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Journaling Abroad: Can You Truly Capture the Memory?

Posted on May 24th, 2013 by Jenny Frankel

journalingstk85113corToday on International Student, we happy to feature the newest guest post from Go Abroad to help you capture and remember your memories as you study abroad. With so many mediums out there, it can be hard to keep track of your experiences. Read on to learn how you can log your experience so that they remain memories that last a lifetime.

Every day, thousands of travelers document their experiences, adventures, setbacks and revelations abroad. Traveling allows us to see the world as a new and exciting place; it causes us to grow and it causes our global outlooks to change. With so many thoughts and emotions bubbling over, we feel the need to catch the overflow in a bottle and store it for us to smile at and learn from in the years to come. But is it really possible to capture everything? Isn’t it more likely that most of those emotions spill onto the floor and are lost forever?

Journaling is interesting to contemplate because it deals with documenting memories, or trying to at least. The truth is, memories are elusive. It’s nearly impossible to capture exactly how you feel in a specific moment unless you write it down at that moment.

Here’s a look at several different journaling mediums and how they can affect the development of a memory:

Private Journal

As far as writing goes, being equipped with an actual pad of paper and pen is probably your best chance of being true to your memory. Not only can you write raw feelings without worrying about who reads it, but you can also write on the go. Since time is the difference between real life and memories, the more time that goes by, the more distanced your entry will be. Even journaling at the end of each day (which, let’s face it, hardly ever happens) allows enough time to have passed for your memories to be influenced and changed. If you had a traumatic start to your day, by that night you’ve had enough time to process what happened and reflect upon your feelings. You’ve come to understand how the beginning of the day affected you and made you into who you are now, so you write your entry from an all-knowing perspective. Instead of writing, “Dear Diary, I’m lost in Taiwan and don’t know what the hell I’m doing,” you write, “Dear Diary, I learned something today…”


Writing a blog is great in that it probably helps you write more frequently; you can’t keep interested followers in suspense! But are you the type of person who can share deeply personal experiences with an audience? People have certain ways of behaving depending on who they are with; it’s human nature. You would say things to your friends that you wouldn’t say to your mom, and you’d say things to your mom that you might not say to your friends. So what happens when all of your friends and your mom are reading one blog? Who do you become? It’s hard to write as your true self when so many people are reading your every thought.


If a picture is worth a thousand words, why spend 30 minutes writing down 300 words? Photos are a great way to remember a time in your life by simply pointing and shooting. But as with all types of journaling, time plays a role. Sure, photographs prevent faces and buildings from blurring over time, but when you look at that photo five years from now, you’ll still be remembering a moment in your life from a different perspective. Another thing to think about with photos is the fact that you are selecting memories. You chose to remember the Sistine Chapel because you photographed it, but you didn’t photograph your roommate cheering you up when you felt homesick. Does the lack of a photo make this memory any less special? Will you remember this moment even though it isn’t in your scrapbook?


Video allows you to relive an experience through moving picture. This is the closest you’ll feel to actually being back in the country you studied abroad in, and seeing moving clips might help spur more memories. Time and the ability to decide what is worth documenting are again factors in how you remember your experience; surprise, surprise. Things can be taken one step further when video editing comes into play. You decide what clips to cut short, how to splice video together, what music is most meaningful to the moment; in essence you are creating a watchable memory. And maybe that’s all a memory is supposed to be. Not something that’s real, but something you create; an art form. Something to frame on your wall and smile at for years to come.

What do you think? Can you ever truly capture a memory? Add to the discussion by sharing your thoughts in the comments section below!


Written by Jenny Frankel

Jennifer is the Director of Financial Services at Envisage International. Jennifer is a graduate of the University of Florida where she holds a Masters in International Business and a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration. She has lived and worked abroad in Chile, Costa Rica and London, and traveled extensively in South America, Europe and Asia.

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