My heart plummeted as I frantically began searching through my book bag. I pulled out items left and right while mumbling, “oh no, oh no, oh no.” Two of my roommates sympathetically watched as I turned to them, emptied the book bag in hand and said, “I think I lost my phone.”
In that moment of pure panic, my roommates tried to soothe me and talk me through my phone’s possible locations. I kept repeating to them that there was no way that my phone was not gone forever. I must’ve left it somewhere — and in a city that is known for pick-pocketing, my phone was certainly taken.
In what could’ve been a tragic moment, I realized that I had carelessly left my phone in the changing room of a store. My other roommate was still near the store and was able to miraculously retrieve it and return my phone to me safely. The mini-meltdown I experienced over my missing piece of technology made me question my relationship with my phone while abroad.
While here, I have the AT & T international day pass plan to use in emergencies. Otherwise, my phone is only useful when I’m connected to WiFi. It has been over a month since I have had full, unlimited access to my phone at whatever point. As a result, I use my phone less than ever before. I cannot scroll through social media while waiting for the metro or send out texts to my friends and family while walking home from school. Yet when I thought my phone was gone forever, I felt like a piece of me had been ripped away. Despite the cushion of iCloud backing, all I could think about was all of the photos, contacts, apps and other items that would be lost with my phone.
Why am I so attached to my phone, even when it only has basic functions available to me during my semester abroad? Some of the attachment is because my phone has symbolically come to represent my lifeline to back home. It is how I keep in contact with my boyfriend throughout the day and it is where I receive amusing texts in my family group message. The layout of my apps and the backgrounds on my lock and home screen are familiar to me in a way that is comforting when so much around me is new and foreign.
Although that attachment to my phone is okay to some extent, there’s also a dependency on my phone that I perceive in myself, and in others around me. Not being able to be on my phone as I walk home from school every day or not having it to scroll through in waiting times throughout the city has allowed me to notice how often people tend to engage with their technology over their surroundings. The ache we feel to pull out our phones when we’re bored or anxious prevents us from immersing ourselves with the people and sites around us, which is especially problematic when you are studying abroad and want to soak in as much as possible.
I struggle with the desire to pull out my phone constantly too. It’s why my phone got left inside the dressing room of a store instead of staying safely in my book bag. And when I go to see new sites, the first thing I do is whip out my phone to try to capture pictures of what I am now seeing through the lens of my phone camera. I am not sure if there is a solution to the way we interact with technology when it permeates so much of our daily lives. However, I do know that even though it is beyond challenging to not be able to pull out my phone at any moment and be able to contact whoever I need, it has helped me connect to my experience abroad so much more.