When I was the young American

I’ve spent a good part of my day on social media–answering questions from incoming students, chatting with former students, and trying to figure out how Google Hangouts works. There’s a push for an increased presence on social media–Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and blogs. We have a Facebook group for our students where they can meet each other before they arrive. We use Skype, WhatsApp, and Google to video chat. And, of course, once the students arrive they stay in touch with family and friends back home through social media. They can share pictures and talk free of charge using various apps.

It’s a world of difference from when I left home after high school and spent the summer in Germany. I think I only talked to my parents twice the whole time and I never spoke with any friends. It was too expensive to call home. We wrote some letters, but that was it. It makes me wonder what the difference in the experience is.

Germany1987_0004

Modern technology and social media make it so easy to stay in touch if you want to (and even if you don’t), but it has its drawbacks, too. How much do students (or travelers in general) miss out on today because they spend so much time talking with family and friends back home? Does it help with homesickness or does it make it worse? Are they too busy taking pictures so that they can post and share them, rather than just enjoying the moment? I don’t really know the answer, but I suspect for many it is yes, they are cheating themselves out of the full experience of living and traveling abroad. It’s much easier to hide behind your cellphone or laptop than to engage with the world and people around you. As a shy and extremely introverted person, I completely understand the compulsion to do so. It can be scary to put yourself out there, especially when it requires you to speak to people in a different language. I can remember many awkward and frustrating moments trying to communicate with Eike’s friends.

Germany1987_0003

I suspect that if I had had a cellphone and wifi back then, I would have spent far too much time sharing my experience with everyone back home rather than living it. I would have missed out on a lot and most likely regretted spending so much time doing what I could have just as easily done if I had stayed back home. So for those of you abroad or getting ready to go abroad, disengage from the social media long enough to engage with the world around you! Throw caution to the wind and put yourself out there!

Germany1987_0001

Who knew there were palm trees in Switzerland?

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8 thoughts on “When I was the young American

  1. This is truly an intriguing post and I find it to be something I have contemplated for a long time now. I remember being away from home and not having the ability to call or even know what’s going on, but it is strange now that you find out what’s going on, in seconds, from around the world. It seems there is more rush to decisions in our society, more rush to do something big in our society, there seems to be a shedding away of our sense of adventure too.

    Great post and very thought provoking!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can relate! I married a Japanese in 1982! I actually remember using these cheap foldable, thin blue paper airmail letter papers sold by the post office . . .lightweight and cheap. The world was larger then and I had been to a place few had been. Now international travel us commonplace! I think I am a bit older.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think our vacation time has become much more precious. Like we’re running with a ‘must see’ or ‘to do’ list. Two decades ago, while in engineering college, I went hiking in the himalayas, a couple friends got separated, we spent three hours looking for them and we were lucky that we found them in that much time frame. Now, there’s a phone for everything and the biggest surprise is if the Taj looks smaller (in reality) than the photos you saw of it. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree. 🙂 The worst aspect of social media is the way they magnify issues and generate hate campaigns in a way I have never experienced before. You have to hope that your level-headed youngsters take no notice but a constant barrage of ill-thinking does nobody any good.
    That said, our son is accompanying us to the Algarve today and we don’t have an Internet connection there. We’ll see how he survives for a week 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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