Five Ways How I Keep My Study Abroad Experience Alive

Are you thinking about traveling in the future or have already travelled during a study abroad?  Here is my guide on how to keep the vibe of your experiences abroad alive. After studying and traveling abroad, I know how it feels to come home and encounter difficulties keeping this vibe alive on campus.  

River and Mountains

However, there are personal ways to hold onto your experiences, like writing about your perspective abroad and having worthwhile conversations with those at home, while continuing the conversation and relationship with those you met abroad.  There are also ways at school to achieve this, through continuing a study of a certain subject or language that enhanced your trip, and discovering programs or groups on campus to study or travel abroad. Experiences abroad are not simply a check on a checklist, they are meant to impact and shape you, through all of the amazing and maybe not so great experiences alike.  

How can you keep the vibe of your study abroad experience alive?

1. Talk to others about my experiences

During my first semester on campus after study abroad, I found that an easy way for me to keep my study abroad experience alive is simply talking to others and sharing my experiences.  I discovered that it was important for me to share the details of my trips and how I was impacted with my family and friends. It was important for them to know that I was not the same person after coming home, as I became more confident in myself and found a new appreciation for traveling.  Initially, I struggled a bit with doing this, as it is difficult sometimes to convey to others an experience that was not shared, besides on social media.

Peruvian Pottery - Jake Leary

I found myself a little frustrated, as some people asked questions like “They have an airport?” or “What did you eat?!”.  Looking back on this, I should not have felt so upset or puzzled why others had these thoughts. Rather, I should have been more understanding and gone into these conversations with the same mindset that I went into my trips with.  After having full and meaningful conversations about my experiences abroad, those surrounding me knew more about why I was so open-minded when it came to food or why I had such an easy-going attitude. I was happy because they had a better idea of who I am and why I am so passionate about what I do.  

2. Keep in touch with those I met during my experiences abroad

After traveling abroad and meeting new and amazing people, I knew that I wanted to remain in touch.  Nowhere in my imaginary study abroad guide does it state that I must stay in touch with anyone I met, but this was my choice.  Those I met in China and Peru shaped my trips in both countries. Why wouldn’t I want to remain friends and in contact?

Chinese Food - Jake Leary

I talk to one of my friends from China nearly everyday through WeChat (China’s largest messaging and social media application).  I find that this is important to do after traveling because I was not in China and Peru for solely a week or two, I made connections with people that I see lasting my entire life.  Through this, I still feel connected from the states, in a different way to China and Peru, whether it is social media, phone calls, Facetimes, or texts. I am constantly reminded of my friends in China during my daily Mandarin class, when we discuss Chinese culture and ways to speak Mandarin like a native speaker.  If I have any questions about Mandarin, I sometimes turn to them via WeChat to better understand what I am learning, whether it is making sure my pronunciation is correct or that I am not saying something offensive in Chinese culture in my homework.

3. Get involved with programs that involve travel at school

When I started college after my gap year, I wanted keep the vibe alive from my year off.  I asked myself, how can I accomplish this on campus? After attending several club and activities fairs in the beginning of the school year, I was excited at how many clubs and programs there were available to students that involved aspects of traveling abroad.  

After I applied and got accepted for a board position, I joined a program that hosts a liberal arts camp for students in Vietnam during the summer.  I have met some of my closest friends at school from this program and I am so excited to travel to Vietnam this summer! If you want to get a taste of being abroad but you are not sure that you want to study abroad for an entire semester, research what programs your school offers that are not necessarily a semester long!  You never know what can happen when you get involved in activities and programs!

4. Continue studying the languages I learned abroad

Another way while now on campus how I like to keep the vibe alive is continuing to study the languages I studied abroad.  On my first day of college, the first class I shadowed was a Mandarin class. I loved the class and decided to enroll. If this had taken place a year prior, I most likely would not have been studying Mandarin.  This would not have even crossed my mind, but after my experience in China, I wanted to learn more.

Chinese Writing - Jake Leary.jpeg

By continuing this study, I feel even more connected to China and my friends in China, especially as my Mandarin continues to improve (hopefully).  After taking Spanish classes in Peru, I still practice Spanish by speaking with others and using learning applications on my phone like Duolingo. I am currently focusing on my study of Mandarin, but depending on my future course schedule I really want to take Spanish classes too!

5. By writing about my experiences

I have discovered in my life the power of writing. For me, I like to capture how I feel or relive my experiences through writing.  Today, I enjoy reading my different pieces of writing from my time abroad. It serves as a great reflecting time and also reminds me of events or days that I might have forgotten otherwise.  My writing has empowered me to share unique thoughts and experiences with others.

I constantly remind myself to put my thoughts onto paper, as each piece serves as time capsule of memories.  I do not to forget these memories because anyone can take a picture, but only I can write about my experiences. This is a part of one of my journal entries:

China is not this mysterious country in a faraway land.  I am happy that I can write this while sitting in a coffee shop 7,796 miles away from home and have no worries at all. I feel a new sense of freedom.

Traveling abroad is different for everyone, but a commonality is the value that is attained while abroad and then at home.  Your study abroad experience is about you and it is ultimately up to you in what you want to get out of it. It is important to remember that a past trip can have a huge effect on your future, and you never know where that experience may take you!  A trip abroad does not end with your flight back home, it is up to you to keep it alive.

Peruvian Mountains - Jake Leary