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Crossing the river before summiting 17,500 Pico Austria. Photo by Ella Williams (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest, 2nd Place), South America Semester.

Technology Policy Yak

In just a few short weeks, we will all be meeting in Bolivia and beginning an incredible experience together. While you are packing and preparing for the journey, we want to address a few important points regarding the use of technology and personal entertainment devises during our course.

This semester will be an amazing opportunity to enhance your skills in being present – with your homestay families, community-members, peers,  instructor team, and Boliva/Peru! As such, we will provide an opportunity for you to “unplug.” Many of the best travel moments arise when we least expect them, and we often miss them if we are cut off by headphones or a bright screen. Most Bolivians and Peruvians don’t have as much tech stuff as some of us do, because it is cost-prohibitive or because it is simply unavailable, so our tech devices also often exhibit wealth disparity and draw unwanted attention. Here are a few specifics from our side about what to bring or leave at home:

– Devices: We ask you to please not bring any “devices” – phones, tablets, laptops, mp3 players, virtual reality headsets, self-driving cars, drones or other such gadgets. While many, if not most, Bolivians and Peruvians do have cell phones, for the reasons mentioned above, we request that you do not bring yours on course. We will hold onto any devices such as those listed here for the duration of the semester and are not responsible for damage or loss.

– Cameras: Some folks use cameras beautifully for artistic expression, connecting with people, and sharing their experience with friends and family back home, while others choose to go camera-free to better live in the moment. A great option is to bring an instant-film camera and give away photos to those you meet along the journey. If you do bring a camera, we encourage you to err on the side of small and inconspicuous. We will create a photo-share at the end of the course so that everyone has plenty to see. That said we do not want to discourage you from bringing a camera, particularly if you are really into photography.

Finally, a note for families: You may not hear from your intrepid traveller as much as you are used to, because we will often be in places where the infrastructure does not allow for individual communications (instructors will have an emergency line of communication open at all times), and because we encourage our students to stay fully engaged in the country/communities we are in as much as possible. While internet and international phone lines are available in urban areas, we have found that overly frequent calls home can interfere with a student’s engagement and lead to homesickness. We will also be off having too much fun to stop for calls and emails all the time! We hope that you can appreciate the value of this not-so-frequent communication. THIS right here (the Yak Board for our course) is the best place to check for updates on our group, written by different members of the student (and instructor) group. Consider saving this page in your favourites so that you can find it easily during the course (and afterwards!)

If you have any specific questions or concerns, you can always reach out to us either here, or via the Dragons office in Boulder.

Can’t wait to meet you all soon!

Dave, Paola and Zack