Study Abroad Photo Checklist: 10 Tips to Create the Perfect Album

While studying abroad in New Zealand for more than five months, there was never a dull moment or view. Luckily my camera and I were attached at the hip (or by neck strap) so I never missed a good photo opportunity.

To me, it was important to capture anything and everything because every photo shares an experience, and every experience is a memory to hold onto. No matter where you study abroad, my advice remains the same: take photos of everything…you can always delete, but you can never recreate that exact moment. I was fortunate that my entire host country could be a desktop background, so it wasn’t very hard to get good pictures. If your host country doesn’t present the natural beauty that studying abroad in New Zealand has, don't get discouraged, I will help you discover all of the hidden secrets to create that perfect study abroad album.

1. Take Photos of Your Food

Chefs work hard to make their food look presentable, so why not give them credit for it through pictures? I snapchatted all of my meals to obviously make my friends back in the States jealous, but most of the time it was because my food was just so dang pretty. My first meal abroad raised the bar pretty high, and it surely did not disappoint.

2. Capture Your Host Country’s Culture

There are so many unique cultures in the world, and the cultures within your host country can make a huge impact on your study abroad experience. At least it did for me.

The indigenous people of New Zealand are called Māori, and their language showed up everywhere. My Uni was called the University of Canterbury with its Māori name as Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha. I was so immersed with the Māori culture that I had to share their culture with others. Fortunately, my IES Abroad program in Christchurch took us on various trips allowing us to adapt to the Māori culture. The first field trip we went on was at a wildlife reserve (pictured below), and the second was an overnight stay at a Māori village, where we were educated on the lives of the Māori people and actually got to live the way they do.

3. Let Your Landscape Set Up Your Shot

If you’re lucky enough, your host country takes the photos for you. This was the case for me almost every day when I was studying abroad in New Zealand. On my first weekend trip, I went to Wanaka, New Zealand, and although there were some people who doubted me, I completed my first “big girl” hike.

It was called Roy’s Peak, and I didn’t even have to make it to the summit to see the world. This hike took about seven to eight hours, and it was absolutely worth it to see the most stunning view in my entire life. It was literally the world and me (and one of my friends from my IES Abroad program). If you’re not catching onto my advice, here it is: Let the world take the photo for you.

4. Embrace Study Abroad as a Once-in-a-Lifetime Adventure

If you’re dedicated to your camera, you’ll let it do its job as much as possible. My second weekend trip was one of my most memorable and challenging experiences while studying abroad.

It was my first time camping. The lack of sleep was inevitable, and it was incredibly windy both nights, I still made the best of it. Here’s my dedication; I woke up at 6 a.m., grabbed my sleeping bag, head torch, and camera, and climbed up boulders in the darkness. Although it was freezing while the wind tried knocking me over along with taking my sleeping bag (note to self: do not take the sleeping bag next time, embrace the cold), I caught a pretty neat sunrise over the mountain. So, go out of your way to get those once-in-a-lifetime experiences and photos, you can sleep when you’re not studying abroad.

5. Snap More Photos Than You Need

Take the time to take photos from every angle, because, one, you can snag details you would not have seen otherwise, and, two, you always need options!

Last but not least, don't be afraid to take too many pictures – I took 4,337 (roughly). Please enjoy some of my other favorite photos below!

6. Document Things that Are Special to Your Host Country

New Zealand is the host to the world’s only alpine parrot called the Kea Bird. I was fortunate to have seen this beautiful creature three separate times—one  on my first hiking trip, two on the road to Milford Sound (which is considered the eighth wonder of the world), and another two on a hike in Queenstown (the adventure capitol of the world).

7. Be Ready for Any Photo Op

Going back to what I was saying about getting lucky, this is not exactly advice, but sometimes you really do get lucky with what is presented before you. On one of my last trips, it had rained on and off throughout the day. I saw at least 10 rainbows in that day. It was an absolutely incredible sight.

8. Play Around with Your Camera Settings

Throughout my semester studying abroad, I learned how to take so many different types of pictures that could be from Google. For example, I’m still working on perfecting the photos, but I learned how to capture the stars, and, let me tell you, there are more stars in the New Zealand skies than people in New Zealand. I also discovered how to make water look like it’s flowing in pictures. Your camera can do its job better than you’d expect.

9. Explore Your Host City

I lived on campus at the University of Canterbury while studying abroad in Christchurch, New Zealand, and would take the Metro bus downtown every so often. There was this really cute row of shops and restaurants called New Regent Street. The first time I discovered it, I knew I would become obsessed. I would go there often and study at the coffee shops. Within my last few days abroad, I took one last trip downtown and brought my camera with. You’ll never know what you discover until you explore.

10. Bring All Essentials

I am from Chicago, Illinois, and right before I left to study abroad in New Zealand, I purchased a Chicago flag so that I could bring a piece of home with me to the other side of the world. The plan was to bring it on every trip but I ended up hanging it up in my bedroom. I decided that it was meant to be brought on my final road trip while studying abroad. And so, I introduced my home to my other home.

Jami Weinstein, IES Abroad Photo Correspondent (Christchurch | Spring 2017)

Jami is from the north suburbs of Chicago, and is a Speech Language Pathology major at Indiana University. When Jami snaps a photograph, she says she feels as if she has jumped into a whole new perspective of life. “To me, words can’t explain a single moment, but a photo captures a story,” Jami says. Check out Jami’s blog from her study abroad in Christchurch experience.


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