I Sent My Daughter to Spain. . .and She Survived

Or better, thrived.

Ling at Palacia Royale

Back in late June, I went through a mild freak out over sending Ling to a foreign country with free-flowing alcohol, sultry weather, and college-aged BOYS in her dorm with Spanish MEN outside it (read If You’re Sending Your Kid to Spain, Don’t Do it My Way).

Scott and I gave a whole slew of lectures about:

  • wise decision-making
  • alcohol
  • boys
  • making sure she spoke Spanish despite living with fellow Americans
  • avoiding date-rape
  • mostly by avoiding alcohol
  • exercising
  • eating right
  • drugs
  • boys

“Who do you think I am?” she complained.  “You really think I’m going to go out and become a completely different person than I am at home?”

I shrugged.  “You’re on your own for the first time.  You get to remake yourself into whoever you want to be.  Just be smart about it.”

I should have had more faith.  In her.  In God.  But mostly in her.

Before she left, Ling announced that we shouldn’t expect to hear from her more than once a week.  “OK,” I said.

But then on our first phone call I mentioned, “You know, when you’re in a foreign country for the first time I don’t think we should only talk once a week.”

“Yeah, I was thinking that,” she said.  “I realized I’m going to want to talk more often.”

So we talked or Skyped almost daily—with me blowing her off more than the other way around.  (She called at 11 p.m. her time, 5 p.m. our time—hard to always be available then!).

After a miserable first day where shyness overcame her and she didn’t talk to anyone except one boy who talked to her first, she found 2 girls in addition to that boy—the 3 kids who weren’t committed to partying every night, but instead wanted to see as much of Madrid as they could.

So Ling took classes in the morning, ate lunch at 2, travelled around Madrid all afternoon, studied at night, ate dinner at 9, and (tried to) Skyped me at 11.  Not a bad way to spend a month.

In 4 weeks she:

  • Tried an alcoholic drink and didn’t like it—whew!
  • Took 3 college level classes and did fine
  • Didn’t get date-raped or raped at all—whew!
  • Traveled to 5 cities–Toledo, Granada, Segovia, Asturias, Avila
  • Went to church once (the only weekend she didn’t travel)
  • Ate churros with hot chocolate way too many times

Most famous chocolateria in Madrid–San Gines

  • Didn’t “work out” but walked so much (in flip flops no less) she figured it counted
  • Spoke less Spanish than her parents wanted her to, but plenty for herself
  • Ate so much fried dorm food that she didn’t want fried food for about 2 whole weeks after Spain
  • Lost her debit card in the last week
  • Ran into Boston friends on the Metro (!)
  • Saw a bullfight
  • Took 2600 photos but posted 493 on Facebook, which I finally looked at today
  • Saw every sight there is in Madrid except for one street where famous writers lived
  • Learned she can make great friends in a new place
  • Experienced independence (albeit parent financed)
  • Enjoyed an adventure

“Doesn’t it feel good to know you can go to a foreign country and figure out how to survive?” I asked her when she returned.

“Yeah, it’s pretty awesome,”  she said.

Awesome indeed.


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