By University of Limerick international student Lauren Bus
We are all guilty of it – eyes glued to a tiny box in our hands rather than on the scenery around us. In an increasingly mediated world, our cell phones have become an extension of our beings; unfortunately, that means we miss out on things going on around us. Although it may seem tempting to get a phone plan in your new country, here are five reasons to think about disconnecting during your time abroad.
1. It’ll save you money.
As an exchange student from Canada, I know that every penny counts, especially when it comes time to travel and experience different culture. Although phone plans are relatively inexpensive compared to the price at home (for me at least, since Canadian phone plans are some of the most expensive in the world), the money you would spend on topping up your balance every month could easily be used for a last minute bus or train ticket, international meal, or even for a hostel in another country.
2. You’ll notice the little things.
When exploring international cities, it’s obvious what the big attractions and tourist destinations are. However, if you’re set on adding the perfect Instagram post, you might miss out on the hidden gems in cities you may never return to. Definitely take pictures, but make sure you put your phone away after a while and post your pictures when you get home. Take in cities while you are there, worry about the Instagram post later.
3. Talking to people will be even more exciting.
Understandably, you will want to keep in touch with friends and family from home while you are abroad. However, I have found that talking to the people I care about at home is even more exciting at the end of a long day because I haven’t been able to hear from them throughout the day. It really helps you to appreciate hearing from your people when you have limited time to talk to them.
4. You’ll develop deeper relationships with new people.
It is a sad reality in current society – even when spending time with people, we are attached to our cell phones, talking to other people. More likely than not, you don’t know many people when you first arrive for your semester abroad. If you take the time to get to know these new peers and leave your phone in your pocket, you will get really close with new people quite quickly. Allow yourself to ask the deep questions, rather than sending “hey, what’s up?”
5. You will feel a sense of freedom and independence.
Since arriving in Ireland, I have found myself reaching for my phone less and less often. I know that when I am around town, walking from class to class, or traveling that I am unreachable without Wi-Fi, so I don’t feel a sense of obligation to check my phone out of fear of ignoring someone. This is my journey, and my adventure, so knowing that I am not a slave to my phone is pretty empowering. Fully immersing yourself in the culture you are in is one of the major benefits of studying abroad, and to really do that, it is important to disconnect and reflect on what is going on around you. My dad gave me a really good piece of advice before I left – he told me to enjoy and experience places thinking you will never come back. So, on that note, put your phone back in your pocket, embrace this experience, and be aware that this may be the only time you are here, so take in as much as you can.
By University of Limerick International Student Lauren Bus