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Photo by Tom Pablo, Andes & Amazon Semester.

Technology on Program

This post is to remind you about Where There Be Dragons’ technology policy on program and to further explain the why behind it.

WHAT?

Not Permitted: Cell phones

If students arrive on program with cell phones they will be held by the instructors for the remainder of the program. Instructors are not responsible for items that are lost, stolen, or damaged. You won’t be able to use cell phones at any point during the program, so please don’t bring them as we will need to lug them around for nearly four months. You will be receiving simple phones with local SIM cards to use at specified times during the program.

Permitted: Computer, cameras, e-readers, and music players

For permitted items, moderation is key. Computers are intended to be used primarily for school work. If students are using devices to remove themselves from the experience the instructors will talk with that student. If the action continues then a collaborative plan will be created to help the student re-immerse themselves in the experience, which might include setting usage limits per day. We understand and respect how important access to technology is in the modern world, but we also see the need for balance in order to be present.

At the end of our programs, students always mention how thankful they were to be more disconnected from technology. You’ll have sufficient opportunities to connect with friends and family via wifi, internet cafes, Skype calls, etc.

FAQ

Q: If I deactivate my phone can I still use it as my camera and music player?

A: We acknowledge that smartphones can wear many hats but we’ve found that even a deactivated phone has incredible potential to alter your experience. So to be clear, smartphones in any form will not be allowed.

Q: I’m worried about my connecting flights before/after the program. Can I bring my phone for that?

A: Yes, you can, but we encourage you to try it without your phone because as soon as you meet us in-country, we will collect the phone. To ensure that your travels go smoothly we recommend you carry a hard copy of all required flight information and a written list of important numbers (i.e. your emergency contacts and the Dragons office’s number +1-303-413-0822).

Q: I feel that it is a waste of money and resources for me to buy new electronics that meet these requirements since I pretty much use my phone to do everything.  What do you suggest?

A: Yes, we realize that not everyone is going to have an old MP3/Music player or point-and-shoot or DSLR camera sitting around since smartphones have replaced most of those devices. However, many past students were able to borrow music players, eReaders, and cameras from friends and family for use on the program. Ask around and see who can lend you one! Alternatively, you could purchase a used or refurbished one on Ebay or from Apple for very cheap.

For family and friends back home, know that the instructor team will be in regular communication with the Dragons Boulder office (even while on treks and in remote communities). If family needs to contact you, they can contact the Boulder office and we will receive forwarded questions. Watch our Yak Board for exciting updates every week.

WHY?

We want to share our philosophy: the reasons why we ask you to disconnect from phones.

As an instructor team, we value the close community that develops when traveling in a group. We want to give you an opportunity on this program to experience the world through different eyes and to be fully committed to each moment. When humans encounter something unfamiliar, something challenging, or something that just doesn’t fit into our worldview, it’s easy for us to initially step out of that experience and look for something known and comfortable, like a familiar smartphone, in order to disconnect.

Our modern portable electronics make it easy to distance ourselves from our immediate surroundings, whether it be people, places, or unfamiliar language. One of the best ways to understand a culture not your own is to experience it fully, to see the intricacies of everyday life, to feel its joys and sorrows, to see how the people pass idle moments and experience that with them. There is no greater opportunity to fully engage in the local culture and philosophy than to disconnect from the technology that’s a product of Western thought and globalized ways of living.

We encourage you to read this article on the effect of phones on human interaction. As you prepare for the program and let your friends and family know how much you will be in touch, we hope that you will take the time to consider these questions for yourself, so that you embark on your semester program with mindful intentions towards technology’s role in your life.

  • Knowing that Dragons has this Yak Board for me to post thoughtful travel writing, how much and how often do I want to be in touch with friends and family from home?  And, vice versa, how much does my family expect to hear from me via the Yak board and email?
  • If you are a heavy user of social media, do you think that would detract from an immersive travel experience like the one we will have this fall in Peru and Bolivia? How might technology use and social media impact my travel experience?
  • What means of communication will be best employed to communicate the depth of my experience most accurately? Talking on the phone or Skype, email, or communicating once back together in person? Do I want to communicate these experiences while they are happening or afterwards when I have processed them more fully?

We wish you the best as you finish your preparations for our program. We hope that you are able to intentionally prepare yourself and your friends and family for what will surely be the adventure of a lifetime. Get ready to unplug and dive in!