Recording Your Time Abroad
Life abroad will offer a whirlwind of adventures. That is wonderful! However, all the exciting, difficult, and downright annoying new experiences can become overwhelming if you don’t spend adequate time to rest and reflect.
Finding a creative outlet to record your experiences abroad is crucial for maintaining health and getting the most out of the experience. The good times are savored for years to come. The bad times become lessons learned. And when you get home, you’ll want to have a way to share your experiences with your loved ones.
The way you record and reflect on study abroad experiences is entirely up to you. Find something you enjoy and know you can stick to! Base it around what you are good at. If you like coding, make a website. If you like drawing, keep a sketchbook. Here are a few ideas to get your brain working:
• Start a travel blog.
• Start a YouTube channel or vlog.
• Keep a scrapbook.
• Make a video (edit it along the way).
• Fill a map with notes and photos from places you’ve gone.
• Record experiences with pins and notes on a bag, shirt, or favorite article of clothing.
• Create a slideshow or photo book.
• Start a VSCO or Instagram feed for your photos.
• Create your own hashtag to organize your study abroad photos on social media.
• Send yourself postcards.
• Keep a collection of pins, postcards, magnets, salt and pepper shakers, or anything else you can easily find in most shops.
• Keep a sketchbook.
• Keep voice memos or an audio journal.
• Curate a playlist of songs you learn or hear in new places, or songs you associate with new experiences.
• Send letters or group emails to friends and family at home (and keep copies for your own records).
• Keep an online or physical journal.
As you can see, the list of creative ways to record your experiences is extremely diverse. However, I recommend the last one, journaling, to every study abroad student.
Journaling is a simple way to cope with changing life and unknown futures. It will force you to reflect on experiences and ultimately, get more out of them. And it makes for the best possible souvenir you can give yourself when the journey is over: a record of not only the things you did but also how you felt and the lessons you learned in the midst of it all.
If you have never tried journaling before, consider giving it a shot. You can buy an inspiring physical journal before you go or keep a digital journal on your computer.
If you are new to journaling, here are a few tips for getting started:
• Set a regular time (before bed is a good time because it is regular and also offers you a chance to wind down and reflect on each day’s successes and failures).
• Don’t be afraid to get creative (feel free to express yourself in whatever way makes sense for you—don’t feel bad or get flustered if you miss something or your journal falls out of chronological order).
• Experiment with new types of content (short descriptions of your day, poems, cartoons and doodles, to-do lists, tickets and other memorabilia items, lists of things you are thankful for—there are all sorts of different types of journal content you can experiment with!). And don’t be afraid to use colors, photos, stickers, stamps, or even small souvenirs you collect along the way.
• Try using dialogue. If your friend makes a hilarious comment or you and a study buddy have an interesting conversation, record it! Otherwise, there is no way you will remember the exact words.
And there you have it: a few ideas for recording your time abroad. In the next lesson, we will discuss how to prepare and deal with homesickness.
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