On Capturing the Moment
People capture moments so they can reflect upon them in the future, and never forget their adventures when they return home.
While utilizing all forms of saving the memory, it is important to remember when to stop looking through a lens or pen and paper and to enjoy the memory in its present form.
Take pictures. If you have the financial capability, invest in a DSLR. If not, point-and-shoots or phones work just fine. Bring some sort of camera everywhere you go. It is worth leaving a few outfits behind to fit your camera into your carry on for a weekend trip. Get photos of the Alhambra, the Berlin Wall, the Eiffel Tower, the Cliffs of Moher, the Colosseum. When you see something cool or different, do take a minute to snap a few photos, but just a few. You do not need 30 photos of the churros y chocolate you ate for a snack. If you spend the whole trip constantly taking pictures, you will miss out on experiencing the city, meeting people, learning the culture. Your time needs to be spent in the moment, utilize photography to help you remember these moments after you left, not take them away from you.
Pictures are fantastic to visually remind you of how beautiful that cathedral was, or the yummy tapas you tried but they do not tell you where that church was, or the names of the tapas. Writing embellishes the story behind your photos, the people you met, the foods you tasted, the sites you saw–your trips.
During the trip, scribble down on a scrap of paper or type into the notes on your phone specifics that could easily be forgotten–street names, foreign delicacies, names of people–for later. After the trip and you are on your way home, write out what you did while you were in that city. You could keep two different journals, one for writing down a summary of the sights you saw and the things you did while the other journal can expand upon certain moments that made more of an impact on you–the conversations you had with people in your hostel in Rome, observations made in a German cafe on Valentine’s Day morning, thoughts and feelings you had while learning how to dance the flamenco.
We cannot rely on our memory to remember every detail of our study abroad experience, thus writing is the best way to act as an external hard drive to save the memories in some form.
Do not forget about the little things
Your apartment room, the cafe you visited all the time, the university you attended: take some time to stop and snap some pictures of the places and things you saw every day in your host city. When you return home, you will be thankful that you have those photos to remind yourself about your daily life abroad. On top of taking pictures of your host city, write about your typical day there. From what you ate for breakfast to the line you caught for the tram to where you would work on homework, write step by step what you did so you can get lost in your past life once you return home. You will be surprised at all the little things you may have forgotten.
Your pictures and words will mean much more to you than the souvenirs you bought. Take the time to record the moments, but find the healthy balance between documenting and actually being there, giving your full attention to what is in front of you.