Why do we buy souvenirs?

Within a society defined by social media and contemporary means of sharing photos, traditions from generations past can still be found. Collecting souvenirs is an action our grandparents do, our parents do, and is something we (meaning us millennials, of course) do, too. In a society where photos dominate our feed and online "scrapbooks," it is reassuring that there are still physical objects that can represent unique memories. Souvenirs have the ability to bring us back to that special place and time. Professor of Strategic Communication at the Northern Arizona University Kristen Swanson states that, "A souvenir is a remembrance of an experience. They have emotional value attached to them that ordinary objects don't have."

Students around the world participate in this tradition when it comes to studying abroad, mission trips, or just plain old vacations. A chunk of UMD students were willing to share some of their most intimate possessions.

Students submitted their own photos and descriptions of a favorite souvenir. Each object tells a little portion of a big story.



"This is a backpack that I bought in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. I purchased it while studying abroad there last summer. I like it because it's colorful and unique! This souvenir is meaningful to me because it brings back a lot of good memories from my trip. After buying this backpack I wore it all over Costa Rica, including the beautiful beaches, volcanoes, and rain forests of the country. Every time I use it now it reminds me of these great times!" -Rachel Cook





"This summer I was in Washington, D.C. for an internship with The Heritage Foundation. The book is one of the 30 (I haven't read them all yet, but I plan on it!) I got from my internship and the elephant scarf is from the Eastern Market. Locals would walk through the streets of the market after brunch on the weekends. There was always fresh food, flowers, art, and elephant scarves." -Ellie Mueller






"I got this piercing when I was in India last summer. I chose to get my nose pierced when I was in India because the majority of the Indian women have nose rings. I wanted something that would remind me of the experiences I had abroad. Now every time I look in the mirror I am reminded of the things I saw and learned and to pray for the people I met." -Alicia Benner




willsouv"This is a Barcelona Futbol jersey I got while studying abroad in Spain. I studied in Barcelona but didn't actually get the jersey there. I bought it from a street vendor just outside of the Coliseum during a weekend trip to Rome. The jersey reminds me not only of my amazing travels in Rome and Barcelona, but also to be prepared for anything that comes your way and take every opportunity you have." -Will Earley





jakesouv2"The tiki mask is something my mom picked up in Ethiopia. Its important to me because she not only got that mask, she also picked up my younger sister and finalized her adoption. "



"The cup is an item my mom picked up in Haiti. Its important to me because it reminds me to think of other places around the world that aren't doing as well as we are here in the U.S." -Jacob Hunt






"This is a coaster from the famous "Brauerei Heller" in Bamberg, Germany. It is a very famous brewery from I think something like the 14th century. They are known for their Rauchbier which is German for smoke beer. It is ultra smoky, very dark, and super tasty! The pub's name is schlenkerla - it was super cool! The pub is so old and is kind of a basement. If you imagine what an old old pub would look like, it's exactly that. It is from the 1400s and hadn't changed." -Ben Block





"I got the shell in a tiny village called Hornillos del Camino. I had already been walking on the Camino for two weeks at that point, but that day was the first day I truly felt like a pilgrim. Before that, it felt like I was playing a part almost. That morning, we had said goodbye to a wonderful Italian gentleman named Roberto, and that evening we met two new guys named Toni and Vincenzo that we adopted into our little family. I hung the shell on my backpack for the rest of the Way, and it'll always remind me of that special day."

"The second photo is a picture of my pilgrim's passports that I carried along the entirekatiesouv2 Camino de Santiago. In order to stay in the albergues you have to have a stamp from places along the walk, so the hosts know you didn't just bus along the route. Each stamp is unique, some of the were just from random people that waited for pilgrims to come by. One stamp was from this little gentleman named Pepe, who wrote on my passport in Spanish, 'Love all pilgrims and you will be happy.' They all have a little story that goes with them, but that one meant the most to me by far. My companions and I all wrote a goodbye "stamp" for one another on our passports on the final page. Maybe I only knew them for a couple weeks, but the love and companionship that was shared during that time will be treasured forever." -Katie Axford





"This is a blue footed booby foot from the Galapagos islands. It is special because it reminds me of the one of a kind animals I saw and all the cool people I met. It is a foot of a blue footed booby which in my opinion was one of the cutest birds along with the waved albatross."

-Daniela Zimmer








"This coffee mug is from Park City Utah.  I collected this mug during my summer field camp in Park City Utah during 2015.  This mug is important to me because it represents all of the hard work that I did while I was in Park City for geology field camp.  I spent 6 weeks mapping the mountain sides around Park City as well as in southern Utah.  Some of the elevations reached 10,000 feet and I would gladly return to this area.  This mug represents all of the hard work that I did in another part of the country learning new things along the way." -Gary Kelner




"I purchased a wooden mask for my brother. I believe it's supposed to be a hunting or protection symbol (design)? I'm not sure the exact wording there." (Her brother is a big hunter). -Michelle Olson








"My dad and I have always golfed together a lot, ever since I was little. So my freshman year over winter break we decided to take a road trip down to Alabama to visit a couple of his friends and golf since it was so cold up here! So we took a few days to drive down, stayed a few days, and drove back. I bought that towel from the first course that we played on in Alabama, and it's really special to me because that's the only trip I've gotten to take with just my dad. It was definitely one of the coolest things I've done and it was awesome to just hang out with my dad for a week, just him and I!" -Lucas Flock


"The ring: I got this in Queenstown, New Zealand. The shells in the ring are from Lake Wakitipu in Queenstown and are handcrafted into the ring. This was my favorite city I've ever traveled to."

"The gold wood piece: I got this in San Francisco, CA this July. I visited a temple being built, directed by my uncle, in a neighborhood space in San Francisco. This space features a different art piece every year and my uncle coordinated the builder of the temple for Burning Man to build a temple in this art space. While watching the temple being built on the final day, I was talkirileysouv2ng to my uncle and a woman working on the project came up to us and asked if she should give me this wooden piece. The artist had a few wooden pieces with the gold leaf on them left over and this is one of the few. After being given this gift my uncle told me that the woman was Robin Williams' ex wife too." -Riley Hine





"I recently got this my trip to Riviera Maya in Mexico for my brother's wedding. I went into town and got to use some of my Spanish speaking skills that I had from high school to barter with the merchants and I got two blankets for 20 bucks!" -Jackson Rozeske





Each object portrayed here tells a story. The importance that these souvenirs represent were shown through the students words.

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