If you’ve had a child go away to college, then you’re familiar with what happens during the break between fall and spring semesters: the school basically kicks the kids out of the dorm for three to four weeks from mid-December to mid-January and sends them back to their parents’ house to monopolize the remote control and rearrange the Netflix queue.

Although Jennifer’s dorm (otherwise known as the Jia) is in Shanghai, the school’s policy for students in China is the same as if she were in Southern California. When the semester ended on December 13th, it was “Don’t let the door hit you in the butt and we’ll see you back for class on January 11th.”


For Jennifer, it was probably the least western Christmas possible, spent visiting a mosque and a Hindu temple

Surprising as it was to us, Jennifer is one of only three students who was not going home for Christmas. It’s not that we wouldn’t have loved to have Jennifer here for the holidays but she knew even before she typed her name on the study abroad application, that we weren’t going to be springing for air fare home during the break. If she studied abroad for the year, that literally meant that she was abroad for the entire time.

Besides not having the funds to pay for a ticket home from China, it just didn’t make sense for her to come home just so that she could unwrap a few presents on Christmas morning and then spend the rest of her vacation watching reruns of “Parks and Recreation” when instead, she could be exploring Southeast Asia…a part of the world that she might not ever see again.

So as parents, that’s both the good and the bad news for us. The good news is that our 19 year-old daughter having the adventure of a lifetime; the bad new is that it is on the other side of the world. As long as she can get Wifi, she’s able to text and call us.

Here’s what we’ve learned from her so far:

Singapore was fabulous. The food there is the best of all Asian cuisines combined. And the country is so clean. Homelessness and gum chewing are illegal. Everyone speaks English – hooray!

Melaka in Malaysia was challenging. In part because they were staying in a hostel that cost $3 a night and was worth every penny. They had to brush their teeth in a McDonalds; we’re not sure why but she said that it would be better if we heard the details long after the fact when she is safe and sound back home with us.

$3 a night doesn't get you a room at the Hyatt

$3 a night doesn’t get you a room at the Hyatt

Malls are everywhere and seem to always have Chanel, Ralph Lauren and H&M stores.

Although Malaysia is primarily a Muslim country, the only time she was required to cover up was to tie a scarf around her waist before entering a temple. Several obviously Muslim people wished her Merry Christmas.

As of today, Jennifer, Hannah and Austin are making their way to Bangkok. But where they will travel to after that is TBD. They will still have about 10 days vacation – “We’re thinking of going to Laos” – before their Jia opens and they can return to the “normalcy” of their life in Shanghai.

Sure, their classmates who went home for the holidays will return to school with new clothes and electronics, but Jennifer and her friends will come back with lots of bug bites, dirty laundry and “can you top this” stories of their time on the road. And as they say, that’s priceless.