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“WiFi Zone”: My beacon of light when traveling on the weekends. Is it yours too?

Image courtesy of Flickr user Manolo Gómez

“My phone won’t connect, does yours work”? This is usually one of the first issues we as students face after attaining the WiFi password at the hostel when traveling on the weekends. Of course, this is only the second issue after finding out that the WiFi is in fact, not free. With the use of smartphones in todays society, communication regardless of location is certainly expected, and you can argue that point with my mother any day. The ritual begins like this: 1) Arrive, 2) Receive the WiFi password, 3) Text parents to tell them I’m alive, 4) Update social media. Perhaps this ritual may be looked down upon, however, it has become common practice with students studying abroad in todays day and age.

Since I have arrived here in Prague, I have visited Vienna, Budapest, and Munich but I plan on traveling to many more countries! Tomorrow morning at 6:00am, I will be on a flight leaving for the romantic city of Paris. Of course, like many of my peers who are studying abroad in various cities across Europe, I will constantly have my iPhone close by and ready to capture photos of the sites around me, eager to upload them to social networking sites such as Instagram and Facebook when I come across a WiFi zone. Amidst the many photos however, are “Check Ins” at museums, hostels, landmarks, and more. Recently, I asked myself why I continue to engage in posting on social media when i’m traveling; is it because I want to show off? After letting this marinate, part of me believes that yes, I am proud of all that I am doing with my time while studying in a foreign country, but incredibly enough, I post more for the demand of my family and friends who want to know what I’m doing during everyday.

Recently on a photo album I posted to Facebook, I received comments such as, “I’m on vacation through your pictures”, and “Loving your pics! But are you really there? I don’t see you in any of them!”. Often, I am blogging and posting photos simply to keep my family and friends updated on my life when I am not there to share these experiences with them.

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Image courtesy of Meghan Gambichler

Before I left for Europe, I spent countless hours with both my mother and my father teaching them to use social media sites such as WordPress, Facebook and Instagram as well as apps such as Skype and FaceTime. Since I have always lived close to home, my parents have never really had to deal with being so far away from me for such an extensive period of time. With the introduction of iPhones into society, my parents understand how easy it is to keep up with me and my activities, and they worry if they do not see me posting on social media when I am traveling. My mom, who worries herself to the point of illness, has even discussed the possibility of coming up with a code word to use each time I text her (because you know, someone could have taken me and is now texting my mom to trick her into thinking its me). After convincing my mom that she sounded crazy, she finally has settled for a text in the morning and a text when I am at home at night–yet she is constantly reminding me to update my social media to “keep her in the loop”.

I think the way I use social media on the weekends when I travel is extremely telling of our ever-changing society–updating our lives online is simply expected of us today, especially if you are a student studying abroad and are away from your close family and friends. There are even social networking sites that offer tips on how to use social media when traveling, such as Pinterest where you can find boards labeled “Study Abroad Tech & Social Media”. As I travel, I will continue to use social networking sites for myself, but also for my friends and family at home. As long as there is WiFi, there will be posts! (Don’t worry mom, this is actually me talking).

-Meghan Gambichler

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