media, and social networks that’s key to a successful campaign. The companies that HAVE integrated their social networks into their marketing plans are changing the marketing world as we know it.

One of those companies is the American coffee and donut chain, Dunkin Donuts.  Their newest campaign took real customer’s tweets with the hashtag #MyDunkin and created a campaign around them.  Instead of collecting research to create commercials, they used the actual experiences, which helps customers feel a greater connection to the brand.  Click here to hear about Meg’s #MyDunkin experience (dunkindonuts, 2013):

By using their social network, Dunkin Donuts engaged their current customers to potentially talk about and share the video with potential customers.  Yes, they’ve paid to make the commercial and for the airtime, but word of mouth marketing and video sharing is, for all intended purposes, priceless.  DunkinDonuts not only helps their customers feel part of the brand, but they also receive free advertising.

DunkinDonuts is just one of many companies who have integrated their social network into their marketing plan.  In the coming years, we’ll see more and more companies do the same as social networks, and whatever the next new digital tool is, become even more important to a brand’s survival.