A Guide to Journaling Abroad

Grace Wallin is a student at the Augustana University. She is an ISA Featured Blogger and is studying abroad with ISA in Sevilla, Spain

The topic of journaling often comes up while studying abroad. Everyone is advised to keep a journal while they travel to record their experiences, process what’s happening, and to have something to look back on. Students start their programs with a new journal, a pen, and no idea how or where to start.

It’s easy to quickly become overwhelmed with the business of traveling, fall behind, and inevitably abandon all efforts of journaling. Keeping up is difficult, and it’s hard to even know what to write. I’ve heard so many times, “I just don’t know what to write about,” and “I feel like it’s so much work.”

Journaling on a regular basis is a good way to develop and keep the habit, but for those who just want to keep a journal for their travels, here are a few tips to help you get started and stay committed.

Decide what kind of journaling you want to do.

Most people starting out revert to a diary, or a log of their day (ie. “today I went to class, ate some gelato, it was amazing,” etc.). This is great if you want a simple list of what you did, but it gets old fast. A journal gives you more creativity. A journal is for observations, insights, and things you feel. Not only is this more fulfilling to look back on, but also can be a great outlet for processing and engaging with your experience. It’s the kind of writing that makes you want to keep doing it.

Take notes as you go.

One frustrating obstacle for keeping a journal is feeling like there’s too much. You’re being bombarded with new sights, people, places– you’re taking in a lot. Then you sit down at night, open your journal, and find yourself asking, “where do I start?” My advice to avoid this “journal block” is to take little notes throughout the day. A small Moleskine notebook that fits in your pocket, or even just opening a new notes tab on your iPhone would be perfect. Having a list to look back on when you sit down will give you a jumping off point and help you remember what was important to you in the moment.

Find a time and get creative

Discovering when you write best is key. If you know at the end of the day you’re too tired, wake up early. But set aside time when you know you’ll feel at ease and then let yourself be creative. There’s no recipe for what makes a good journal entry and everyone writes in their own way. So don’t get hung up on making it perfect– journals are meant to be messy. Play around with your writing, it doesn’t always have to be about the place you’re in or yourself. Adopt a persona, write some lyrics, make little drawings and most importantly, let go of any embarrassment. You’re not writing for anyone but yourself, so just have fun with it.


Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.

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