The Secret To Success Abroad? Attitude

Maddy Mulder
January 8, 2020
Sunrise along the Promenade Des Anglais in Nice

Quite honestly my return home from abroad snuck up on me. At first, the semester seemed to be dragging on; everything was in front of me and I just could not wait to get to the next new and exciting thing. However, the semester quickly picked up speed and flew by me in a rush of excitement without me even realizing it. Next thing I knew I was facing down finals and my return home. For a while, I was distracted from my return by finals, but eventually, I could no longer push off the reality of my imminent departure.

It was not until two days before my flight, as I was saying goodbye to the friends I made while abroad, that it truly hit me that I was returning home. The sadness of leaving my new friends and life abroad was coupled with a sudden panic that I was completely unprepared to return home. I had spent months and months researching going abroad, reading through thousands of blogs and articles in preparation for my departure, but returning home? I had completely ignored that. I believed that returning would be the easiest part of my experience abroad. After all, I was going back to all the people, places, and customs I already knew well, so why wouldn’t it be easy?

What I had not factored in was that I had changed while abroad, that I had become accustomed to completely different people, places, and ways of life. As I began to really think about going home, I decided to do some last-minute research into re-entry and in the process created another tool kit full of skills, just like the one I made for myself when leaving to go abroad, to hopefully ease my way home. In reflecting on my time abroad and in creating these toolkits, I realized that there was one crucial ingredient to my success at all stages of my study abroad experience: a good attitude.

There were a few things that I carried over from my old takeoff tool kit into my re-entry toolkit, and an open-minded, forgiving and fun-loving attitude was one such staple. In preparing to go home I found myself overwhelmed by intense feelings of excitement, confusion, and anxiety. Though I was returning to a familiar place, I was unsure about how I would fit back in; I was worried that once I returned home I would lose all of the new aspects of my identity that I had gained while abroad or feel confined at home. I was convinced I knew how my friends, family, and wider society would act around me when I got back, and I was sure I was not going to like it. Before leaving I was convinced that the people, places, and experiences abroad were going to be hard and challenging and that I was not going to like them, and once again I was feeling the same way, just this time it was about my own home. In my first toolkit, I included an open and forgiving attitude as a way to help me challenge and re-frame my fears and so I decided to pack it as a last-minute addition to my re-entry toolkit as well.

I included other tools in my take-off and re-entry toolkits and employed many different skills and mechanisms while abroad in order not just to survive during my time abroad, but to truly thrive. During my entire study abroad journey an open-minded, curious, forgiving, and fun-loving attitude was truly the key to success. Be warned, however, being open-minded towards others and forgiving towards yourself and your mistakes is not something that magically appears, it is something you have to consistently work hard at. A good attitude requires constant inner-reflection and constantly challenging your beliefs about yourself and others. With practice, a good attitude will be what carries you through the hard times, eases the sting of the mistakes you are bound to make, and what opens you up to amazing new opportunities. The emotional turbulence arising from my unexamined fears and unexpected reactions was a shocking part of my re-entry, but when I challenged myself to have an open mind about the places and people I was returning to, as I did when departing for abroad, the transition became much easier. Going abroad can be hard, and so can returning home, you will be challenged and pushed hard, but you will also grow in your competency and in confidence and with a good attitude, you are sure to thrive.

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Maddy Mulder

<p>Hello! I am a junior at the College of William and Mary studying global studies and data science, but my true loves are language learning and map-making. I enjoy reading and playing soccer, and I also love to bake, though I more resemble a candidate for Nailed It! then an actual baker. I am excited to go to France this fall so that I can practice my French with locals and eat some good food. For my next adventure abroad, I would love to go to China as I have recently begun to study Chinese and fallen in love with the Netflix show Wild China.</p>

2019 Fall
Home University:
College of William & Mary, The
Washington, D.C.
Global Studies
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