Wellness Wednesday: Personal Reflection is Key During Study Abroad

Welcome to the fifth installment of Wellness Wednesdays, featuring Abroad101′s expert on expat emotional health, Melissa Doman.  In this post Melissa shares 5 reasons why you NEED to be journaling during your time abroad.

“You’re having so much fun studying abroad that it feels like there isn’t enough time in the day to experience everything you want to do. Right? Well, I must remind you of a very important tip: Don’t forget to write it all down! We often learn the most about ourselves during times of change and struggle. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Self-reflection while you’re overseas is key for personal growth, my friends. Take moments regularly to stop and think about what you’re experiencing and how you feel. The way I recommend to do this is by journaling. Not only is putting pen to paper a good way to record what you’re seeing around you, but it’s also very cathartic. Counseling clients I’ve worked with have reported that by regularly journaling and taking time to actively reflect, they felt more relaxed, with a sense of resolve, and clarity on their current phase of life. As a professional counselor, I’ve always recommended journaling and active self-reflection to clients for use during major life transitions. To stop and truly pay attention to what you’re thinking about, what you see, and how your perspective is evolving can change the very trajectory of your life.

Journaling is such an incredible tool to record amazing moments of your life, but it’s also a great way to workout any internal conflicts you may be going through. Echoed by other mental health professionals at PsychCentral.com, here are 5 reasons why journaling can benefit you:

1.  Clarifies your emotions and thoughts
2.  Help to get to know yourself better
3.  Stress reducer
4.  Help you strategize to solve problems more effectively
5.  Resolve disagreements with people in your life

By starting the habit of journaling when you’re abroad, you may find it to be a great tool to use when you’re back at home as well. Whether you’ve been journaling your whole life as a budding writer, or you’ve never done it before, the good news is that you can start anytime! Buy a journal that you’ll not only enjoy writing in, but find one you’ll want to keep forever and open up to read again in 40 years. Depending on the stories you write down – you’ll either keep it to yourself or share it with your future children and grandchildren.

I decided to start journaling when I first studied abroad in Melbourne, Australia in 2006. By the time my semester broad was over, I had written hundreds of pages! After that experience I promised myself that I would always bring a journal with me whenever I traveled internationally and even sometimes nationally. In 2007, I was traveling in Spain, Italy, and France with my family. When I was in Florence, my father bought me a leather-covered journal with a beautiful fleur de lis symbol on the front cover. In it were gold tipped pages to fill with chapters of adventures to come. To this day, I carry that journal with me whenever I’m off to a new country, so I can fill its pages with new stories of my thoughts, what I’ve seen, and images I don’t want to forget.

Some of the most enhanced moments of my life were when I was journaling while laying on a beach on Roatan Island off the coast of Honduras, relaxing by a fire place in my hostel in New Zealand after climbing the Franz Josef Glacier, and sitting in a bus traveling around Israel. These travel moments were integral to my personal development and I’m so happy I took the time to write them all down. I leave you with the famous words of Oscar Wilde who can sum this all up best, “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.””

Dreaming of journaling on your semester abroad?  Check out the student reviews on Abroad101 to find the perfect program for you!