Takeoff Toolbox: Four Practices Critical For Combating Predeparture Panic

Maddy Mulder
August 27, 2019
Lightboard with "off to Nice"

I am off to Nice, France in just a few days and while I am beyond excited, I am also incredibly nervous. I have been dreaming of studying abroad for eons, but once studying abroad became a reality I began to doubt my decision; it had been a dream for so long that I had never considered the actual logistics of going. All of a sudden there seemed like there was so much I had to do; I felt overwhelmed and underprepared. I also began to doubt that I was capable of living independently abroad in a place where I only sort of (that might be generous on my part) speak the language. So, I decided to compile a toolbox of a few “tools” or practices to help with my predeparture panic. Here are the four key tools I have put in my toolbox to help me get out of my predeparture funk:

1. Research: Get Your Head out of the Clouds so That When Your Feet Hit the Ground Abroad It Won’t Storm

Checklists, handbooks, and guides are all useful, but blogs are where it’s at. Reading firsthand accounts from others who have studied abroad before and about Nice specifically (I love the BestOfNice) have helped to put a lot of my nerves to rest. In reading blogs on studying abroad I have accepted the fact that difficult moments are inevitable, but I am also reminded and encouraged by the fact that many say those very same difficult times are the best, most impactful moments of their experience abroad. Sticking my head in the ground or getting lost fantasizing in the clouds about studying abroad was a good way to ignore my worries for a while, but doing my research helped me actually address and alleviate a lot of my fears.

2. Language Practice: Even Just a Little Bit Is Better Than Nothing

After studying abroad in France became a reality, I began having fever dreams about being kicked out onto the street for inadvertently offending my host family with my horrible French or having to mime everything for the next four months of my life. For a while, I procrastinated getting started on practicing French, I felt a bit defeated by the enormity of learning how to speak the entire French language perfectly in three months. I finally (it took me much longer than it should have) figured out that even a little bit was better than nothing. So, I redownloaded Duolingo, started to watch the news and play the games on the 7Jours Sur La Planéte app, and I also began to work my way through the levels of French from the Rosetta Stone account provided by IES Abroad. Starting is always the hardest part, but once I began to face my fears and actually do something about them, my panic subsided and my excitement grew exponentially.

3. Having Faith in Yourself: You Have Done It Before and You CAN Do It Again

I have realized that having faith in myself is key to being open to and taking advantage of change. I have embarked on many new journeys and started over many times in my college career and overall life, and as a result, I have become more brave, adventurous, independent, and flexible. When I take time to remember all of the hard things that I have done, no matter how small, I find that I suddenly have every belief in myself that I will be able to meet whatever challenges studying abroad throws my way. I highly recommend the practice of recalling personal challenges you have overcome as a daily practice for feeling braver, more capable, and more excited about the opportunities in the unknown. Tell yourself that you can handle it and you will find that you do.

4. Letting Go: It’s Not Personal

Not taking everything personally can be a hard tool to be mindful of and implement. However, I have found that when I make an effort to let go and not take everything personally, I am much more open to foreign situations and people and can more easily find a reason to laugh, even in the most difficult of times. Moreover, it gives you a break from constantly comparing everything you experience to what you think is “right". Letting go and focusing on experiencing instead of judging and comparing makes inevitable difficulties more tolerable and the sun a little brighter.

So, I am off to Nice, determined and excited to make the most of my time there with an arsenal full of research, practice, faith, and joyous curiosity, I’ll let you know how it goes!

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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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