Before traveling abroad, my friends who had previously gone on this amazing journey gave me countless amounts of advice, but they said the most important thing a person could do when traveling and studying abroad, is to keep a journal. “Write everything down, you will thank yourself later” is what they kept on saying to me. Before I left, they got me a journal that read “Adventure Awaits” on the cover. I was so eager to open up the first page and begin logging all of my adventures that awaited me.
This journal certainly becomes a time capsule of your time abroad. It is that tangible book that holds your specific memories of your travels and the experiences that come with your time studying in a different country away from your home university. To me, it was more than just a journal; it was also a scrapbook. After each trip, I would document everything that I did, my favorite moments at that specific time, the people I met, etc., I would keep special items that I had gotten on that trip, in addition to a postcard from every place. I kept them in that section of the journal that talked about that trip. For example, when I went to Interlaken, Switzerland, my friends and I went paragliding, went on a pub crawl, and participated in a chocolate-making class, so I kept the flyers from those activities, as well as my plane ticket along with the postcard I got within the dated pages where I wrote about my trip to Switzerland.
Sometimes it can be hard to remember every single thing that you did and be able to recall how you were feeling, the details of that moment, names of certain things/people, so I made sure to take notes on my phone, so that I would be able to write them down in greater detail and never forget.
Having written everything in my journal allowed for this all to be more than just a simple memory. This let me capture every moment of my time traveling abroad that I experienced throughout the four months of being away. I wrote about the good, the bad, everything, and I am so happy that I did. Some people advised me to write in my journal every single day, and I tried at first, but ended up not doing that. In the beginning, I wrote when I got to JFK airport in New York while waiting at my gate, then I journaled when I landed in Barcelona, and I continued writing for the first few days discussing my adjustment, orientation, my roommates, the people I’ve met, first day of classes, being homesick, etc. I can confidently say that I am a homebody, so being not only away from home, but being on another continent was definitely stepping out of my comfort zone, so writing in my journal was also a form of therapy for me. Once I settled into a routine, I began to write in my journal only about the trips I was going on, and other details that I wanted to make sure I didn’t forget.
For most people, studying abroad and traveling to various countries is a once in a lifetime experience that they are beyond lucky to get, so it is vital to have some sort of journal, whether it be on your phone, typed on your computer, or written in a notebook. Writing and capturing every minute detail of your time away is a catalyst to remembering one of the most incredible adventures of your life. Your friends, family, and yourself will certainly be grateful that you did.
Kelly Nizolek is the Spring 2019 Alumni Ambassador in Barcelona, Spain, and is currently studying at University of Delaware.