Ways To Keep Track of Your Memories Abroad, and Some General Tips

So much is happening while you are abroad. You meet so many new people, travel to novel destinations, try different foods, observe interactions, and experience things you have never before. Out of the usual routine of school work, sports, activities, and sleep, you travel and explore, see the world beyond the bubble we live in at home and at Colby. At least for me, it took about three months to process the fact that I was abroad, in Europe, in Denmark, in Copenhagen, studying, traveling, exploring places I only dreamed about going and making memories that I thought only happened in movies. 

With every experience abroad, I focused on being fully present with all my senses so that I don’t forget any part of it. One thing I did not want was for my time abroad to be four months spent and forgotten, or only remembered as loose fragments of events from what I can only generalize as an overall incredible experience. I wanted to remember key events, moments, places I traveled, and things I felt being in those places. I wanted to reflect. 

But even then, as time goes on, our time abroad will be left in the past, and there is only so much we can hold onto as pictures and memories. In order to keep track of my time abroad and remember it long after, I decided to collect little mementos from the places I visited and experiences I had so I won't forget. In the following list, I’ll outline what I did and hope to convince you to do the same and collect things that will be like your insurance policy to remember your time abroad:

 

    1.   Collect Postcards

Collecting postcards is a fun, cheap, and easy way to remember the places you visited. You can even buy them last minute at the airport if you are too busy living life abroad that you forget to look for a little memento! The best part is when you see all your postcards lined up next to each other on your wall back at home or school. It gives you an empowering visual montage to wake up to every day.  You can remind yourself that you saw all of these places, you went and experienced life there alone in a new country for four months, and now you’re back. Although you might still be the same person at core, you’ve grown, after experiencing all those things.

Especially when time goes by so fast, you need something to hold on to the time you spent away, the person you started as and the person you came out with from your time abroad. At least for me, looking at all the postcards on my wall I remind myself of all the experiences I had and how that’s a part of me now having returned to school.

    2.   Gather magazines, little stickers, business cards, flyers

If you go to your new favorite coffee shop, or visit a national park, walk into an art museum or walk by a farmer’s market, try picking up some of the flyers, magazines, tickets, or little business card advertisements they offer for more information on that place. Oftentimes, if you flip through them, or even just look at the cover, these different mixed media formats have really cool artwork, photography, or designs you might want to hold onto. Each time I collected one, I’d put it in a bag, and when I got back home, I'd either cut it out to put up on my wall, or to add to a scrapbook and make a collage. Whether it’s receipts, train tickets, or cut outs, put them all together later and they’ll remind you of the little stories that happened during your time abroad.

For example…

  • The train ticket from Paris reminds me of the time I didn’t know I had to buy another ticket part way and got into an argument with the train manager. 
  • The magazine strips from Møns Klint remind me of the beautiful nature I witnessed just a couple hours drive from the heart of Denmark.
  • A free art and cycling magazine I found at a food and wine restaurant in Prague reminds me of the hour long walk my mother, sister, and I decided to take along the Vlatva river while we watched the sunset.

    3.   Pin places on Maps on your phone

A super easy and useful way for you to organize your travels and remember the specific shops, cafes, or boutiques you liked to visit. It helps you out during your time there, an easy way to send a location to friends, and it might also come in handy in the future if you decide you want to revisit that location again.

    4.   Keep a little journal 

Most, MOST importantly, I highly recommend keeping a journal. This goes for all you English AND non-English majors, biologists, neuroscientists, musicians, and people who like keeping journals AND those who do not. Whatever interests you have, whatever language you want to write in, it doesn’t matter. Find a notebook you like perhaps from the place you are studying abroad, and whether it be gibberish, the most nonsense string of words, or eloquent journals of your travel, just WRITE. You don’t have to write down every single thing that happens every day, that just gets stressful. Just write when you get the chance, whatever story you want to remember. It’s a helpful way to reflect and process the events that are happening. 

I was never one to keep journals, but I'm really glad I kept one this time around. It’s nice to know I have a book of stories for myself that I can go back to to recount on some of the amazing experiences I had in Europe, and that in the future, I can go back to it and revisit these experiences I never want to forget again.

 

Well, that’s it for now! There are endless ways to keep track of your time abroad, so get creative! Just remember to keep something. You’ll thank yourself later.

Safe travels!