I studied abroad for the summer in Dijon, France followed by a fall semester abroad in Budapest, Hungary. Before embarking on my seven-month stay in Europe, I made a promise to myself that I would write in a travel journal every day — no skipping days and no excuses. I wanted to remember as much as possible about my experience and decided that writing in a journal would be the best way to preserve my memories.
Below are some of the reasons why writing in a journal is helpful (especially for those of you thinking about study abroad) along with some (hopefully) useful advice regarding journal writing.
- The entries do not have to be extensive. Some of my entries were only two sentences. However, writing these brief entries not only helped me accomplish my goal of writing each day, but the items I did write down added valuable details to the journal.
- Writing can complement your photos. Pictures are always a great visual representation of places you have visited. However, after I returned to the US, I forgot the significance and history of certain buildings and monuments. When I read through some of my journal entries, I was able to recall important details which enriched my story telling for my friends and family.
- Write down key words. If something significant happened on a particular day, I wrote down a title for the journal entry. This way, whenever I want to reread a specific detail about a trip, instead of browsing through each entry, I can simply look at the titles of certain entries.
- Reread the journal entries. Every month while abroad, I read through past entries. Not only was it fun to reflect on my random thoughts, but I was able to notice some changes in the way I wrote and thought. The progression of the entries demonstrated that my views were consistently changing; reading this was pretty rewarding.
- Write at a specific time each day. At first, I struggled to write each night at 11 pm. After about two weeks of writing at this time, I discovered that I could not fall asleep without writing. There were times where I forgot or was too busy to write. However, I made sure to catch up with the entries the next day in order to reach my goal.
- Make it personal and special. On random pages throughout my journal, I listed some inspirational travel quotes. Whenever I came across a page with a quote, it was a bit of a surprise, and each one seemed to connect to my journey at the time.
In all honesty, my journal is the most valuable souvenir from my study abroad experience. It traveled with me to ten different countries and contains a written record of my thoughts, worries, concerns, beliefs, and experiences for my seven months abroad. I would recommend journal writing for any situation, but if you are going abroad, it might be one of the best decisions you make. It was for me.
-Leanna, Peer Tutor