This time last year - after bugging all my friends about whether or not it was a good idea - I finally decided to start a blog to document my year abroad in ~ooh lala~ Paris. Whilst I did fear that 'Patel in Paris' would make me the butt of every joke ever for the rest of my life, as soon as I published my first post, all those worries disappeared. And, though my year abroad wasn't the greatest, and I didn't ever really have the best stories to share, I am still so glad that I decided to write this blog.
In low times, it was a place to vent. In happy times, it was a place to embrace these, and remind myself to always try to find the light at the end of the tunnel. And in between, it was just a great hobby. It may be a cliché, and it may be overdone, but I would certainly recommend that you document your year abroad, or travels, in any way you can.
First and foremost, my writing has improved. It is by no means perfect, but at least now I am more proactive in coming up with my own post ideas - something which aids me continually today, especially when I start writing for a new website or platform. What gave me that confidence was 'Patel in Paris' - I submitted my blogposts from there onto travel blogs such as OneWorld365, and this has given me more of a push to branch out and write for other places.
Another great thing is that it never felt like a chore. I've grown to love writing even more now, and this blog was the best way to nurture this hobby. I feel like that if I'm now given a title, I can quite easily write something fairly quickly, and have it be a decent piece too. Beforehand, I would procrastinate and think about it for days and days before actually writing.
Final year Spanish and Portuguese student at Nottingham University, Hannah Kitching, said of her blog: "It was brilliant to keep in touch with people because every time I wrote on it friends would message me to ask about certain things that I'd done. It was also good for family members so I didn't have to keep repeating what I'd done over Skype!
"It's still lovely to have something to look back on as a reminder of how amazing my year abroad was."
So, it was a great way to share my experiences in Paris, and help others prevent things going wrong, with safety and security travel advice from the FCO. After all, you never know when a pickpocket will strike, or when you'll lose your passport, and you might even forget what to take before going abroad. And unfortunately, in Paris, you need to know about the all-too-frequent travel strikes!
But I think the most rewarding part of having a blog is hearing what other people have to say about it. Whilst my friends always had positive things to say, I think the most surprising comment was when I was in an interview for a Paris design magazine - the interviewer told me she saw my blog and thought it was very cool. It is something valuable to have on your CV, as it shows creativity and drive.
However, it isn't always easy. Catherine May Simpson, a final year French and Spanish student at Southampton University, who started Flamenco and Fiestas added: "I really enjoyed writing about the places I visited but found it difficult to keep up with posts as I was travelling so much, to the point that it became a bit of a chore.
"I also found it hard to give a fresh take on things and kind of ended up just listing where I'd been and what I'd done, although it was always more for me than other people!"
All in all, without this blog I don't think I would've been quite as reflective as I was on my year abroad. It helped me find a writing style, of course. But ultimately, it helped me really make a judgment on myself in the year. I think I was always going to do some serious growing up on my year away, but this blog helped me realise it, and with it, I've seen a slow (but welcome) change. This blog will always be something I can look back on, and for that, I'm glad.
In this day and age, we forget that not everything has to be online. You don't even have to make it known to everyone and share it on the Internet - I just did because I'm an attention-whore. It can be a link that you keep to yourself. What's more, it doesn't even have to be online - what about a journal, or scrapbook? A polaroid collection in time order? A series of vlogs? The possibilities are endless. But I do enjoy having something to look back at - so don't miss out the chance to have something similar for yourself.
For all these reasons and more, I would say: Embrace the cliché, and the cringey Instagram "link in my bio" posts - you may surprise yourself and really enjoy it.
When you start your blog, make sure you aren't doing anything silly or reckless on your travels! In order to make the best memories, always ensure you are travel aware, by following FCO Travel on Facebook and Twitter, and checking their website for live updates about your destinations.