So many study abroad students return home from an amazing trip only to realize they now have no idea what to do with all the shot glasses, magnets, pens, or keychains they collected on their travels. Stockpiling generic souvenirs might seem like a great idea at the time (face it, we all love cheap and convenient!), but a unique memento can be a much more meaningful way to remember your time abroad. Leave the clichés on the shelf and start collecting these alternative study abroad souvenirs.
1. Cross an item off your bucket list
Have you always wanted to go paragliding, take a painting class, or run a 5k? Studying abroad is the perfect time to cross an item off your bucket list! Not only will you be trying something new and exploring your host culture, you’ll also be making a lasting memory. Make sure you hold onto a keepsake from your adventure – a certificate, a brochure, receipts. These make great souvenirs and can help you relive the moment when you get home.
Spend an afternoon searching for a piece of local history to call your own. Your host city’s antique shops and weekend markets are teeming with unique and affordable souvenirs. Although you might have to rummage through some junk, the hunt will be worth it! You can be sure you’ll be the only one bringing home that rare mug, vintage jacket, or other curio. Extra credit: ask locals if they know how your newfound treasure fits into the region’s history.
3. Photo collection
Skip the cheap, generic postcards sold on every street corner and create your own collection of unique travel photos. In each city you explore, ask a travel buddy to snap a photo of you in the same pose against the skyline or in front of a famous monument. Get creative – do a handstand, write the city’s name on a small dry erase board, show school spirit by flashing your university’s spirit sign. Once you return home, you can print your collection and make a memorable collage of all the places you’ve been.
Read next: What to Do With Your Study Abroad Photos
Treat yo’self! Studying abroad is not just about coursework, weekend trips, and late-night parties. It’s also a time of personal growth and independence. Celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime adventure by treating yourself to a classy piece of jewelry, like a watch, ring, or necklace, from a local jeweler. Each time you wear your new bling back home, you’ll be reminded of how much you’ve grown during your time abroad.
5. Perfect a skill/habit
There’s no better time to practice your foreign language skills, learn how to cook a regional dish, brew the perfect cup of tea, or perform a traditional dance. Pick a skill or habit you’d like to develop and find a way to practice it. Once you return home, you’ll feel like you’re bringing a piece of the culture back with you. Extra credit: find a way to share your skill or habit to teach others about your host culture.
6. Local art
Support local artists by finding a masterpiece to decorate your dorm room or apartment back home. Buy paintings or sketches directly from street artists or visit a formal gallery for framed photographs and statues. Regardless of what you buy or where you buy it, your new piece of art will brighten your living space and help you explore the local art scene. If visual art is not your thing, another option is to check nearby bookstores for local literature or poetry collections.
7. Fashion/sense of style
Your host culture has its own set of fashion rules that may be very different from the ones you follow back home. Embrace this new sense of style! Take inspiration from popular clothing chains, local media, or street fashion and then find similar pieces to add to your own wardrobe. Who knows? You may even start a new fashion trend back home.
Not for the faint of heart, a tattoo is a permanent souvenir so be sure you’re 100% committed before jumping in. Commemorate your time abroad by getting inked with a cultural symbol, a meaningful word in your host country’s language, or a basic wanderlust design. Make sure you research locations beforehand and pick a safe, clean tattoo parlor. You’ll also want to spend time researching the design to make sure your new ink is culturally sensitive and appropriate. And remember, this souvenir is forever.
Your time abroad will be an amazing experience! Collect some (or all) of these alternative souvenirs to help you remember your adventure for years to come.