What role should technology and communication play in your off-campus experience? It wasn’t that long ago that students participating in an off-campus semester had very few options for getting news from home or sending back updates. Yet in today’s world you can be connected 24/7; thereby greatly changing the off-campus experience. You can Skype, email, Facebook and call daily. This connectivity can be a blessing but it also brings many challenges as you can forget to live in the moment and as a result miss important opportunities to grow and experience the places you are studying.
These challenges highlight a philosophical dilemma of studying off-campus. Can you truly have a study abroad experience – whether immersive or comparative – when you are connected the same way you are at home? Are you really embracing the experience when you need to pause to update Facebook and e-mail photos to your friends at home? Or to know that your families are one phone call away.
Earlier in this handbook, you were asked to discuss with your family and friends how much you want to use technology. This is also an issue to discuss with your fellow students and program directors in terms of how you can use technology responsibly, finding a balance that maximizes the safety benefits of technology while minimizing the intrusion on the cross-cultural experience. While technology plays a vital and growing role in other cultures, it is critical that you detach somewhat from the technological comfort that you have while at home. This problem only gets more difficult as technology improves, and the Off-Campus Programs Office encourages you to think seriously about the role technology will play in your experience.