When we’re traveling, it’s easy to remember to snap a photo of the famous landmark or to pose on the beach. When we are studying abroad, we get caught up in our routines and adjust to the local culture. Although studying abroad is often one of the most memorable experiences we have, our photos tend to be of the things we saw only briefly, instead of the things we’ll remember (or want to remember) for the rest of our lives. So, when you are abroad, don’t forget to take photos of the following:
1. Where you live
Whether you live with a host family or in student housing, don’t forget to take a photo (or a few photos) of where you live. Snap photos of your bed, your study area, your favorite view, your cooking facilities, where you eat, and even your bathroom. Try to take good photos too–these are the photos you’ll want to show your family and friends, and maybe even future children/spouse. Don’t forget to take photos of the building, the block where you live, entry ways, or shared facilities. Although those details will seem mundane now, in a few years you’ll forget exactly what the building looked like or which mailbox number was yours. Take good photos now so you can remember the space later.
2. Where you shop
Equally important to where you live, take photos of where you shop. Maybe it is an outdoor market in France, a street vendor in Thailand, or a Carrefour in Latin America, but the places where you shop are often the places where we notice the most cultural differences. Plus, your parents will love learning about exactly where you bought your groceries or where you got that really good green mango, and you’ll be able to remember it 10 years from now.
Do you take a bus to class every day? Ride a bike? Take the Tube? Don’t forget to take a few photos of how you get around, including a photo of your bus/metro stop, maybe a photo of the local train station, and possibly a few photos from the bus/metro/etc. during your route. We often see a lot of our local neighborhoods from the bus. Also, used bus, metro, and train tickets or passes can make great mementos.
4. Where you walk
Do you have a set path to the bus stop or the market? Do you always walk the same few blocks to your favorite restaurant? Maybe you jog every day? Walk to class? Or do you have a favorite walk in a local park? Take photos of your path, things you find memorable, street signs, or anything that you want to remember. Photos taken during holidays and festivals are great too because you might be able to include traditional decorations.
5. Weeknight activities
Do you have a regular study session in the library? Or do you go to an international night sponsored by the university? Maybe you participate in extracurricular activities, like intramural soccer or a language group. Perhaps you just get together with friends for dinner. Take photos of these seemingly regular activities, even if it just movie night or a soccer game. These are an important part of your study abroad experience, and you’ll want to remember these activities just as much as the time you posed in front of the Eiffel Tower (or other famous landmark).
6. Cloudy days
We have a tendency to take photos when the sun is shining and the sky is blue. Don’t forget to take a few photos when the weather isn’t ideal. Rainy days, foggy mornings, and puddles can make for interesting photos, but it will also help you remember the way life really is when you are abroad.
7. Classrooms or campus
What separates studying abroad from traveling abroad? Studying! When you are abroad, you are earning academic credit. Prove it by taking photos of your host campus, classrooms, faculty lectures (when on faculty-led programs), or the campus facilities you use.
We all have photos of our friends from that great night out that are fuzzy, have bad lighting, or are maybe inappropriate for our parents to see. You might also get great photos of your friends when you travel. Most of us don’t take great photos of our friends just because, but having a few really good photos of the people you meet when you are abroad will give you something to frame when you get home. Take photos in the city where you are studying, in your housing, a local hangout, or on campus. Take good photos, too–photos that you would be proud to show your family.
9. Really good photos
Smartphones have made it easy to take a quick photo without carrying a camera, and Instagram really does add a certain flair to photos. Our dependence on these technologies can limit the quality of our photos. After a recent vacation, I started to put together an album of photos with photos I took using my iPhone and photos my friend took using his point-and-shoot camera. His photos were much better quality, with better lighting and higher resolution. Take high quality photos when you are abroad. Not always, but enough so that you have a few really good photos that you can print and hang in your future home.
10. Your spots
Do you have a favorite place to meet up with friends? Maybe you get pizza from the same restaurant every Wednesday? Or you get coffee at the same shop on the corner every morning on the way to your biology class? Take photos of and at these places. And if you aren’t a “regular” at a place in your host city yet, make it a goal to become one by the end of your time abroad. There’s nothing quite as rewarding as walking into your favorite bakery and knowing the name of the man at the counter, exchanging pleasantries, and having him know exactly what you want to order. Dos buñuelos, si?
And finally, don’t forget to PRINT the photos that you take. We live in a world with awesome technology, but printing photos is a great way to share them with friends and family who may not be able to access them online, and they may last longer than your Facebook profile or your Instagram account. Print a few photos, perhaps even make an album, and you’ll always be able to remember the great times you had abroad.