By Sunny Roy and Catherine Mullen

When I first heard about the new technology policy on trips just a couple days before I embarked to Italy over spring break, I was shocked and upset. My parents and I had already made a plan on how to communicate while I was there to let them know how I was daily, and I was planning to use my iPhone to take pictures while I was there. I didn’t know what I was going to do. My music, my photos, my connection to the outside world, all gone with a single sheet of paper.

So after trying to soothe my parents’ worries about the lack of communication, I went to Italy and had one of the greatest experiences of my life. Ironically, a lot of it had to do with the fact that I didn’t have my phone. Without any kind of technology, our group was able to take in more of the sights and appreciate what we were seeing instead of worrying about problems at home. We were able to connect with one another on the trip and connect with all the beautiful sights around us, instead of always looking down at our phone screens. The no device policy, while may seem like the end of the world for some, actually turned out to be a good thing. Not just for the Italy trip, but also for the Senegal trip as well, as all of the feedback about the new policy was positive. So why were we so hesitant to accept this policy?

We have grown accustomed here to always have our phones and to always be in touch with the fast paced world around us. For someone to say suddenly that all of that would be taken away, our connection to our “normal” lives was in danger. Going to a foreign place without a safety net of our lives back home is scary, as is pushing teenaged girls into a place that they have never been to and away from anxious parents. But I liked that this policy pushed us out of comfort zones, to take a risk while experiencing a trip we would probably never get a chance again to experience. So I urge everyone: put down your phones, look around, acknowledge those around you, and take a risk.  (Sunny Roy)

Originally, when I found out that we were not going to be able to bring electronics to Italy I was extremely upset. How was I supposed to survive without my iPhone or iPod and not being able to be in constant contact with my friends and family? What was I supposed to do on the plane—read a book? Talking to my other friends on the trip did not help as all we were focused on was being “un-tethered” from the social media and technology-filled world we knew and loved. The night before the trip I spent my last moments immersed in technology. I sent my last text messages and refreshed twitter too many times to count. I watched TV shows and movies and couldn’t stop thinking about how hard the next 12 days would be, unable to speak and keep in touch with my friends and family at home while I was in this foreign country. Arriving at the airport I said good-bye to my parents, knowing it would be the longest time I had ever spent without talking to them and made my way towards security knowing that once I walked through the monitor there was no turning back. I was beginning two journeys—my journey to Italy as well as my journey of being “un-tethered.”

Once we arrived in Italy, I was in awe of the new city that I didn’t have time to think about what was going on back home. As the days went on we experienced so many new and interesting things. I tried so many new things and had many new experiences—how many people can say they hiked for six hours in converse through the rough terrains of the Amalfi Coast? I was having so much fun that there was no time to think about the newest episode of Grey’s Anatomy or someone’s newest tweet. I had many new friends and new stories to share. I learned to just be able to enjoy the present and not think about the past or the future constantly.

Not having my phone in Italy was almost like a breath of fresh air. There were so many things I didn’t think about because there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. I went almost two weeks without thinking about school or college,  that at home come across my mind more than once a day. I learned that not having my phone was a blessing. Honestly, I think I enjoyed myself so much more, and much to my surprise, I never was homesick.  So as someone who can’t stand to be without their phone for more than a couple minutes, I thoroughly recommend going on a vacation “un-tethered” it will give you a whole new perspective on so many things.

However, as we reflect on a trip we do think that having an iPod could have been nice at some points. Although we both think it is not appropriate to have an iPod during the day on excursions we think that having it for the plane rides and maybe some nights could have been a little bit helpful however needless to say we survived, and honestly, we think we could do it again! So next time you look at the technology policy for International Trips and become uneasy about having to leave technology behind, don’t worry! We can assure you that you won’t regret it; you will have a much better time without it! (Catherine Mullen)

Photo Credit: Kaitlyn Glasener