This was a busy week for The Best Places to Study Abroad!
I wrote a post that’s been on my to-do list for a while: Study Abroad City Size: Comparing Advantages and Disadvantages of Going Big and Small. Of course, I advocate for going as small and remote as possible, because that’s where you get the most dramatic change of culture, but I tried to be fair to the cities, too.
This post ties directly in to the rating scheme that I have for universities, since I plan to allow site viewers to filter the ranking of universities by their city size and setting. If I can figure out how to do that technically.
But that wasn’t the major accomplishment of the week.
Reaching Out to Others
For a long time, I have resisted bringing my website to the attention of other universities or study abroad professionals directly. I guess I was afraid of their feedback. No, I know I was afraid of it. I still am! But the simple fact is this:
If I don’t get buy-in from universities and study abroad coordinators, then my site will never go anywhere. Reaching out to these people is a key validation step for me, as terrifying as it is. I’m putting all my work and research on the line here and saying, “This is my stand.”
I mean, I’ve had the site up for several months already, but while it was just sitting there, I could tell myself that anyone who finds it on their own is looking for that information and so they’ll be more receptive. (Since I rank 45th in google for the keyword “Best Places to Study Abroad,” really nobody was going to find me anyway.)
Now, I’m going out there and actively asking top universities to pay attention to me. These are universities. Places that research the crap out of anything before moving forward. And here I am, taking the lean startup approach of building a thing and fixing it on the fly. You see why I’ve been afraid?
Yesterday, I emailed 10 universities from the Open Doors list of US universities that send the most students for study abroad. I’m going to keep sending about 10 a day until I’ve contacted that whole list. (I’m testing response rates for different days of the week).
Oh, yeah, some of those universities are exchange partners with mine and might know me. I have no idea if that is going to help or hurt.
Procrastination and Changing Hosts
So, I was so afraid of sending those emails, I found every reason to put it off. I tweaked my email script. I retested my online forms. On Friday, when I tried to log into my site and found it down again, I decided that I couldn’t contact universities while I was still on the absolute crap that is bluehost, so I migrated the whole thing over to inMotion hosting, where I’ve had my other sites for years with no problems.
I had gone with bluehost because it was cheaper at the higher plans, but boy did I get what I paid for. My site was down at least once per week when I went to edit it and their support was worthless when it came to uptime issues.
*Support was outstanding with the cancellation experience, though!
How will the next week go?
So far, the only ratings I’ve gotten on my site were from students from my university that I contacted through social media. This week starts the huge test as to whether I can get other universities – my target audience – to buy in or not.