Keeping Track of Your Time Abroad

Keeping a Journal:

You are about to embark on a journey where you will be a foreigner.  As you interact with the people and customs of your new surroundings, your views of yourself and some of your most cherished values will be challenged and undergo subtle changes.  

One of the best tools for gaining insight into these changes is to keep a journal.  There you can reflect on the puzzling and wonderful things you have seen, experienced, and overheard that sticks in your mind.  A custom that appears strange at first will often become understood as you continue to observe it in its own context.  Writing down incidents, thoughts, questions, ideas, and reflections will help give depth and insight to your experience and can also be therapeutic.  A journal can be especially helpful when traveling because it will be easier to remember the amazing places you visited - and a great reminder of your time abroad when friends and family ask about your semester.

It is always a challenge to put this experience into words, but make a start and stick with it.  Go beyond the mere recording of incidents to recording your feelings and conjectures.  Why did that comment sting?  Why did people react so strangely to my shirt, or smile, or joke?   You will see sights that strike you as barely imaginable back home.  What does that say about the host culture?  What does it say about your own? A month later you may see things differently and you should write that down too.  Record stories or poems you are inspired to write, etc.   The journal will capture your thoughts at a specific moment.  Years later the journal will be a treasure.  Keep a journal, you will not regret it!

Taking Pictures:

Some people may not be particularly fond of writing or just can’t find the time to keep a journal regularly.  Keeping a camera close at hand is another great way to document all the memories you will make while abroad.  Also, upon returning to campus, there will be a photo contest for returned studied abroad students during which your photos will be displayed and eligible for prizes.  More details about the photo contest will be sent out upon your return from studying abroad.

Dickinson Study Abroad Blog:

Dickinson College has a blog for students participating in study abroad programs.  You may want to consider keeping a journal on the blog and to share your experiences and insights with your friends or other students interested in going on your program.  It also serves as a good tool to keep you connected with Dickinson students studying at different locations and to exchange information. If you’re interested, send an email to Todd Bryant at  He will create your blog and send you the basic instructions to get started. 

If you’re interested in publishing a newsletter or blog, send an email to Todd Bryant.  He’ll make sure you have the access you need and the very basic instructions.  (Hint: it starts by clicking the “edit” tab at the start of each page).