Technology + Study Abroad

Our staff caught the recent NPR broadcast on February 10 titled, “Tech May Get in the Way of Good Culture Shock While Studying Abroad.” It got us thinking about the relationship between technology and study abroad, something we deal with every day! Check out the original broadcast and some of our thoughts from staff and peer advisors, below.

Broadcast (4 min video and text transcript): Tech May Get in the Way of Good Culture Shock While Studying Abroad

“For me, traveling abroad provides an opportunity to unplug and not be burdened with emails, messages, posts, etc. My thought is that it can all wait – my time to explore and live in the moment is my top priority while abroad. It’s actually a very freeing experience!”
– Courtney Niebrzydowski, Study Abroad Advisor

“I used technology to keep in touch with friends and family. I also used it for social media purposes but not to the extent that I photographed my food before I ate. I kept my smart phone on Airplane mode the entire time, mostly using my camera. But I would agree that face timing/Skyping made me feel more homesick. The most homesick I felt (which was not that much at all…) was after my Mother and girlfriend came to visit.”
– Matt Lenz, City University, London, Spring 2014

“I have found that the most vivid and exciting experiences come from taking in your surroundings through your five senses. When you let devices such as smart phones distract you it alters your perception of your new environment. The point of studying abroad is to immerse yourself in a new culture; a new environment. Doing anything to increase your focus on your immediate surroundings is definitely a proactive step to further enrich your experiences abroad. I would personally recommend, whenever possible, to limit technology use as much as possible to get the most out of your trip.”
– Brad Drewniak, Psychology in Argentina, Summer 2014

“Using technology while traveling is a bonus, but it should not be a crutch. Can you use Google Maps on your smart phone to find that hidden restaurant? Great. Can you waste away hours in front of your laptop increasing your Fear of Missing Out thanks to Facebook? Easily. When I first studied abroad in 2004 it was phone calls, internet cafes and postcards. When I travel now I find myself setting limits so I don’t get distracted. Be smart: set those limits and find a balance!”
– Kelly Holland, Associate Director, Study Abroad

“A phone is a security blanket for Americans: using it when we get lost, need an answer to a question, or to communicate with friends and family. When we lose that security blanket in another country, we have to learn how to be independent and figure out the world on our own. When abroad, that makes us focus on where we are and what amazing things we’re doing and learning, rather than obsessing and getting upset about what’s happening at home. Live in the moment, not through the Facebook and Instagram posts.
– Kristen Forti, Semester at Sea, Fall 2014

“I both agree and disagree with the statements in this article. On the one hand, having a constant connection to the US and life at home does detract from the experience because it’s like you’re only half in another country. Keeping one foot at home holds you back from really enjoying the new world around you. However, that being said, I do think it does have a potentially helpful role for certain students going abroad for their first time. For me, the culture shock was not an issue, though the fact that most of my childhood was spent traveling and moving around probably played some role in that. But for some students – certainly not all – but for some who may not be prepared for the shock of being so far from home in a foreign land, having that little piece of home as a support system may make it easier to adjust. After becoming adjusted to the temporary home away from home, it’s a distraction. Until then though, that connection by smartphone or social media may be what keeps someone sane and able to deal with the deluge of new concepts and experiences.”
– Kaushal Desai, University of the West Indies, Fall 2013

What do you think? Let us know your thoughts on the balance between technology and study abroad!