How to Document Your Time Abroad

Since I’ve been in France, my days have been filled with more breathtaking sights and precious moments than I can count. I don’t ever want to forget my experiences here, so I’ve relied on documenting Paris through photography – my favorite artistic medium.

That being said, it’s easy to fall into the trap of photographing just about everything you see without much thought or intention behind the photo you’re taking. I’m not immune to this habit, but I look back the most fondly on photographs I took that capture the ambiance of the place I was in, the people I was with, or places that I discovered on my own.

This photo of the Eiffel Tower was taken the first time I saw it. I spent a hilarious evening with my CEA friends (who I hardly knew at this point, but now adore). I was absolutely floored by the immensity of the monument. It’s so much larger than anyone could ever explain to you, and only the lower portion of it fits in the frame. Even still, it dwarfs the figure in the middle of the image. Each time I look at this image, I’m transported back to my first of many wonderful moments in Paris.

This is Wanderlust if I’ve ever seen it

Each of these photographs hold a similar memory and emotion for me. But for each of these photographs, I have another 100 photos that don’t hold quite as much power. And it’s fine that I have them, but I’m going to put these special photos aside and use them as my main documentation for Paris.

Wandering

Find yourself when you travel

Take in the light

Make friends

Of course, photos aren’t the end-all, be-all for creating a comprehensive document of study abroad. I’ve also been keeping a small journal filled with accounts of small moments that I don’t want to forget. I’m not organized enough to keep a thorough journal, but I write 2-3 sentences describing all of the moments that have left me breathless and beyond-grateful for the experiences I’m having. For when I travel outside of Paris, I write these moments on postcards.

I’ve also kept all of my ticket stubs, program pamphlets, and business cards as a more tactile way to hold onto my favorite events and restaurants.

I’ve also been recording one second of video from each day here through the app 1 Second Everyday (or 1SE). It attaches each 1 second recording into a video that you can save at the end of your studies. I’m so excited to see it once it’s finished! I’ll be sharing mine here once I’m done with the semester!

There are plenty of ways to keep track of your time abroad, so do what’s most comfortable for you. However, don’t forget that it’s infinitely more important to actually live these moments than to worry about photographing or writing them down. All of these methods come after.

Dana F. is the Fall 2017 MOJO Photographer in Paris, France. She is currently a junior studying Cinema & Photography at Ithaca College.

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