Keeping a Journal While Studying Abroad

Five months, a thousand memories, and a few pints later, I was home; home from an incredible semester spent working and studying in London, England. When I stepped back onto American soil back in May, I vowed to never to forget any of the sounds, smells, emotions or feelings I had experienced during the semester. Sitting down to write this article, however, I realized how much had already started to fade and how lucky I was to have documented those feelings and experiences in a journal.

I had never kept a journal before leaving for London; I had never considered it important. In retrospect, it was probably one of the most important things I did during the four months I spent London. Every few nights, I would take the time to sit down and write. Sometimes it would come naturally and sometimes I would force myself to break out the pen and paper. I would write about everything: the sites I visited, the food I ate, and the cultural differences I observed. I even used the journal as a sounding board when I was frustrated with my flatmates or tired of life in the United Kingdom.

Some of what I wrote seemed trivial at the time, but when I look back on it, it is nice that I will always remember random things such as the name of my favorite Kebab place (Bosphorous, on Old Brompton Road), where I went on January 25 (to an advertising exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum), or the cultural observation I made on February 12 (“There aren’t as many overweight people on this side of the Atlantic!”)

Going abroad is truly a life-changing experience. Because I kept a journal, I can relive the experiences and trace the changes I went through no matter where I am in life. Your next few months will be filled with learning new things, making new friends, and exploring new places. No matter how busy you get, take the time to write it all down. You will appreciate it in the months and years to come.

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