Top 10 ways to document your study abroad experience:
During the run-up to the start of my study abroad, I constantly found myself thinking about the best way to keep a record of my year. Diary? Photos? Videos? Souvenirs? Live in the moment and not really think about this? Here are some of my personal favourite ideas for those of you about to start your year abroad (in no particular order):
1. A photo a day.
This is something that I have attempted to do at least. I have chosen a photo from each day that I will be printing and sticking into a scrapbook (well, that is the hope!). This is a good idea if you want something quick and easy that doesn’t require too much thinking. Whilst I love writing, I find writing blog posts is enough for me. Whilst I love the idea of keeping a diary, I definitely am not dedicated enough to remember to write something every day, let alone actually writing in it. Despite this, I am pretty sure there have been days where I have forgotten to take photos too…
2. A diary.
Contrasting to the above, a diary is a genuinely nice way to collect your thoughts throughout the year. Whether you only write in it occasionally or decide to write something every day, you can spend anything from 2 minutes to over an hour writing before you go to bed. The beauty of keeping a diary is that you can choose what you decide to do with it: whether that is showing all of your friends or keeping it to yourself.
3. Collecting magnets.
This is something that is super easy to do and really light to carry, making it the perfect reminder of your travels over the year. I have been collecting magnets from the various cities that I have travelled to. Admittedly, this started because of my mum pressuring me to at least buy something for myself (I am a terrible shopper), and a magnet seemed like the easiest and quickest thing to do. I put all of the magnets that I have collected in my fridge, and on reflection, this has turned out to be a really neat idea that I have enjoyed doing.
4. Making a music playlist.
This is something else that I have tried to keep up with. I have a music playlist of Australian playlist that I have discovered throughout the year, most of which have been suggestions from people that I have met. Moreover, during my travels, I was introduced to music from around the world, and I kept my personal favourites on a global playlist that I created. Music is a truly awesome way to remember some of your favourite moments, especially when travelling.
5. Just keeping things.
I am terrible at this. I keep things for a few weeks and then decide that I am going to throw them away when I clean my room. However, it is pretty cool seeing my friends who have still got their aeroplane boarding passes/visa confirmation letters/leaflets from major tourist sights that they have visited etc. This doesn’t necessarily require any commitment other than remembering to actually keep these things rather than throwing them away. Having a dedicated folder to store these things may be a good way to do this.
6. Collecting coins.
This is particularly interesting if you are travelling to other countries, however, it can even be done if you are staying in one country for the entire year. For instance, Australia (like many other countries) have unique coins which all resemble different things; particularly the history of the nation. This is even more easy to do if you aren’t the best at using up coins (especially in the era of contactless, making cash even more difficult to keep up with).
I met a fellow traveller who instead of keeping a diary, would randomly doodle/draw (depending on their mood) in a blank-paged book and it was truly awesome to see! This is a really personal way to keep a record of your year, since really, only you know what you were actually thinking when you drew what you did. The (lack of) artist in me would be terrible at this, but for anyone who even likes drawing, I would suggest trying this out.
8. Social media.
Social media definitely has its pros and cons. Don’t become too invested in social media to the extent that you forget to live in the moment. Do use it wisely to keep others up to date on what you are up to though! This is really easy to do if you are already a regular social media user because it gives you the opportunity to update others, and even document your experience yourself. Win-win. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are particularly useful to record your experience as you can look back on your posts and reflect on the things you captured.
Nothing really beats a deep meaningful conversation with your peers on your self-reflection. Whilst this may not be documenting your experience per se, it is worth mentioning. Talking to others will help you reflect on things that you discuss and even compare your experiences. Hey, you may even learn about something different you can try out too.
10. Blog posts.
I have really enjoyed using this blog platform to collect my thoughts and the best moments of my study abroad year. I would definitely recommend this to anybody – whether you have previous experience with blogging or not. Whilst it sometimes is difficult to keep up with regular post publishing, knowing that I need to post something is a great mental goal to have – and forces me to think about what is really important enough to discuss.
Shanita 🙂 xo