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Technology Abroad: Put Down the Phone and Live!

Guest Blogger: Kenzie Pittman

I left for my semester abroad to Verona, Italy with my iPhone, but with no intention of using it.  I had no particular plan set up to make it cheaper to use, I simply turned off my data so as not to be charged and that was that.  I had it with me for the sole purpose of music, occasional photos, and in case of emergency on my flight to Europe.  I have friends who went abroad after me, and asked for my advice on what plan to get while abroad or what to do about their IPhone.  I simply suggested not to use it, to embrace what is around you, and to connect with people from home only on your laptop in the comfort of your residence abroad.

Technology is a key part of our society today; most of us use it daily.  Between texting on our iPhones, our social media accounts, email, etc. we are all engaged in our devices daily. But while abroad, I think this constant use needs to change.

I’ve seen many people study abroad since I have returned.  I have scrolled through countless Instagram photos, tweets, and Facebook posts. which are most likely from an iPhone.  I am not going to post about what people are doing wrong here; instead, I am going to post about what I did and what worked for me.

421600_10152090482680237_919353786_nI had an Italian phone that was ‘pay as you go’ and just a tiny little flip phone.  I had an Italian number, and the contact information of my resident director as well as the other girls in my program.  We were able to fill it with Euro and text each other, call each other, and for general safety.  This was all the contact I needed while out and about in Verona, or traveling.  My iPhone was left at home, so that I wouldn’t lose it and so that I didn’t use it.  There was really no need for it.  I found myself so engaged in my surroundings and truly appreciating what I was taking in around me.  Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity, why do I need to spend it on my Instagram looking to see how many likes I got on a picture of the Eiffel Tower?  People who study abroad are clearly leading a more interesting life than those in Champaign. They know that, you know that.  Instagram and social media accounts are not meant to be looked at daily when you are supposed to be having the time of your life.  The only time I was on my Facebook, etc. was when I was sitting in my apartment not doing anything.  That’s the time when you want to connect to friends, family, and even post your pictures to Facebook from your camera.  I did that, in addition to occasionally tweeting, but I didn’t ever do it unless I was in my apartment.  This made sure that I wasn’t focused on anything else but taking in my surroundings while I was exploring during my time abroad.  Yes, I wanted to show people my pictures so they could see what I was doing and for my own records.  But there is no need to do this on your phone while walking around.

Posting to social media and being engaged in your phone is definitely part of our society.  But when you go abroad, change that.  It’s liberating to actually just soak it all in, without showing anyone at the moment.  Then, when you get back to your apartment, host family, or dorm, you can show them to the people you cohabitate with!  It’s just all about enjoying what you’re doing at the time.  Social media, our iPhones, etc. distract us from what’s around us.  Studying abroad is the perfect opportunity to put the iPhone down and truly engage in your experience.

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