No Wi-Fi, no problem
As with most typical college students in America, I am used to being socially connected to other people at most moments throughout the day. Save for the six or seven hours that I generally sleep (which, even then, is occasionally interrupted by an errant text or facebook message).
When I decided to study abroad at the FAMU school in Prague, I gave a lot of thought to the experience I would have, the city I would grow to love and the language I would never be able to speak. What I didn’t think about very much was the lack of that illustrious entity we call Wi-Fi or 3G data, available to iPhones and smartphones alike.
Arriving early morning in Prague after a cramped 8 hour flight, I lugged my suitcases and grabbed my phone out of my purse, wanting to alert others that I had safely reached my destination. When I looked at my phone it hit me: there was no Wi-Fi or 3G here.
How could this be? Everywhere had something to connect to, didn’t it? Apparently not. It began to sink in: there would be very limited texting, Facebook messaging, random Googling or music streaming to annotate my experience. It was just me, blindly wandering through Prague.
Having been in Prague for a few days now, the lack of access is still a bit disorienting. The only places with Wi-Fi are the apartments and classrooms, unless one is lucky enough to wander into a randomly equipped coffee shop or pub. However, as I stumble through the city, speaking a thoroughly broken version of Czech and finding tucked away allies and boulevards that look like remnants of fairytales everywhere I turn, I’m finding more and more that I’m enjoying the lack of access.
It has forced me to really concentrate on the present, rather than dividing my attention between twelve different mediums at once. Yesterday, the program I’m enrolled in organized a scavenger hunt around the city for all of the students; in groups, we had to find certain buildings, phrases, beer mats, and other Czech paraphernalia. There were no Google maps, no GPS, nothing for us to do but try to read our maps and explore things for ourselves.
There is no denying that the lack of access can be jarring at times, even if I am growing more accustomed to it. I often pull out my phone, eager to share something about my experience, and find that there’s no one to share with except for the people directly in front of me.
As much as I sometimes long for the ability to text, Facebook, Google and fire cute anecdotes and experiences at a moment’s notice, there’s something so special about living in the present. It forces me to really look at this new place I’m in and to appreciate the beauty, architecture, language and culture that might be lost on me if my eyes were always trained on my suddenly useless smartphone.
Caroline Handel is a junior in the School of Communication and studying abroad in Prague, Czech Republic. She will be writing a monthly column about her experiences.