I’m sitting on my first international flight right now, waiting for the plane to take off. I feel different from the people around me, but not because I speak a different language – I feel out of place because I’m the only one not on my cell phone. The flight hasn’t even taken off, but already the vast majority of people are deciding what movies to watch and updating their Snapchat stories. I don’t have room to talk: I probably would be doing something on my phone, too, but I’m not taking my cell phone to France this summer.
I had never heard that cell phone pricing varies depending on the country, but after I learned more from the study abroad office and my mom told me horror stories about people coming back from Europe with $6,000 roaming charges, we decided that it would be easiest for me to leave my iPhone at home and get a basic flip phone to use for emergencies in France.
At first the idea of going six weeks without my iPhone horrified me. More than a month cut off from the outside world? That thought was scary, let alone during my first trip to a foreign country. After thinking about it more and more, though, I realized that going six weeks without my phone will be good for me.
If I’m forced to be present in this new environment, I’ll learn to appreciate it more than I would if I was able to escape uncomfortable moments by disappearing into my phone. I’ll also be forced to change my main social circle (if only for awhile). By surrounding myself with the group of people I meet in Arles instead of spending my time talking to my friends and family back home, I can learn about people from different backgrounds- and maybe learn something about myself.
I’m also granting myself a kind of freedom by leaving my iPhone at home. Today when my family dropped me off, they looked like Shaggy and Scooby when they see a ghost. My mom had already told me, only half-jokingly, that when my plane took off she’d need to be sedated. Last year I took a trip to Boston by myself and I had multiple adults offer to accompany me, and this year I’m taking their distress further by going to a foreign country. I fully realized the extent to which my family tries to protect me today when my dad waited as I went through security, and, fearing that I wouldn’t hear the announcements or see the signs, had a swarm of TSA agents come over to remind me that my gate had changed. While I love my family and I’m lucky that there are people that want to protect me, they simply can’t. At some point I am going to have to learn to manage by myself. By not taking my phone, I’m forcing myself to be resourceful and solve problems in ways besides calling my parents and asking for help.
All in all, I think not taking my iPhone will help me reap the long-term benefits of my first experience abroad. The idea of not being in constant contact with my loved ones is scary, but then again, most worthwhile things are.
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<p>Jessica Castellanos is a freshman at Northwestern University majoring in Slavic Languages and Literatures and International Studies with a minor in Religious Studies. Even though her major revolves around the Russian language, Jessica loves the French language and French culture and she hopes to become fluent someday and use the language in her career. In her spare time, Jessica likes to run, volunteer with animals, and read.</p>