Taking the Tube around London or strolling past the Eiffel Tower on the way to class in the morning might be dreams of study abroad students the world over, but the logistics of the situation never seem to work out quite as well as they were planned. Despite having the best ideas, rolling with a group of new international friends, or having weeks to prepare, nobody is immune to the difficulties that come with being in a foreign place. Flying into the wrong airport? Not understanding the buses? Can’t find the place you’re looking for? This is where it pays to be living in the 21st century.
We’ve all grown up hearing our parents rant at us for always being caught up in our devices, being addicted to the internet, and forgetting how to interact with each other, but is this really all a bad thing? Maybe there’s a silver lining to the rain cloud that is our obsession with connectivity: the fact that we have the powerful tools to become pro travelers all in our pockets.
Smartphones are just that, smart! They can be smart at least. With your mother’s voice in the back of your head saying “always on that phone..” combined with the great things that ride-sharing apps, internet maps, and translators bring, where do you find the happy medium between starting at your shiny screen and exploring abroad like you should?
The distinction between a “tool” and a “toy” here is the most important. Apps on your phone can be used as both. For example, when you’re trapped at your little cousin’s recorder concert, Facebook is a toy for an escape. When you’re enjoying a glass of wine in Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast, Facebook Messenger is a tool to let your friends know that you got a table for them! The difference lies in the time allocated to using technology. When reaching for your phone, opening up an app, or connecting to wifi, do it for a purpose, not out of instinct. Humans rule because we have the conscious ability to overcome instincts, don’t give that power away to the little box in your pocket! You only have so much time to live the foreign experiences happening all around you, and I promise the internet will still be there when it’s over (or we’ve got bigger problems).
Before going abroad, start practicing this mindset. Slowly weaning yourself away from the “toy” aspects of technology. This can be done by simply being conscious about why you are opening something, looking at something, or watching something, then working your way up to identifying and eliminating the ones you’re not enjoying. Gotta start somewhere!
Before we leave you, check out some of our favorite apps for when technology should be used while traveling abroad:
Google Maps: You need a map. You might think you know Venice like the back of your hand, but this is a must. Also, you can now download maps to use offline!
Rayka: This new platform is the ultimate study abroad app for students. Instead of using TripAdvisor or Yelp, Rayka shows you the favorite places of past students who studied there: specifically made by students, for students. That way, you can see the best recommendations from people just like you.
Google Translate: If you’re abroad in a country that speaks a different language and your skills just aren’t quite up to par, this is a brilliant app. It requires data, so make sure you’re connected, but it quickly and accurately translates anything you’d like to any language you could think of.
Duolingo: This fun, addictive little game is great for those who are planning to study abroad and want to learn some of the local language. The interface does a great job of encouraging users to learn more, and they have most major language offered for free!
Regardless of what platform you use or don’t use, be sure to make the most of your semester abroad by using technology as a tool rather than using it to distract yourself from the incredible experiences around you. We promise you that it will be the best semester of your life!
Guest post by www.rayka-app.com