2.1 - Preparing to Come Home
This section is about capturing memories and saying a "good”" Good-bye. As one’s overseas journey begins to draw to a close there are a number of simple but important things you can, and should, do to make sure you bring proper closure to your adventure. These range from taking last minute photos and getting addresses of overseas friends and program classmates to being sure to say your goodbyes in a culturally appropriate manner.
Once abroad it is easy to get so involved in classes and daily activities, including planning trips to every other country on the continent, that we often forget to see deeply into the local culture and record that which is closest to us. Building memories is one of the joys of overseas study, but before long your daily routine becomes just that – routine! So if you have not already done so you should record as much of your everyday life as you can, especially those ordinary places, people, and things you want to remember. This can include everything from collecting photographs (film, digital, VCR), to buying popular music CD’s, local handicrafts, postcards of your favorite places, or even learning to cook a dish you like.
Capturing these photos and material touchstones will give you an opportunity to explore more deeply those things that have become a regular part of your life overseas. It is surprising how quickly one can get used to living in the new place and take things that once seemed so new or odd and overlook them completely. Suddenly, you are not noticing ordinary features of daily life any more. They are no longer strange. This generally indicates that you have become somewhat adapted to the culture.
Suggestions about what to record could include the street you live on and your room, your favorite clubs, pubs, and restaurants, the neighborhood, classmates, a local park or church, the neighbors you greet daily, street vendors and local markets…in short, anything you feel important to capture for future memories. Pictures of the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Vatican or other major monuments are nice, especially with you and your friends standing in front of them. However, everyone sees pictures of these places all the time. They are visually familiar but no one has seen the places that are part of your everyday life. Those photographs will not only be more interesting to the folks at home but more meaningful to you when you return.
1. Cameras can be stolen.
2. Developing film can be expensive. These days, the digital camera may be the best way to record and preserve photographs. Of course, you can share them by email almost immediately.
3. Think about how you will share your photographs: how they will be organized, presented, and preserved.
If you are an artist, even a budding one, try capturing everyday life in small paintings, sketches or drawings This rarely goes unnoticed and people will often glance at what you are doing and, if it looks interesting, could be asking YOU questions.
Journaling is, of course, an excellent way of keeping track of your experience. "Two books listed in the bibliography in Module 3 are a good resource on journaling: Chisholm and Berry's Understanding the Education – and Through It The Culture – in Education Abroad, and Hess' The Whole World Guide to Culture Learning."
The main point is to think about how you are going to take your memories home because they will fade over time.