How to maintain a positive attitude and an open mind abroad

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” ― Isaac Asimov

Going abroad isn’t a walk in the park. You’re going to an unknown country, city and workplace so naturally it’s going to take some time to adjust and gain independence. The key is to avoid wallowing in any frustration that you might experience abroad. You need to learn how to stay positive while traveling abroad. Keep your chin up and continue moving forward. Remember – nothing ventured, nothing gained.


1. Take a moment to feel what you feel

When you’re feeling disenchanted, frustrated and unmotivated, take a moment to just feel it. If you try to bottle up your emotions or pretend that they don’t exist, your mood may improve in the short term but over time you’ll be even more upset and angry.


2. Remind yourself why you’re there

Think about all of the reasons you decided to come abroad and keep in mind that in order to learn and become more independent, it’s also necessary to struggle a bit. Overcoming adversity during your experience abroad will ultimately make you stronger. Keep your eyes on why you’re there (not to be comfortable) and use those goals to motivate you through any difficulties. You’ve got things to accomplish.


how to stay positive while traveling abroad


3. Have a sense of humor

There’s no better way to get over a bad day than to laugh at it – and at yourself. Whether abroad or not, we’re all just figuring it out as we go along. Making light of troubling situations will help you let go of negative moments, heal and move forward.


4. Think about things that bother you and why

Delve deep into what is causing you stress and why. Take some time to process your feelings and understand what exactly is causing them. Sometimes getting over challenges is just a matter of exploring and accepting them and how they make you feel.


5. Talk about frustrations

Don’t feel bad about sharing your feelings of loneliness, frustration or sadness with others. On the contrary, discussing these emotions can be helpful in getting past them and can also bring you closer to your roommates and peers.


6. Develop mantras

If you’re having a hard time staying positive or pushing yourself to be adventurous, pick some mantras that you can repeat to keep yourself psyched and focused on the opportunities at your feet – rather than the challenges. Use mantras or quotes that you are familiar with or make up your own to fit your particular circumstance. Write these sayings out and hang them up where you can see them every day – like the fridge or your bedroom. Examples: “I am here to learn and grow and that means getting comfortable being uncomfortable.” or “Smile. Breathe deep. Remember why you’re here. Challenges are merely opportunities.”.


how to stay positive while traveling abroad


7. Exercise

There are lots of ways to relieve stress through physical activity. Running, yoga and other types of exercise can be very therapeutic – not just good for the body, but the soul as well. The endorphins released during physical activity will cause a sense of euphoria and help you de-stress and give you plenty of time to think over and process any difficulties with your situation.


8. Do gratitudes

It’s easy to slip into the bad habit of focusing your thoughts and energy on the negative. It can be easy to see what isn’t going ideally rather than appreciate what’s good in life. To keep yourself positive and grateful, work on some gratitudes. Making a list of things you’re thankful for will help you refocus your energy on appreciation. And there’s so much to be thankful for – from your sense of taste, to your parents, your citizenship, your education… don’t stop until you have at least 50 things you are thankful for.


9. Remember that your time is limited

This time you have abroad – no matter how fun or frustrating – is limited. No matter how you feel, it’s still an amazing opportunity to learn and grow. There’s no sense in wasting time focusing on the negative. You’ll be home soon, so while you’re abroad, work on what you can do to take advantage of this great opportunity.



Now that you know how to stay positive while traveling abroad, apply now for an international internship to boost your career!



Photo 1. based on Smile, by T.J. Lentz, CC-by-2.0

Photo 2. based on ops, by jerik0ne, CC-by-2.0

Photo 3. based on Meditation mountain top, by Jillian, CC-by-ND 2.0


The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!

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Elizabeth Trovall

After short stints in Argentina and Belize, Elizabeth is finishing up her fourth year in Santiago, Chile. Elizabeth writes about international internships, life abroad and professional development for The Intern Group. She also reports on politics, business and culture in Latin America for public radio and print media. An Austin, Texas native, Elizabeth first left home to earn her journalism degree from the Reynolds Institute of Journalism at the University of Missouri. Besides her friends and family, she misses live music and Mexican food the most.

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