Sending Alex Abroad: To Invite a Friend Along or Not

In this series, Aspire by API’s very own Jill Denton writes about preparing for this summer’s Salamanca program from her unique perspective as a mom.

Meghan and Alex

Another thing to consider before signing up for a summer program was whether Alex would be going into the experience alone, or with a friend.

Of course, the presence of a friend can be very reassuring—for example, Alex would have an automatic companion for the plane ride over, and she could request a roommate with whom she knew she’d got along.  Some of the fears of going overseas without her family for the first time would therefore be avoided.  Ultimately, Alex chose this option and invited her friend Meghan along on the experience.  The two have gone to school together since elementary age.

However, it’s important to remember that Alex and Meghan will be a part of a large group of teens from all over the U.S.   With or without an initial travel buddy, other friendships within the Aspire Salamanca group are sure to form quickly due to the many unique and fun experiences they will be sharing together.  They will come together as a team—working through the culture shock, being classmates, as well as trying new foods.  All these experiences will allow them to bond.

Nevertheless, it’s important for Alex (and Meghan) to understand that one of their goals while abroad is to get out of their comfort zones—this is, after all, what makes the experience so rich and fulfilling.  So if friends do participate in a program together, they should talk about how they will branch out and communicate with others every day.  I asked Alex how she and Meghan are resolving to do this on the trip.  Will they agree to only speak Spanish to one another while in Spain? Do they each have a goal of talking to at least five Spaniards a day?  Alex’s response was “You have to be kidding.”

Let’s face it, a mom’s clinical ideas of immersion goals don’t always stack up to the practical way this will play out.  So I said, “OK, maybe that’s not a realistic way of looking at this.  You know you want to meet other people and use your Spanish.  Why don’t you and Meghan at least talk about your hopes to befriend many and use your Spanish and promise each other you won’t stick to the other like glue.”  Alex’s response was, “Sounds good.”

Next week I will share more information about putting together a budget for a teen abroad trip.


















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  1. What a clever idea! I really am enjoying this blog and your experiences! I think that’s a fantastic way to go– go with a friend, but also branch out a bit while there. I always enjoy making new acquantances when I travel. I remember going to Ireland about ten years ago and hanging out in pubs (I was in my twenties), but I’d have a sandwich and a soda, and start up conversations with the locals who all acted as if they were a new found friend by the time I left. And what interesting stories they told me about themselves and their lives! Continue to encourage your daughter to interact with some of the locals that cross her path on her trip. She may learn some of the local customs of the land!

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