Austrian Adventures: The beauty of a ‘tech-free’ life

GRACIE WILLIAMS
AUSTRIA CORRESPONDENT

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Of all the differences students encounter upon transitioning from main campus to Gaming, perhaps one of the most significant is the lack of Wi-Fi and technology.

Here in Austria, communication is limited, to say the least. Wi-Fi is only in certain public areas, not including the bedrooms, and is turned off by 10 p.m. most nights. The majority of students have no cell phones, so texting to find each other is out of the question. These limitations are deliberate as they are meant to encourage students to spend more time with each other and exploring Gaming.

As someone who has traditionally been a proud supporter of Netflix binging, who feels lost without her phone, I was at first worried about this change in Austria. It seemed to be as if we were stepping into the olden days, back to the time of “Little House on the Prairie.”

The first few days here were, as could be expected, an adjustment. We felt baffled by the fact that if we couldn’t find our friends; we couldn’t just text them. Instead, we had to hunt for them, and even that was not a guarantee of finding them! Those who would try to put off homework until late at night would find the Wi-Fi had already been turned off for the night.

But this week especially, I started noticing a great appreciation among the students for this disconnect from technology. Lack of texting is no longer a problem. It actually makes searching for people a fun adventure and running into them randomly an exciting surprise! Bedroom doors are left propped open all down the hallways, with people gathering to share their wine and Milka and just hang out.

The other day, an intense and highly competitive game of cards broke out in one of the common rooms. Alternatives to Facebooking, such as attending a Philosophy on Tap segment about selfies, became the popular activities. I personally have had conversations with people that I had never before met on main campus though we have been going to school together for years now.

More than anything, having limited technology and Wi-Fi simply encourages students to spend more time with each other rather than spending time alone in their rooms. Two unique opportunities that have come about as a result of having more free time are the chances to get close to the Language and Catechetical Institute (LCI) students and to the “Kartause Kids,” who are the professors’ children.

Franciscan’s LCI program is where people from Eastern Europe come to live at the Kartause and study English and catechetics alongside Franciscan students. The LCIs are full of interesting stories about their home countries and just love practicing their English on Franciscan students.

The “Kartause Kids,” who range in age from babies to high schoolers, are bundles of energy and are frequently found running through campus or offering to teach the students magic tricks. Between the campus activities and all the new people to encounter and with whom to talk, there is always something to do in Gaming!

It is surprising to think that it took moving to another country to see how enjoyable it is to live a tech-free life, but it is one of the beautiful and unique parts about Gaming that I doubt any student here in Gaming would want to change.