Studying abroad—the ultimate semester where responsibilities don’t exist, parties in foreign countries are nightly occurrences, country hopping is obligatory, and money seems as though it came straight out of a Monopoly board game. That is what most students like to believe when they think of four months away from their home country—or at least to an extent what I used to believe. I’d be lying if I said these thoughts weren’t the first things that came to my mind when I pictured life abroad for four months. For as long as I can remember, before I even applied to college, I knew that I wanted to spend a semester in a different country. However, at that time the logistics and practicalities weren’t all worked out, making it easier to forget about things such as school work, MONEY(!!!) and everyday living habits. What I’m trying to say, is it is very easy to get lost and wrapped up in the glamorous aspect of studying abroad. But then we begin applying, saving up, packing and boarding our planes and individuals can either maintain that mentality or embrace the differences they are about to encounter other than just the “traveling” and nightlife.
In our culture that we live in today I feel many students share my original mentality that is it nothing but a breeze but I attribute a large part of that to the media and technology as a whole. Thinking back to twenty years ago when smart phones and laptops weren’t a thing (Oh no), maps were the only way you knew how to get to point A from point B, buying tickets from a ticket booth in order to catch that last bus to Italy and just maybe using a phone booth to call home once a month were very much so a realistic cultural adaptations. Having this structured distance from home pushed people to speak to one another, involve themselves within the culture and educate themselves instead of looking it up on google.
I recently watched a video published by the Huffington Post that quotes, “The same technology that brings us close to people far away, takes us far away from people that are actually close”. I love this quote for more than one reason, but as a whole I feel it generalizes our entire generation. Making it easier for us to use it as a crutch or a reasoning as why when we travel to places such as Paris, we don’t have a desire to entire the Louvre since we can see the Mona Lisa on google anyways—right? I’m not saying that phones and technology have been a massive help to our experiences (so I’m not lost in the city of Budapest), but in order to let cultural knowledge, linguistic differences and our view points expand we have to let them. We have to look up from our phones and let the culture take us in. Slimbach writes on page 35 of Becoming World Wise, “…but neither are they eager to relinquish many of the comfortable amenities and social networks of home”. Going back to one of our very first workshops in November we highlighted as a class the importance of detachment. Without being able to detach from our technology, we hinder our cultural sense and global responsibility. A scary but very real thought, we are the future, our generation determines how the course of our lives as a society play out. If we don’t pick our heads up now from our phones to gain insight from the history and knowledge right in front of us—what are we going to miss that is integral to our futures?