A close up of someone's hand writing in a notebook

Your reflective journal

When you’re in a new environment, or on a new course there are often many aspects which are different from your usual experience and take time to absorb. One way of processing these new experiences and making sense of them is to keep a journal. This means writing down your impressions about what is happening around you, and how you feel about them, including both positive and negative experiences.

Reflective writing is also a practice that is becoming increasingly popular on academic courses, so it is a useful skill for you to develop.

Here are some examples of journal entries that students have written.

Making friends

It’s a really nice room but no-one ever talks to me, and I’m not sure how to begin a conversation. But I was cooking fried rice the other day in the kitchen and one of my room- mates said it smelled delicious. I was really pleased – because I never cooked at home, I am only learning since I came here. Anyway, I gave her some to try, and now she is really friendly every time I see her………..

Understanding conversations

I’ve been here a week now, I wish I could follow conversations better – sometimes I just smile and nod, and say ‘yes’ because I can’t keep saying I don’t understand. But then I’m afraid someone will ask me a question, and then they’ll realise I haven’t been following the conversation at all…………..everyone just speaks so quickly!

Relationships with family

It’s interesting, I’ve been having better conversation with my parents on Skype/WeChat than I ever had when I was living home. It’s like they are really listening to me, and want to know what I am doing

One common sequence in reflective writing is to describe an experience, analyse what happened, and/or evaluate what the experience meant to you. Keeping a journal is therefore also a good opportunity to develop your critical writing skills.

Keeping a reflective journal

You might find it useful to keep a reflective journal during this course or during your studies in the UK. It can help to make sense of new experiences and ideas and allows you to keep a record of your reflections in one place.

If you decide to start a journal for this course, you can include:

  • Ideas in the course that you’ve found difficult, surprising, reassuring, confusing, etc (and why).
  • Information you think is especially important (and why).
  • Points or questions you want to follow up on (and how you might do this).

We recommend that you take notes throughout the course, and you should use whichever format suits you best, whether that’s a paper notepad, a document in Word or another text editor. You might even consider using a blogging platform such as Tumblr, wordpress.com or Blogger, (please note: these are external links) which would allow you to share your reflections with others – read the guide to blogging tools to find out more.

Don’t forget to mark this Step as complete using the button in the bottom-right corner.

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This article is from the free online course:

Study UK: Prepare to Study and Live in the UK

British Council