Boarding a plane, leaving the country, and living with another family might seem like an overwhelming experience for some. I couldn’t grab my passport fast enough. Between February 6th and February 19th, I was staying abroad with 23 of my fellow classmates in Collado-Villalba, Spain.
My experience was enriching on numerous levels on account of my constant meeting with opportunities to overcome challenges. Though I am fairly comfortable with my Spanish speaking and comprehension, I did, at times, face a language barrier. I could not grasp the flow of certain conversations, nor was I always able to express my ideas to the best of my ability. This, in conjunction with having to adapt to not hearing my native tongue for one, two, possibly three days, was frightening and exciting. I willingly surrounded myself with obstacles which manipulated my comprehension, communication, and interpersonal skills in ways I will forever be in awe of.
While preparing my luggage, I included anything I thought I would need: A change of clothes in my carry-on in the event of a layover, an extra book incase I finished my first, and a back-up phone charger due to my tendency to break them. Yet I neglected to consider something. Not once had I considered this simple aspect of my routine, this spinning gear which allowed me to complete work. I had ignored something so integral in my daily life that it only made sense to overlook it.
I didn’t have WiFi.
At first, I was shocked. I could not believe that I had not prepared for this, nor had I ever realized that every desirable function on my laptop required WiFi. But, much like my experience with conversation, I had to overcome this challenge. As a student in a 1:1 environment and a teenager growing up actively using technology, I was initially awestruck. I did not have access to the LTE data I so often take for granted. I could not update my Twitter and Instagram in real time, sharing my days’ adventures. As a result, my phone had an adventure of its own, residing almost entirely in my luggage.
Being without my devices for two weeks was an incredible experience. For the entirety of the trip we were immersed in the conversations with the friends around us. We were not concerned about status updates, likes, or follow requests. Every single one of us was fully engaged, fully enthused, and fully attentive. I learned new things about new people, tested my communication skills on a variety of levels, and participated, actively participated, in life-changing friendships.
My experience helped reinforce the correct way to employ technology for communication. I was challenged to experience the value of turning off FaceTime in exchange for actual face time. To leave my mobile device at home and become mobile. We should be using social media platforms to stay connected, not to replace personal connections. Messengers should be used to reinforce friendships, not take away from the ones in front of you. No matter how far we progress with technology, it should in no way replace the intrinsic value of a face-to-face conversation.