Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Three days without Internet

Time September 9th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This weekend, I spent 85 hours without access to the Internet, media, news, the outside world or electronic stimulation.

No phone. No Internet. No Kindle. No laptop. No news. No Facebook. No Twitter. No television. No iPod. No Skype. No email.

And boy was it a great feeling.

To be fair, I made a few exceptions:

  • I watched the (painfully horrendous) U.S. vs. Costa Rica World Cup qualifier on TV at a bar.
  • I used my digital camera to take some awesome pictures of the frogs, butterflies, beetles, snakes, spiders, and more (all to come on this blog as soon as my ecology-studying friend can help me classify them all).
  • I checked my local phone, which has no Internet capability, only to find there was not a bar of signal to be found, as I tried to get in contact with group mates on a class project due soon after the trip. I also used that phone as an alarm clock.
  • I heard snippets of music from friends’ iPods as we all hung out in the cabin.

I’m confident none of these detracted from my ability to enjoy my weekend, nor did it distract from everything that was happening all around me.

Before I left, I wrote on my blog why I was looking forward to the isolation:

I’m always connected. To my phone. To email. To Facebook. To Twitter. To digital conversations far and wide, public and private (who am I kidding, it’s all public).

This weekend, that changes.

It’s gotten to the point that I can’t go an hour and a half without itching to turn my phone, tap in the code and scroll through every information feed I can get my hands on. In the States, where Internet is ubiquitous, my phone battery is dead by 2:30 p.m. Here in Costa Rica, Wi-Fi is still ubiquitous enough that I’m connected most of the day.

As someone who lives online, I need to learn how to disconnect, for my personal sanity and for the sake of truly enjoying life without pixels.

Really, the timing of this retreat from technology is perfect:

  • A trip to a country without my data plan has been a struggle in and of itself. I’m constantly looking for Wi-Fi signal and occasionally missing out on the country I should be exploring. I haven’t had the opportunity to fully unplug. This will hopefully be the opportunity I need to, so to speak, rip the band-aid off.
  • Having just left MediaShift today, tomorrow will be the first time in more than three years (over 1100 days) that I will not be replying constantly to emails from editors and sources.
  • Mid-terms are coming up, but my preparation can take place entirely offline with the use of a very large notebook. Any paper writing and presentation creation can and should take place after reading all the material anyway. If anything, staying disconnected will let me get work done faster. 
  • Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) begins tonight and ends Thursday night. Shabbat begins only 24 hours after that on Friday night and ends Saturday night. Both are holidays that should be reserved for contemplation and relaxation. For the first time in a long time, I’ll be able to do just that.

It’s been years since the last time I’ve gone without Internet access for more than 24 hours, especially with my 3-year-old dependence on iPhone, which I only half-jokingly refer to as my third arm and an extension of my body.

I’m hoping this trip will give me the perspective to understand the place of technology in my life so that I may live life, offline and on, to its
fullest extent.

When I arrived, I realized just how little of a choice I had here. There was no Wi-Fi nor phone service of any kind. If I had had my iPhone or laptop, they would have been next to useless.

Nevertheless, even remaining away from keyboards and screens did wonders for me. I was definitely more present and able to get more reading done for classes (an unavoidable phenomenon known as midterms precluded me from leaving work at home).

I didn’t really miss technology, strangely enough. It was freeing to not be checking online every few minutes. I was able to push a lot of work-related (as well as less urgent) matters out of my mind.

I was (gasp!) relaxed. No stress, no anxiety, no impatience. Just being.

I’m hoping I can repeat this exercise every once a while once I get back Stateside and even while I’m here. I’ll be better for it.


Follow the rest of my adventure throughout Costa Rica here at IFSA-Butler’s blog, at my blog, on Twitter or even on Facebook.


The 2/3rds Review (a little late)

Time November 29th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, I just turned in an extremely difficult essay I spent all of last night editing for one of my modules…I don’t feel particularly confident about the score I will get, but I tried and that’s about all one can do. My head is spinning a little and I need to take a break, which means it’s time for a blog post. Therefore, I would very briefly like to comment on my experience abroad in general now that I am 2/3rds of the way through–more than, actually, since I’m writing this about 10 days later than I meant to!

In any case, I want to be completely honest about my experience and what it has been like, and a part of that is me admitting that for all the fun I’ve had and things I’ve learned, there were moments (well, okay, longer than mere ‘moments’; more like days) when I desperately missed my home university and felt completely beyond my comfort zone.

The first month was really hard for me; when my parents visited a month into my stay, I was so happy to see them, because at the time, all I could think was “I don’t really have friends”, “I miss Gettysburg”, “Why did I decide to do this again?” and other such thoughts. I haven’t written about this yet, really, because at the time, I felt just awful for even thinking those things–objectively, I knew I should be so grateful for having this experience at all, and I felt very guilty for not enjoying it more. The fact that I never really felt homesick after moving to a college 6.5 hours away from my home three years ago and was so incredibly excited to visit Wales allowed me to skim over the idea that I might had adjustment problems here . I (naively) expected to just love being abroad instantly, but it was much more challenging than I’d realized. Being in a different country (even one where you speak the language) with a different academic system in a city threw me much further out of my comfort zone than Gettysburg College ever did.

The most important point I would like to press, though, is that you just have to give it time, and furthermore that nothing helps one adjust more than completely throwing one’s self into something. I chose to become involved in some societies, and furthermore vowed that if I learned anything at all here, I would learn the Welsh language. It sounds simple, but setting that one simple goal of really doing well in my Welsh class (not just skating along to get by, as many do in language courses) changed everything for me.

I can say completely confidently that now, two months (and a week, now) into my program, my attitude and feelings towards this experience have gone completely the opposite way and I am absolutely in love with Cardiff; I no longer see the charm in the idea of returning to my home university, and the only thing I am thinking is “Don’t make me leave!”

Funny old world, isn’t it? One month you want nothing more than to go home, the next month you want nothing more than to stay and in spare moments somehow find yourself pondering ways in which you might soon secure a return visit to your adoptive country.

This, I think, is a pretty normal thing for Study Abroad students to feel, the initial excitement, the homesickness, and then finally settling in. I was just a bit arrogant and didn’t think I would experience all three.

I just wanted to make it clear that contrary to what my blog thus far may have suggested, it hasn’t been all butterflies and roses and frolics in the countryside since I arrived in Wales. But I adjusted and settled in and I feel more at home in this city than I ever have anywhere in the US …the unfortunate side of this change is, of course, that I am struck with despair at the idea that I will not be returning to Cardiff after being home for Christmas and the New Year.

So for the moment I’m just going to go on my merry way, doing my assessments in denial until it all comes crashing down about my ears two and a half weeks from now. :)