On the Importance of Documenting Your Time Abroad

Mar 13, 2015 9:30:00 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

CAPAStudyAbroad_Florence_Dee Liang alumni column profile

Dee Liang is a CAPA Florence alumna and graduate of CU Boulder in Colorado, sharing her world as a study abroad alumna in bi-weekly CAPA World posts.

In today's column, Dee talks about the importance of documenting your time abroad and where and how to go about doing so with some useful tips.

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“We’re living a revolution…we’re liberated from the tyranny of always relying on mainstream media to get our information into the marketplace”, says David Scott, best-selling author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR. A revolution…how about that? I see this as the Mockingjay of the communication age, and lucky us, we’re the ones who are living it! Sorry if my geekiness and love of the digital age is seeping through; this is where I nerd out and you are just going to have to embrace it.

Working in PR and Social Media, I am all about the buzz on the Twittersphere, narrowing down features of Instagram, and forever hanging out in the digital sphere. I am fascinated by the way content is created/spread/interpreted/fetched online and it’s a thriving source of learning and knowledge for me.

One of the sole reasons is my draw to the rhetoric the online world possesses that is different from other forms of media. There is something about the accessibility, design, and spontaneity of digital media that is driving the information society right now. There is an infinite influx of material being transmitted at this very moment, and the next. And the next. With the constant stream of content available to us, it is practically impossible for all that content to be noticed. It’s not about quality or quantity.

It’s fair to say that technology is a vital vessel to communication when studying abroad. This is how we interact with family and friends back home, how we check into our hostels, and how we create a post on Instagram. It’s weird for me to admit this, but I actually did not post too much while abroad…I know, unlike me. I love spreading the love and showing the world what I’m up to!

It was almost nice to stray away from the hashtags and filters though. I liked having deep self reflection and not being so attracted to what was going on in the digital sphere. Wow, I can’t believe I just said that.  Ironic segue, but, deep down, I sometimes wish I did, just a little more. This is kind of like the LinkedIn series, What I Would Tell my 22-Year-Old Self. Where now that I’m a vet of study abroad, I’m passing on some wisdom to you. And with the field that I work in, it’s only fair to spread the love of social media to you.

When documenting your time abroad:


At the end of the day, documenting the experience abroad is all about doing it for yourself. No matter how detailed your stories are once returning home, a visual or instantaneous capture will be the closest thing to it.

When the travel bug hits me hard, I sometimes check out my tweets from my time abroad, and it is the best refresher. It’s fun to look back on those moments and revisit my feelings in 140 characters.

I kept a journal while abroad and taped up receipts, doodles and business cards, and I love to go back and read my entries from that time. It makes me reflect on who I am today, and further develop my desire to travel again.

These are glimpses of your time abroad that could be defining moments. These gems make for incredible wine nights with girlfriends or *cough, cough* wine nights on your own when wanderlust-stricken.  

Photo: My friend, Liz, and I chilling in Amsterdam


When you’re on the opposite side of the world or in a different hemisphere than home, the time difference is real. For optimal engagement, think about timing of your posts. Morning in your host city could be the middle of the night at home. Since you want to show everyone your experience, you want them to actually see it. Say your destination and your home has an eight-hour difference. Think about when you would Skype or talk to your family while abroad. The mornings would be a great time to post, and friends and family back home would still see it in the afternoon or early evening. If you were to post in the evening, you’d engage the people around you, but people at home could miss it during their shuteye time.

I would hate for my mom to not know I’m repelling down the Alps due to bad timing, yes?


You are in the optimal situation to bring authentic and unique content to people’s feeds. Your friends back home are not biking around Vondelpark, they’re not in the Bazaar Spice Market, and they are not having afternoon tea by the dock.

Take advantage and give ode to being abroad by capturing the fun and exciting opportunities! I learned this toward the end of my trip, but another picture of the Eiffel Tower is not going to be any different than the 18 you took on the first day. Your audience also does not need pictures of an Italian tree or the sidewalk. If I wanted another picture of the Leaning Tower, I believe Google has my back.

Instead, put your face on it or have a cool angle to your picture. Do an innovative pose with the IAMSTERDAM letters or showcase the Louvre some other way! Being touristy has its ups and downs, and you definitely want your own flair on it to make a post engaging.

No need to post everything, and in fact, don’t! If you have a collection of photos that look similar, one will do. We don’t need all photos of fails in Pisa!



A good handful of friends and classmates started blogging while abroad, and I’m guilty as well! My thing would be to stick to it. Easier said than done. When you’re having the time of your life, it’s challenging to set aside time every day to document what you’ve done. On the blogging note, you have an audience; just keep up with etiquette and post when you said you would. You will gain readers by being reliable when delivering content. Do us all a favor back home and don’t keep us waiting to be envious of your adventures.

Journal-wise, it’s hard to keep up, especially with demanding and busy days. The last thing I want to do after a long day of walking around is write about it. However, it will be so much more worthwhile to have in the long run.

Keep that momentum from the moment you start, and have that be a driving force! Rather than having holes and empty pages on the timeline of your journal, you’ll have a tangible source of your daily musings abroad. Wake up 15 minutes earlier or go to bed 15 minutes later.

Whether it’s in the form of a journal, like I did, or a blog, these are such valuable entities to look back to in the future. Trust me, your future and older self will thank you. Grazie mille forever.

Photo: I have a million of these, but so does Google.

In the social media world mixed in with the current state of information society, defy the odds, y’all. Post wisely and post the good! 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.

Ciao for now,


Thanks Dee!

Read more from Dee!

Topics: CAPA Alumni, Practical Study Abroad Advice