22 Creative Ways to Document Your Time Abroad

May 12, 2015 8:30:00 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

Less than a decade ago, students would go abroad without a laptop or a smart phone. They might snap a few photos along the way with a film camera, develop them when they return to the States and pop a few in a physical photo album (or for the more creative, a scrapbook) to share with friends and family. How times have changed... 

CAPA alumna and blog columnist Dee Liang recently wrote about the importance of documenting your time abroad and how to select what you post in our world of information overload: "Post wisely and post the good," she said. "For the sake of keepsakes and memories, do what you need to do to make the experience worthwhile. Do whatever you need and want to make your time meaningful. But ultimately, do this for yourself."

Below, we share 22 different ways you might consider documenting your time abroad:


1. KEEP A PAPER JOURNAL. Dee's favorite way to document her memories is to sit down in a coffee shop with a simple notebook and pen and let her thoughts flow alongside the caffeine. No wi-fi required. The downside? You'll need to remember to carry a notebook with you.

My Travel Journal
Travel journal by Lajon Tanganco

2. USE PHONE NOTES. If you have a smart phone or a tablet, make use of the notes section or a notes app. Like a paper journal, you won't have to rely on wi-fi. If you're always on the go, you won't need to remember your notebook either or wait until you're home to record your memories. Stuck in bus traffic or zooming through dark London underground tunnels? Those moments make excellent opportunities to type up a few notes while they're fresh in your head. You can expand on them or turn them into a different format later. 

Image via www.engadget.com

3. START A BLOG. If you're planning to write regularly and publically about your time abroad, a blog is an excellent option, especially if you'd like to share your adventures with your friends and family back home. Check out popular platforms like Tumblr, Wordpress, Blogger or SquareSpace that are free to use and easy to learn. We'll soon be writing a more comprehensive guide to blogging while you're abroad, so stay tuned.

Girl on Laptop in Park
Photo: Blogging in the park by CollegeDegrees360

4. START A VLOG. If writing and photography aren't your preferred way to communicate your stories, starting a vlog is a fantastic alternative. You don't need fancy equipment - the video camera on your phone will do the trick and you can use simple, free programs like iMovie or Windows Movie Maker for basic editing. YouTube and Vimeo are the most popular platforms for posting and building your audience. There are plenty of travel vloggers out there to inspire you. If you're feeling ambitious, you can embed your vlog videos into a blog and take advantage of both. 



5. BECOME AND OFFICIAL CAPA BLOGGER OR VLOGGER. Interested in blogging or vlogging while you're abroad? We welcome applications each term for official bloggers and vloggers to create weekly content for the CAPA World blog. Check out our scholarship page for more details on how to apply. 

6. CREATE AN OLD-FASHIONED SCRAPBOOK. Perhaps not so practical while you're traveling, but creating a paper scrapbook when you return home will give you time to really reflect on your experience in another way. It's a fun and creative project for those of you who are crafty. If you're planning to do this, you can incorporate journal entries, photographs, ticket stubs, (clean) wrappers from your favorite local treats, your class schedule, maps, etc. 

Photo: Scrapbook by Nate Steiner

7. POST PHOTOS AND VIDEOS ON INSTAGRAM. A carefully curated Instagram feed is a quick and easy way to capture your memories in a primarily visual way. Follow @CAPAStudyAbroad and tag us in your photos. You can also use #CAPAStudyAbroad. We love to interact with our students and alumni on social media! 


8. USE PINTEREST BOARDS. Pinterest boards can be used in a number of different ways along your study abroad journey. One of these ways is for use as a collection of memories. Pin images from your trip, from your personal blog if you're keeping one, maps of places you've been, pictures of new foods you've tasted or cultural experiences you've enjoyed. You can use CAPA's boards to inspire you too.


9. KEEP A SKETCHBOOK. If you're an artist or just like to doodle, capture your experience abroad in a sketchbook. Look to travel blogger Candace who illustrates her way around the world for inspiration. You could then use your sketches in other ways by scanning or photographing them to incorporate on a blog, your Pinterest or Instagram posts, a scrapbook when you return home or, who knows - maybe even an exhibition? 

man in a rowboat rowing
Photo: Travel sketch by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig

10. START A WAYN PROFILE. "Where Are You Now" (WAYN) has been around since 2005 and is the fastest growing travel-related social networking community website in the world with 23.1 million users at last count. You can post and rate photos, document your trips, connect with other travelers and check for reviews and tips on destinations.


11. SEND POSTCARDS HOME. If you're a fan of snail mail, a different way to keep track of your memories is to send yourself postcards so they're waiting for you when you arrive home. Choose a postcard, scribble a memory on the back and pop it in the mailbox. When you return home, they'll be waiting for you. You can bind them together or pop them into a photo album for an instant scrapbook. Also, check out Postagram, an app that turns your own photos into real postcards with 3x3 inch images and a Tweet-sized message.

London postcards
Photo: London postcards by Rev Stan

12. USE STORYTELLING APPS. Check out the storytelling section of our 41 Apps for Study Abroad post for more details on what you can do with these, but a few of our favorites are Steller, Sce.ne, Storehouse, Cameo and Travelpod. 


Video: CAPA London student Julie demonstrates Sce.ne where she was interning during Spring 2015 


13. START A COLLECTION. A clever way to tie in all of your experiences abroad is to create a collection around a common theme. The collection could be visual like images of food you've eaten on your travels or using a mascot to feature in your images. It could also be physical like train, bus and plane tickets or newspaper clippings of the most interesting story each day you're overseas. Use your imagination, but think lightweight, cheap and small. These can be incorporated into your scrapbook when you return home. 

Chiltern Tickets
Photo: Train ticket collection by Roger Marks

14. USE A PHOTO SHARING SITE. If you're not interested in blogging or social media but still want to share your photos, there's Facebook, of course, but you can find other communities focused on photography that you can join. Curate your best shots and create albums to share. Check out Flickr or the more professional 500px


15. CHECK IN ON FOURSQUARE. If you're hoping to track the places you've visited while abroad as part of your documentation, hop on to Foursquare so you can check in when you've reached each destination. You can use this for everything from restaurants and cafes to various attractions around the city, connect with friends, leave reviews, find places to visit and collect different badges. 


16. MAKE IT A GROUP EFFORT. You're more likely to keep up your efforts toward your goal of documenting your time abroad if you're accountable to someone else. It can also be interesting to see different perspectives. Team up with a friend while you're abroad or a group to combine efforts. You can pass around a physical notebook to fill with memories, set up a blog with joint users so you can take turns writing posts or create a group Pinterest board so everyone can join in. 

Blogging at Blenz
Photo: Friends blogging by Mack Male

17. CREATE PLAYLISTS. Sometimes sound can bring back the best memories when you return home. Think about the songs that are meaningful to your study abroad journey. If you hear something local or obscure and you're not sure what it is, use the Shazam app to identify it. You can create playlists with Spotify (or similar) that are shareable. They can also be embedded into your blog to add a new dimension. 

CAPA alumna Samantha Gauvain's travel playlist

18. START A SELFIE SERIES. You know the type: the feet on the beach shots, hotdog legs, the same pose everywhere you go...Does #IHaveThisThingWithFloors ring a bell? Or the Follow Me series? Come up with a creative twist to capture yourself (or have a friend with a camera on hand) on your travels. Perhaps you're always on the lookout for the best opportunities to share your street style in front of graffiti-covered walls or taking the first bite of a new food or looking through the window of all the best coffee shops you discover.


19. DECIDE ON A HASHTAG. Sometimes you might tweet or share an Instagram photo that's unrelated to study abroad. Create a # (make sure it's not already being used) so you can easily find everything related to your time overseas. You could invite your friends to join in too. You could also use a # to single out one aspect of your experience. Eating a lot of gelato in Florence? Tag those photos of different flavors with your own #LoveFlorenceGelato (or whatever it may be!).

Photo: via Social Media Today

20. MAKE A PHOTO BOOK. If you're the type who prefers the pages of a book to a Kindle or a Nook, you might appreciate having a physical book about your experience printed for you to show off to your friends and family. Not everyone has time for scrapbooking, but there are tons of companies you can work with to print a book full of your photos from Shutterfly to Blurb. Also check out Artifact Uprising who create lovely Instagram-friendly books for less than $20.

21. CHOOSE A WEEKLY THEME. Exploring your host city? Set out a weekly theme for your social media feeds: Colorful doors of Dublin one week? Best parks for a walk the following? Coolest architecture after that? Then local cuisine, perhaps?  


22. TRY LIVE VIDEO STREAMING. Have you jumped on the Twitter bandwagon yet with the live video streaming craze? Check out Meerkat and Periscope and show the world what you're up to now. 


What are your favorite ways to document your time abroad? Pop over to Twitter and let us know: #CAPAStudyAbroad.

New Call-to-action

Topics: Practical Study Abroad Advice