Journaling During Your Trip (You’ll Thank Yourself!)

taking company notes

Many students I traveled with on my business seminar planned to journal during their trip, but not many followed through with it past the first couple of days. Here are a few recommendations I have for seminar journaling, and the ways it has helped me since my return.

Tips for Journaling Abroad

american students in subway in china
Start Early

Begin journaling on your flight to the country you are visiting. Capture how you are feeling at that time, so when you look back later you can see the impact that it had on you. It is easy to assume you’ll remember these feelings, but once we experience something profound it is common to forget the past.

Write Every Day

Write personal experiences in your journal at least once daily- either before bed or right when you wake up. I wrote about restaurants I ate at, things people said to me that stuck, and made a list of things that I wanted to research upon arriving back home (this is especially true for the China seminar, as the internet is very censored and I was unable to look up many topics I had become curious about while I was there).

Take Notes During Company Visits

Document each business visit, and make sure to write names/info given of people who presented (to add on LinkedIn later or thank). Write down little things that you found interesting or profound during presentations, you may want to add them to your paper when you return and begin writing it. You also may hear things that are over your head at that moment, but will become more clear within the following days and will want to remember what you heard and where you heard it originally.

Utilize the Flight Home

Go through your journal on the flight home and make sure you add notes to things that are vague (I will never know what “Return prot at ASAP” means from my journal…which is unfortunate because it looks important!). Also, add dates to things which you didn’t put dates on.

On my ride home, I had already started to mix up days and cities for some experiences. If I was unsure of a date or location, I would go through my photo album on my phone and click “properties” on photos which were taken in these places to get the date and time. This, in combination with the schedule we were given on our first day during orientation, helped me a lot with my timelines.

Leo Curtis at Lenovo

How My Journal Helped When I Returned Home

The most important thing that my journal helped with was the dreaded paper that was due to receive academic credit for the trip. Once I made an outline to begin my paper, all 30 pages flew by. With my journal by my side and a couple Google browser windows open, I was able to quickly knock my paper out and even accidentally typed 15 extra pages.

The journal not only helped me remember details from the business visits that were necessary for those sections but helped me add personal information about my trip that tied into my theme. The paper I was not looking forward to turned into the paper that I am most proud of out of anything I have written in college so far.

It Kept the Memories Fresh

It helped me remember all of the things about China that were so easy to forget once I got back to my apartment, job, and regular responsibilities. While I was bored at times journaling while I was on the trip (and would have rather been getting a five-minute head start on activities) I find myself looking through the journal at least once every other week to reminisce (often times becoming emotional about experiences I took for granted at the time). It is my greatest souvenir!

It Helped me with Schoolwork

I thought I was done using it for school but found myself grabbing it off the shelf a couple weeks ago when a professor asked me to create a PowerPoint presentation for a scholarship donor who was considering donating to the Study Abroad program. As a businessman who has been to China multiple times himself, I felt a little more pressure in this presentation than the typical student presentations I was used to doing. I was able to pull things from my journal that I knew would be relevant to his interests, though I hadn’t spoken about these particular details with anyone in months.

stopping to smell the flowers
Journaling is your choice, but you will thank yourself if you make a commitment to keep up with it on your exciting trip!

Amanda Mapes

School: Northern Illinois University

My experience abroad taught me as much about myself and the way I perceive the world as it did about China and Chinese culture.

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