Overcoming Curveballs Abroad

This post is the third installment in a semester-long series of posts from Towson senior Allie Woodfin. Allie is studying this Fall 2014 semester at the University of Avignon. You can also follow along on her tumblr at:http://provisoirementprovencale.tumblr.com/ 


Hi everyone! It’s been a while–my laptop suddenly crashed three weeks ago, which is why I haven’t been writing. So, here’s the story about what happened, how I resolved it, what I learned, and what I suggest for future study abroad students who might find themselves in the same situation.

I turned on my laptop on one Saturday morning, to find that it would only stay on a screen with an Apple logo and folder with a question mark. According to forums I found on my tiny iPhone screen, I would probably need my hard drive replaced. So here I was in France, with homework to finish and a mountain of tests looming in the next month, with a possibly broken laptop. That was a curveball I wasn’t expecting.

I asked my host parents (Mac owners) for a suggestion on a repair shop at dinner that night. Their recommendation was for a place about 5km from our house. I walked to the shop on a pleasant afternoon, explained the problem, and left my computer there for almost three weeks while it was being repaired.

Every time I had do so something that usually required my computer, I had to find an alternative. As it turns out, my iPhone could do everything I needed (even as a non-functioning phone, apps still work fine over WiFi). I researched for classes, kept up with friends back home with social media apps, and even had two interviews via Google Hangouts and GoToMeeting.

It probably sounds like I just shrugged, opened a few iPhone apps, and moved on. But, it was kind of like trying to turn on light switches after the power has gone out. It was inconvenient, but I made it work. The university has free computers, which also forced me to learn how to use an international keyboard–something that I’d admittedly been avoiding.

I learned to be realistic about what I actually need. Was it rock bottom to sit in a chair at a public computer and tap at a big, foreign keyboard until my work was finished? Not even close.

There was one thing I did before this happened that made my life much easier, which I highly recommend for future study abroad students. Before you leave, and as you acquire files on study abroad, upload everything you don’t want to lose (or just want to have handy) to Google Drive. Photos, Word documents, PDFs, anything. You have 30GB of free storage in your TU Gmail—use it ! Since I have copies of some important documents in mine, I set up two-factor authentification, which is not as high-tech as it sounds—you provide a phone number when you set it up, and Google sends you a verification code to your phone so you can log in.

So, I have my computer back (128 euros later), had an excuse to walk almost 18km in beautiful Provence, learned how to accept a repair estimate and pay an invoice, and learned how to work around a curveball. As I found, even if you can’t immediately field a curveball all by yourself, there are almost always people and resources around you to help you do so.