The Wednesday Word - Where’s the Wifi?

Thoughts of an American student in Luxembourg

Sign showing Luxembourg City's wifi system "Hot City"
Sign showing Luxembourg City's wifi system "Hot City"
Photo: Gerry Huberty,

by Alexandra DeCraene

Study Abroad FAQ:
“Is there Wi-Fi here?”
“What’s the Wi-Fi password?”
“Is water free?”
“Is the bathroom free?”

From my short month in Europe, I think I’ve heard the above phrases more than I’ve heard my own name. There are a few things all study abroad kids can relate to, and the absence of wifi is one of them.

Let me set the scene for you at a restaurant in Budapest. A waiter gets our drink orders, and then mentions the complimentary wifi. He gives us the paper with the password on it. A brief battles ensues after who gets it first. If you’ve seen the Hunger Games, think of the Cornucopia. And then what follows is the most surprising-silence. A few vibrations shake the table.

You never notice how annoying something is until you’re taken away from it. I keep thinking of all those times that my parents, grandparents, and teachers complained about our generation always being on our phones. And now look at me, I’m one of them. Everyone around the table has their eyes locked on their phone, ignoring the world around them. It happens at dinner, at the lobby of the hotel, or a train station. A professor asked us, “What are you guys always looking at?” and none of us really had the answer. Since being removed from the constant stream of media I’ve become accustomed to in the US, I can’t help but wonder the same thing.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the absence of wi-fi sucks. I was gone for a week with no way of communicating with my parents. They were about 12 hours away from sending in the search committee. And my friends and family want to see pictures of what I’m doing. When I’m lost, there’s no google maps. I GUESS I understand what my parents have been talking about.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most about Europe is the dining. Not only is the food incredible, but the way Europeans enjoy a meal. The ‘joie de vivre’ of Europeans stands out the most to me here. Then there’s us Americans. We take pictures of every meal, which I’ll admit I’m guilty of. We tweet it, instagram it, facebook it. We’re constantly communicating with everyone else-except the people we’re with.

I am reminded of the expression “love the one you’re with.” While usually this is applied in a romantic sense, I think it also applies here. We all have people at home that we love and miss. I miss my family, my friends, and even my cat. But while I’m abroad, I’m going to make an effort to put down the phone. I’m going to enjoy a meal, a bottle (or 2) of wine, and a good conversation-the old fashioned way.