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Guest Blogger: Zana Darwish
Immediately after my acceptance to the Lincoln University program in Christchurch, New Zealand I began thinking about how I wanted to document my experience. I would of course, like a true millennial, bring a camera along to capture endless amounts of pictures, but I also wanted a median of documentation that would record my feelings, actions, and thoughts while traveling. This lead me to the often-used options of blogging and journaling as means to chronicle my experience with words as opposed to just images. After looking more into both options, I couldn’t figure out which one was for me so I, again as true millennial, decided to not decide and used both formats to document my time abroad. What I found was that each median has its own perks and drawbacks.
Based on almost no evidence, I think this is the more popular of the two options for students participating on programs abroad and it’s easy to see why. Blogs are easy to start, easy to maintain, and can be shared with loved ones back home who are eager to read about your excursions (I’m looking at you, Moms). I used the popular website Weebly to create my blog page and shared the URL with anyone who would be even vaguely interested in reading about what I was doing in New Zealand. What I really liked about blogging was the writing part, surprisingly enough. It became a fun way to relive and recap my weekend for friends and family at home, and for my future self. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone through my blog and read it again after returning home to the States. It perfectly captured my inner voice at that time in my life and in hindsight, I’m really happy to have those stories written at the time I was experiencing them. Plus, blogging is something you can put on your resume! Employers like seeing that you have experience with maintaining and writing via social media as it is becoming widely used by all types of businesses.
Incase you’re interested in starting your own study abroad blog here are some websites to check out!
Based on even less evidence, I think journaling is the long lost cousin of blogging that students tend to forget about as way to document their study abroad program. Although similar, keeping a journal can be an entirely different experience than blogging. I found this was the case mainly because blogs are written for other people to read and enjoy, while journals are usually kept private. Interestingly enough, I also found that I struggled with writing in a journal upon first starting. I approached it in the same manner I did my blog− writing about events and stories− but found that journals are better for documenting reactions and feelings that are typically omitted in blogs. With the sensor removed, my journal shows the personal transformation I underwent while abroad. The things my journaling focused on at the beginning of the program versus the end reflect the way studying abroad completely changed what I valued and therefore, wrote about. Plus, journaling at a cafe in a foreign country is exactly as romantic as it sounds and it’s fun to play up the stereotype of being a traveler every once in a while.
Overall, I enjoyed writing for each of these formats for different reasons and they will both be appreciated by my nostalgistic self for quite sometime. However, if I had to choose one to recommend to future study abroad-ers it would be journaling. The experience of studying abroad is inherently selfish: exploring the world as a student inevitably results in a journey of self-discovery. With every culture you are exposed to while traveling, you learn a little bit more about the world but, in turn, you learn so much more about yourself. And after using both methods, I believe journaling is the most effective way to document the personal growth students’ experience while abroad.