Combat Zone

Study Abroad Student Learns a Lot From Taking More s\Selfies with Children

One of every undergraduate college student’s dreams is to embark on an overseas journey to experience the unique and colorful facets of another country and their culture. From the fog-and-windswept bluffs of Ireland to the humid rainforests of Costa Rica, every student has their own ideal destination. For sophomore Katie Jackson, that destination is Zimbabwe, Africa.

“Ever since I saw my best friend Zoe Perkins’ Facebook picture, I’ve always wanted to go [to Africa],” Jackson said. “Seeing her in that colorful flowing skirt and white blouse… and the way she held that small African baby as she flipped her gorgeous blonde hair. It was so inspiring. She got so many likes on that photo!”

While many students travel abroad to further their non-English language skills, to taste the delicious foods and hear the beautiful music, or simply to engage in total immersion in a foreign culture, Jackson travels in order to find the perfect African baby with whom she can take her ideal Facebook profile picture.

Jackson, after hours of close inspection and study of her friends’ popular profile pictures, has determined that holding an African child will yield the greatest number of likes—and moreover, will foster comments regarding her giving and charitable nature.

“I know exactly the kind of child I want to hold,” Jackson said. “It needs to be emaciated enough that it appears like I’m helping it—I mean I am helping it—but it can’t be too emaciated because it still needs to be cute. It’s going on my profile after all.”

Jackson has been preparing for this trip for months after initially seeing her friend’s photograph, which even inspired her application and essay to the study abroad program. After her admission, she immediately went to American Apparel to buy a flowing skirt, embellished with the patterns and artwork of traditional African cultures, and a light-colored, breathable blouse to contrast the skin of her future profile picture-child. She hopes that her hair, being sun-bleached after the first couple weeks in the country, and her bright blue eyes will also contrast with the child for greatest effect.

She did correlational analyses of her friends’ best and most popular Instagram pictures in order to determine the most effective filter—in other words, the most commonly used filter that would maximize her likes.

Yet despite all efforts to maximize social media attention and popularity, Jackson still admitted to some concerns regarding the ability to find the right child.

“It might be hard to be able to pick up a random child—you know, those overprotective mothers—so I might have to settle for sitting on a curbside while it touches my hand or something,” Jackson said. “But I figure the shutter speed would be relatively high so all it’ll take is a half-second touch to get what I need.”

Her concerns, however, are not only limited to picking the right child, but picking the right number of children as well.

“It’s been really hard for me to decide whether I want an intimate mother-and-child picture with me and one of them, or if I want to be standing in front of a class-full,” Jackson said. “Or maybe the best choice is to hold one’s hand while I just hold the other. And do I feed them in the picture, or do I do that first to attract them?”

iPhone in hand, Jackson will depart for Zimbabwe in the fall of 2016.