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!
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.