I know a lot of others like myself who have participated in an internship or study abroad program. My program was one that a lot of people have participated in, the Disney College Program; my program was in Florida but there is also one in California. I had the amazing opportunity to begin working with Disney at my local Disney Store before moving to the most magical place on earth. I participated in the Disney College Program and the Disney Professional Internship Program. This meant a year away from my home in Pennsylvania. I’m still in Florida now, happy as a clam so I figured I would share with the world how I maintain my positive attitude so far from home.
For one thing, I do maintain contact with my family and friends regularly. Technology has made it much easier to study or work abroad these days. With Facebook, Twitter, FaceTime, email, texting etc, I can contact family whenever they are available at the same time as I am, breaks from work, days off, etc. I also keep everyone in the loop through postings lots of pictures on social media and occasionally sending cards home. Sometimes it feels good just to put something in the mail. I also visit when I can and they visit me when possible! (How could they not?! I live in Disney World?!)
One of the most important things while being far away from home and family for the first time is keeping things in perspective and while I will openly admit that sometimes I’ve failed at this. However, keeping the future in proportion, and realizing that your family has your back will definitely keep the anxiety of future plans to come in check. I always try to remember that I am living in the Most Magical Place on Earth and that always lifts my mood whenever I am freaking out about jobs, money, or the future. Not every day will be perfect, but as a whole, being abroad anywhere is an incredible experience. I don’t know anyone who has every regretted it!
One of the things I can consistently add to and look back on if I’m feeling blue is my Magical Moments Journal. It’s like my own version of Ellie’s Adventure Book. I keep little scrapbook-able momentos in the back half of the pages and write down magical moments next to the date in the front half. I spend a lot of time in the wonderful parks and hotels of the resort and I want to remember as much as I can, whether that be through notes or pictures. Whenever I’m having a down day, these notes remind me of what an amazing time I’m having and what a wonderful place I get to work in and the difference I make in the vacations of families and the difference the people of WDW make in my life!
This leads me to my next little trick. Gratitude, sometimes (ok, a lot of the time) when I am visiting the parks, whether on a planned whole day there with friends or on my own after work, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity I have been presented with. I get to visit this amazing place whenever I want and be surrounded by the culture of something I have been in love with for a very long time. I love Disney, unapologetically so. Being around the parks all the time and in one of the hubs of Disney culture, and being surrounded by other people who love Disney as much as I do has presented a unique opportunity to research and talk with people who are as passionate as I am. Since I am also a writer on top of everything else, I read a lot of books to supplement my knowledge so that I can eventually share it with others.
I also stick to my roots. I love dance, history and theatre and cosmetics so I have also picked up part time jobs at a local dance studio and at a new Lush Cosmetics store. I also volunteer at the local history museum giving tours. I then have a chance to explore the city of Orlando, and do research at the museum’s research center and the library next door. Sure, I have a really full plate, but it’s good that I keep myself busy so that I can keep that homesickness at bay and enjoy myself to the fullest.
If I ever find myself freaking out and just feeling really down for some reason and I have the financial means to do so, I treat myself. Whether it’s to a new pin or a side of Mickey Waffles at a resort. I know what I can do to pick myself up. Visiting a park or watching a Disney movie are other ways to raise my mood. Sipping a coffee while strolling down Main Street USA or riding the train around the Magic Kingdom while eating popcorn or visiting my favorite character at Animal Kingdom before watching Festival of the Lion King. One show that NEVER fails to cheer me up is Fantasmic. If I’m feeling blue, I hop on the Tower of Terror or Toy Story Midway Mania, grab some mac and cheese from my favorite quick service stand and head to Fantasmic. It’s a quick evening that I can do after work and it’s my ultimate pick me up. Sometimes I need something that’s not Disney, and that’s totally ok. I grab a John Green book, watch some reruns on Netflix with a Lush Bath Bomb or read some Harry Potter with a cup of tea. Whatever I need that day. Knowing how to cheer yourself up when you are feeling down is a great way to maintain your happiness while abroad.
The last thing that always makes each day lovely is living in the moment. I don’t mean forgetting about the future or abandoning responsibilities, I just mean taking each moment of each day as its own. Living in the future tends to lead to stress and living in the past leads to regret. Living in the here and now, as a professor of mine once put it, allows me to make each moment count and enjoying each day to its fullest. #YOLO as people sometimes put it, but in a sensible way. Not going out of control, just allowing time to enjoy myself, not everyone gets to live in a kingdom with a castle and everyday access to their favorite place on earth!