In my search for cultural knowledge I decided that it was high time I got myself a pen pal. Not just any old pen pal, not someone from the U.S. but rather outside of our wonderful fifty states to gain perspective on the day-to-day lives and culture of a teenager from a different country.
Given the resources at hand in this day and age I thought it’d be easy to find someone worldly to converse with. Setting my sights on a friend from Spain to practice the six years of Spanish that was forgotten overnight I began my journey with a Google search.
However, my attempt at viewing the world from a different pair of eyes was stumped when upon said Google search I was left unsatisfied. I broadened my search to any and all countries (note the desperation), but no website seemed legitimate or safe.
After spending way too much time searching with no success, ready to rid myself of this checklist idea, I gave up all together.
Two weeks later after complaining to my friend much like I did here she referred me to a website she used to find her pen pal from Ireland who she still keeps in contact with. After hearing about her great experience and the advice to look beyond the sketchiness of the website’s home page I took a leap of faith and created an account.
Designed specifically for teenagers and adults under the age of twenty-five, Students of the World allow users to view profiles and find common hobbies with people all over the world. The site gives you the option of choosing pen pals from Europe, Asia, Africa, South and Central America and even Oceania, (which if you’re like me and are unaware, is where Australia and Fiji are located.)
Creating a profile is easy. The only personal information they ask is your first name. From there you input hobbies, languages spoken, music, animal of choice, etc. You have the option to write a little bit about yourself to make people interested in contacting you. Once your profile is published you can contact the people whose profiles you find interesting.
Hesitant to contact anyone, I waited patiently to see if someone would contact me. Within five minutes of my publication I got an email from a guy in Japan. Excited, I opened the email and seconds later regretted it.
Not only was the guy ridiculously creepy from the beginning by talking about his “pitfall into darkness” and philosophy on life, which are completely inappropriate for an introduction email, but he signed off the email by saying “let’s discover the darkness of the world together.”
Mortified I quickly deleted the email, only to get a similar one sent to me hours later. Although there were no propositions of dark world travel in this email the creep meter was blaring a loud warning sound. Through the somewhat disturbing emails I received there were some which seemed decently normal but turned sour very fast.
My attempt to strengthen my worldly knowledge came to a halt instantly. Whether my experience is an outlier I will never know but I no longer want a pen pal.