Sometimes the addicting experience of being a bright-eyed stranger in a completely, exhilaratingly new land can make it feel like you’re never going home — and you’re okay with that. Then reality sets in and you know that at the end of the semester, you will be back in your homeland. You start to buy souvenirs and take pictures in hopes of remembering the trip. If you’re especially thoughtful, you’ll grab mementos you think your loved ones will appreciate.
Before you take the leap to study abroad, remember that the only things that will remain from this time in your life are your memories and the memorabilia you pick up along the way.
Some are avid souvenir collectors, while others take a different approach. Senior Elizabeth Brown documented her time abroad with snapshots.
“I was never a ‘things’ person,” Brown says. “I’m big into taking pictures because I can re-live those moments and show everybody where I went.”
Similarly, senior Jon Strauser always brought home a black and white photograph and a flag from each location he studied at.
Strauser says that souvenirs are overrated, so he opts for postcards instead; they’re ideal because they have high-quality depictions of the area’s best features, they’re easy to store in a stuffed suitcase and they weigh next to nothing.
Souvenirs aren’t always about giving — Brown brought home her sarongs and elephant-printed pants she purchased from an iconic Thai market.
Like many students, junior Jared Campbell realized he had left himself out of his search for souvenirs.
“I was really focused on bringing stuff back for people and I forgot to bring things home for me,” Campbell says. “But my thought process was that I am getting to experience this, and that was my gift — my treat — so I didn’t focus on getting things for me.”
Often, travelers carry journals so they can document memories with descriptions of their trips. Some treat it like a scrapbook by pasting in receipts, ticket stubs, train tickets and flowers. Campbell took a different approach and made a digital journal by posting a photo with an explanation to Facebook every day.
“It was the best decision, because I could document what I did that day, and people could see it back home,” Campbell says.
If digital isn’t your style and you prefer tangible souvenirs instead, Brown warns potential study abroad students to leave space in their luggage for unexpected purchases.
“Everybody packs exactly fifty pounds of baggage, because that’s how much you can take. What you don’t realize is that you want to bring things home so you either have to not buy souvenirs or leave things behind abroad.”
This is your trip, so don’t focus on getting a gift for everybody you’ve ever known. Instead, get things you will remember the trip by. But most of all, focus on the experiences and memories.
Story: Emily Klein
Photo: Jon Strauser