If you’ve come across this blog, you may be thinking about starting a journal while you study abroad. Or maybe you’ve already travelled somewhere and want to reflect on some of your most pivotal moments. No matter where you are in the stages of studying abroad, journaling can help you in so many ways. My story begins in December 2019. Christmas was coming and I was preparing to leave for Temple Rome. I didn’t want to ask for much as I thought that the opportunity to study abroad was the greatest gift ever. My mom still insisted that I create a Christmas wish list. I took some time to think about what I wanted, and decided to add “journal” to my list. Journaling was something that I started doing every now and again, but it never became consistent. I thought that getting a brand new journal would spark even more interest in creating a habit. Sure enough, I was able to journal throughout 2020. If you’re feeling hesitant about starting, then here are 4 reasons why you should journal while abroad.
- Writing with no filter
Writing down your true thoughts can be different than talking with someone in person. When you talk with someone in person about something really personal, you have no clue how they will or will not respond. At times, you may not have access to a friend to vent to. The wonderful part about paper is that it can’t talk back to you. Paper can’t tell you that you’re wrong or right. Paper can provide the space to write freely without judgement. With that in mind, treat your journal as if it’s your cool non-judgemental friend. Write in your journal for every occasion: when you feel really accomplished, when you want to bawl your eyes out, or even on a day when you did mundane tasks like laundry. The more you write in your journal, the easier it will feel to develop the habit of writing.
After you develop the habit of writing in your journal, you should take the time to read what you have written. From this, you can reflect on what you have said throughout the past weeks. I like to go through what I have written after 3 months, but this is my personal preference. You can decide to write and not look at your journal until the next year if you choose! However, I believe it’s important to reflect on your thoughts. Maybe you set some goals for the month and want to reflect on them. While I was in Rome, I started to meditate on the weekends and journal about my experiences. From this, I have been able to document my progress and encourage myself to continue with this practice. I would also reflect on the events I participated in during the Culture and Identity Envoy program. Gathering important notes and journaling the first thoughts that came to mind would help to write my blog posts. For example, at times, we may think that we don’t belong in certain spaces. There were many times when I doubted myself and what I was capable of doing, and it was difficult to find a Black community in Rome. After attending an event on racism in Italy and listening to Ada I journaled and then wrote the post, You have space, which helped me find myself, my space, and my community in Rome. From this process, I also felt like I became more of a global citizen. No matter where you study abroad, there is a space for you there, and journaling might help you find it.
3. Pick up patterns
As I started journaling throughout the year I realized I was writing the same things. The good thing about repeating yourself is that you can start to notice patterns. What are some things that you think/write about on a regular basis? I noticed that I talked about my friends and loved ones as I was away from them while in Rome and during stay at home orders. This was not necessarily a bad pattern because I realized how much I value my friends and family. However, I also noticed that I had a terrible pattern of being my worst critic. I was writing the most negative things about myself throughout 2020; it made me realize that the words that I wrote about myself impacted my well being. Looking back at these quotes made me feel even worse. Seeing the thoughts on paper has allowed me to pinpoint what I need to work on within myself.
4. Unlearning behavior
It’s good to understand your weaknesses, but it’s even better to work on unlearning them. What can you do to unlearn behaviors that are not serving you? After reading my negative thoughts, I realized I needed to be more gentle with myself. I needed to boost my confidence. I wouldn’t say that I have mastered the art of being confident, but I have been working on the way I talk to myself.
Journaling really helped me process my experience abroad, and it was really cool for me to see how much I have progressed over an extended period of time. Developing this habit of journaling was especially important during the pandemic. I was so inspired by my friends from protesting for Black lives last summer. At the time, I journaled my ideas about how I could tie my study abroad experience with my experience as a Black student. I was so happy to become a Peer Advisor at the Education Abroad office so I could help create the event Studying Abroad as a Black Student for Black History month. If you are able, try developing the habit to write about your experiences. You’ll thank yourself later.