By Eric Ramirez
LACOSTE, FRANCE — The students of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) are in their first weeks of studying abroad, for some that also means they are in their first weeks of not having a cell phone. Even without a phone, most seem to do that universal thing: reach for their pocket, checking for that rectangular lump that lets them know they’re connected. But here in the countryside of southern France, some of the students learn to adjust while others still have that comfort of home.
“I used to use my phone a lot,” said fourth-year student Mary Mueller. “Whenever I was bored I would pretty much text people. And for the first few days here I carried it out of habit,” Muller said, “but now it’s collecting dust.”
In the pre-departure package students receive after registering for the off-campus program, a section devoted to telephones notes that “many students enjoy ‘unplugging,’ or not having constant access to technology, for the quarter,” a concept completely lost in America. Ask yourself if life in the United States would be possible without a cell phone. The answer is no. But with international phone plans being so expensive, it’s a common reality for SCAD students in the south of France.
Third-year student Tina Diamond, has mixed feelings about her decision to bring her phone to Lacoste. “It’s nice because [my boyfriend] can text me and my parents can get ahold of me. But I would rather get emails or letters, they’re more personal.”
Both Diamond and Mueller are part of the generation that is commonly thought of as being “plugged-in” and constantly connected to technology through phones, computers and tablets. Fourth-year student Jessica Aaron is also part of this tech-savvy generation, but tries to resist.
“Back home I used my phone everyday,” Aaron said. “I wasn’t constantly on it. I’m the friend everyone hates that texts back four days later.” Jessica also brought her phone to Lacoste, regardless of not having an international phone plan. She even admits that, while in class, she instinctively checks to make sure it is on vibrate mode.
Regardless of their phone situations and usage back home, there is a consensus about having it in the French countryside. “Sometimes it’s nice to just turn off your phone and enjoy life without one,” added Diamond.
Aaron agreed with her. “I kind of like not having [my phone] because you aren’t obligated to respond to people so quickly anymore. If it was possible to not have a phone back home, I wouldn’t have one.”
Second-year Myra Hassaram only recently realized that her phone still has Internet capabilities here in Lacoste. She had planned on not having access to her phone at all. “I check it every morning to see texts and check Twitter,” Hassaram said, “but I use being in France as an excuse not to talk to people, but in a nice way.”
Across the board, technology seems is this generation’s biggest asset and its biggest problem. Could we be too connected? Diamond believes so.
“We wouldn’t have people calling us every five minutes or drama over misunderstood texts.”
Contact Eric Ramirez.