So you’re in the process of preparing for your study abroad adventure. You’ve finally sorted through your clothes and picked out the best fits, ordered some international currency, checked your flight status 27 times. But are you forgetting anything? Aside from the essentials we need to pack for these experiences, we tend to overlook the importance of creative outlets. When I studied abroad in Paris this past summer, it was my first time out of North America. There were so many new sites to take in and culture shocks that I needed to process. In the moment, it was very overwhelming. I was in my head and didn’t use anything to voice my feelings.
Around the third day of my experience, I pulled out a blank journal from my backpack. Still feeling a little jet lagged, I decided to write down my initial feelings. Each day, it slowly became a habit of mine to document my feelings, experiences, and trips in that journal. Now when I read my past entries, I’m amazed by how much I conquered.
Another thing I loved about journaling was how it made me reflect. Each day, I had the opportunity to take a moment and stop. This practice helped me savor every experience. It also prompted me to dig deeper, describing my sights and drawing pictures. Your outlet doesn’t need to be a journal. There are lots of different mediums you can use. Let’s talk about just 3 of the many ways you can document this adventure!
1. Journal Like I just mentioned, a journal is a great outlet. Aside from writings, you can also add mementos. I really enjoyed pasting Métro tickets, receipts, and business cards onto the pages of my journal. These can turn into collages or be used as references for entries. Little plein air drawings are a cute touch!
2. Photo There are many ways to use your photos. If you’re like me, I love taking photos but I easily run out of space on my phone. Consider getting a flash drive or cloud storage and upload your photos there for safekeeping! Collages, scrapbooks, and slideshows are great ways to transform your photos.
3. Video A popular sequence I’ve seen in recent years is 1 Second A Day. It’s pretty self explanatory, but each day you record a one second clip. This is a simple way to document your daily adventures without worrying about getting long lengths of footage. If you want to go for something more in-depth, consider a video diary series!
If you’re looking for additional ideas, Pinterest and Tiktok are great resources. If you’d like more structure, you can easily find prompts/guided practices online too! Another example I want to share is Katherine Walsh’s study abroad journal on Youtube.
Here are a few examples from my study abroad journal.
Overall, these mediums are great for creativity and working through our emotions. University of Rochester Medical Center mentions that practices like journaling create order when our lives feel chaotic. Studying abroad is an exciting experience and it’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed at times. If you need any additional support, the on-site SAI offices are more than happy to help!
Written by: SAI Ambassador, Kiersten, Summer 2023 Paris student from Rochester Institute of Technology.