Technology & Being Abroad: Living in the Moment

This post is from student blogger Sandra Collopy from Saint Michaels College, English and Media Studies Major studying in Florence, Italy.

Things take slower here in Italy. The Florentines walk the cobblestone streets leisurely in no hurry at all. I admire this about them and usually try to match their paces, letting the sun’s rays be my watch. Except for when there’s a risk I’ll be late for class. I’m still getting used to the 20 to 25-minute walks to class buildings, in comparison to my 5-minute walks to class back at St. Mike’s. Coming from the United States – a country with one of the highest energy consumption levels in the world – to Italy, with significantly lower rates, it’s been an adjustment. I’ve gone from high-speed Wi-Fi back home to only being able to use Wi-Fi in my apartment living room, and living without a dryer for my laundry. These are just some simple changes that are beyond worth it to live in Italy for 4 months.

The use of technology is at varying levels here. I’ve seen Italians walking around with flip phones, and some with the same iPhones as almost all of us American students. For my semester abroad, I ordered a SIM card before I left that hasn’t been working off of Wi-Fi (something I’m still trying to figure out). I’ve only been able to use my phone with Wi-Fi so far for my time abroad, which isn’t uncommon for a lot of students.

Having this tech challenge has definitely taught me a lot about living in the moment. Although I’ve definitely gotten lost a couple times without being able to use Google Maps. But, getting lost in Florence isn’t as bad as it sounds when you’re constantly passing tempting gelaterias, shops selling leather bags, and drool-worthy paninis in café windows.

At home in the states, I’m on my phone a lot more and being here without a data plan most of the time, I’ve been able to absorb more of the culture. I’m less connected and feel freer from the weight of technology that you feel so much in the states. I’m so used to looking around and seeing people glued to their phones, and here people mostly just use their phones for pictures to capture Florence or quick phone calls. It’s a nice change, and I hope I can stick to it once I get back home.

In Rome this past weekend, my phone only worked at our hotel so I mostly just used it for pictures. Without being tied to technology, it was kind of like being transported back in time as I explored the Roman Forum, The Vatican, Trevi Fountain, St. Peter’s Basilica and all of the other astounding landmarks in Rome. It was such an overwhelming city compared to quaint Florence, but again, without having my phone attached to my hand it was easier to take in and appreciate.

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