Unplugged Scholarship Retrospective

By Charlotte Boland
Staff Writer

Would you be willing to give up your smartphone? Many want to spend less time on their phones and a few might even have considered the idea of getting rid of it altogether, but is that realistic in today’s age? Is it even possible for a college student to live without the constant reassurance of all the luxuries a smartphone provides? Well, it turns out that students at Franciscan University are doing just that.

Franciscan University offered the new Unplugged Scholarship for the 2022-2023 academic year in an effort to encourage Christ-filled relationships with others as well as to combat the negative influences smartphones have had on young people. In return for $5,000, recipients relinquished use of a smartphone during the school year. Junior Spanish major Heidi Bentrup, one of the thirty recipients of the Unplugged Scholarship, shared her experience with the challenge so far.

“I decided to apply for the Unplugged Scholarship because I wanted to take control of my life and learn how to live instead of being stuck in a never-ending and harmful cycle,” Heidi said.

But when she initially learned about the challenge, however, Heidi dismissed it as idiotic. She said she kept thinking “‘…what kind of person in this day in age would give up their cell phone?’ But the thought kept haunting the back of my mind until I conceded and decided that I was stupid enough to try and do this. I’m glad I did.”

Despite growing up mostly unattached from social media and having prepared for the loss of favorite apps such as Pinterest and Facebook, Heidi experienced stages of grief during the transition period. “[not being able] to send gifs, or see links from friends, or even send them funny videos I took on campus was weirdly devastating at first,” she said. “We’ve thankfully moved on.”

Heidi described feeling “overwhelmed” by both the positive and negative aspects of the experience. She noticed improvement in her time management and a tendency to forget about her phone altogether.

The experience has had its difficulties, however. In addition to the frustrating inability to scan QR codes around campus, Heidi’s computer unexpectedly broke in the midst of the challenge.

“And because I had a dumb phone that just meant I was exceptionally unplugged on both ends,” she said. “I spent so many hours in the MAC lab and the library to stay on track for school, but when I got done for the day, that just meant I felt finally free to be done and to fully go hang out with people- so my laptop breaking turned out to be a blessing in disguise.”

Heidi also commented on the use of phones in today’s culture, saying, “it is important to use technology responsibly, not let it control you like in [the movie] ‘Wall-E.’”

“But … I would like to pass on a warning to not demonize it and thus limit the benefits,” Heidi added.

Heidi advised anyone considering switching to a “dumb phone” to do a trial period first and to research extensively. She also noted that the decision to step away from using a smartphone requires the individual to take initiative and fill their extra time with good hobbies.

“Otherwise, you just fill it with different, useless distractions and it’s the same cycle with different decorations,” Heidi said.

“Going unplugged, at least temporarily, is worth it,” said Heidi in conclusion. “But unless you’re a special kind of person who can do things impulsively, it takes a fair amount of planning and creativity to make the most of the experience for the most character growth.”

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