Study Abroad & Traveling
I have studied abroad twice while in college. I spent some time during a summer in Madrid, Spain, and went to Sydney, Australia just last semester. Speaking from personal experience, I think that most forms of technology are a great benefit to studying abroad. Most obviously, technology that allows for communication is a huge asset when being away from your family and friends for such a long time. It is so easy to become homesick when away from your usual environment, and contact with family and friends is essential to staying connected. Technologies such as phone calls, texts, emails, and video messages are great resources to keep your family and friends back home updated about your experiences and safety. An additional benefit of our wide range of modern technologies is the ability to keep in contact with the people you have met in the foreign country. I have met so many people from across the world, and applications such as Facebook allow me to see what they are up to. If one of the friends I have made abroad is visiting San Francisco, I can quickly and conveniently contact them and meet up.
I think that participating in forms of technology and social media can actually enhance the study abroad experience. When I was in Australia, we had a group Facebook page where we could notify each other about upcoming events, program dates and information, or even ask each other questions. This was super helpful and I checked it almost daily. Even now sometimes one of the students from the prorgram will post in the group, and it brings back memories. It is another way for us to stay connected. Following other students in the program on Instagram was also beneficial to my study abroad experience. Occasionally somebody would post a suer cool photo in a location that I had not yet visited, and I was able to simply click on the location and find a ton of information about it. I also think that part of immersing yourself in another culture can involve the use of technology and social media. For example, my group of Australian friends and I have a group WhatsApp chat where we send funny links and make plans with each other. In my experience, Australians love Facebook and use it way more often than the Americans I know. Australians seem to love to tag each other in funny posts or in event pages as another way of communicating. This is an aspect of their culture that is just another part of immersion.
Regarding the use of technology and social media, my time studying in Spain was a bit different. I was in Marid to study Spanish language and culture specifically, so a sense of immersion was key. As for my phone, I changed my language setting to Spanish so that I was always surrounded by the language and forced to use it. This was beneficial to me in terms of learning the language. Google maps was also extremely help in terms of navigation and transportation.
While not all aspects of technology can benefit the study aborad experience or travel in general, many forms are. I think that just as while in your home country, modest use of technology is important in being present in any situation. Taking photos and videos of the places and people you experience are great ways of documenting memories, but I think that we need to make sure that we also experience the times whit our physical senses in the moment. It is great to take photos, but we shouldn’t be experiencing new things from behind a screen.