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Photo by Sampor Burke, Mekong Semester.

Tech policy!

Dear Students,

As you gear up (literally and figuratively) to head out on our upcoming adventure, we wanted to speak more on a very important aspect of our non-packing list: your smart phone.

Dragons as an organization has a blanket policy that strongly requests all students leave smart phones at home. You can read more about that in your materials, but in short, we’ve found phones detract from the experience and can create risk management issues for the group. Please carefully read and consider what Dragons has written about smart phones, but here is what you need to know for our Mekong program…

We are asking you to please leave your devices at home. It is amazing how dependent we’ve all become on technology and your time on the Mekong course might provide one of the few opportunities for you to truly “unplug” from the constant pressures of social media/electronic connection. It is a truly liberating feeling if you haven’t tried it, or don’t remember the last time you didn’t have a phone at arm’s reach. We encourage everyone to please read this article from the NY Times. It’s not the same “technology is corrupting our youth” judgmental piece you’ve seen before, but has some really thoughtful insights on how technology can most affect our ability to be alone. We’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

So here we are, kindly asking you again to please leave your devices at home and also reminding you that if you do choose to bring a smartphone with you we ask that you be honest with us; there is no judgment, but we want to be fair and consistent with all students. We will collect and store any devices (phones, tablets, computer, etc.) at the beginning of the course.

What we don’t want is for you to enter a home-stay, pop in your ear buds, and tune out of the experience around you. We’ve seen electronic devices completely tear students away from their present surroundings, increase home-sickness, and keep one foot in Asia and one-foot longing for their Snapchat or Instagram feed happening back home. Even our longest and most arduous travel days, precisely when you want to listen to your favourite tune to help time pass more quickly, can hold some of the most amazing and unexpected cultural interactions; however, we need to keep our eyes and ears open (i.e., not looking at a screen or listening to music) to engage those unplanned moments.

If your smartphone is your only camera, please bring a separate camera; smart phones are not ideal as your primary camera and we don’t want to hear the “I need my phone because it’s my camera” line. We also want to be clear that we are not responsible for your devices. We are going to be in dirty/wet/humid conditions, if our packs are stolen/lost or are somehow damaged, and your phone is inside, then we are not liable.

Kindle-type e-Readers are fine like the Nook Glowlightor Kindle Paperwhite, but please don’t bring an iPad-like tablet that doubles as an e-Reader, again that draw to connect in every WIFI zone is just too tempting! In summary, please leave your tech devices at home. If despite all this you choose to cart them along, please respect these expectations.

Yours sincerely,

Mekong I-team.