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### Connecting Studying Abroad with Reduced Screen Time: Rooks’ Reflections

In early March, my five-month study abroad journey commenced in Leipzig, Germany. During my brief stay, I have had the pleasure of meeting exchange students from various countries worldwide. An interesting observation I made while interacting with my peers was the minimal use of cell phones during our time together.

Research indicates that 55% of teenagers prefer socializing with friends through online platforms such as gaming or social media. In contrast, my personal experience has been different. Back home, I often find myself engrossed in my phone when socializing with friends, occasionally sharing interesting findings or engaging in gaming while conversing.

Having been accustomed to the pervasive digital connectivity in America, I initially assumed a similar scenario in Germany. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that phones are seldom seen on the table during social gatherings with new acquaintances. Furthermore, my own inclination to reach for my phone in social settings has significantly diminished.

This shift in behavior could be influenced by the setting of our study abroad program. Statistics reveal that 22% of Americans spend a significant portion of their day on phones, compared to 12% of Germans. Nevertheless, these figures do not encapsulate the diverse nationalities within my cohort, leading me to attribute this disparity to our shared identity as international students.

As participants in a study abroad program, we have consciously chosen to immerse ourselves in the local culture rather than be tethered to our phones, an activity feasible anywhere in the world. This deliberate choice has fostered deeper connections among my peers and cultivated a heightened sense of mindfulness in my daily interactions.

The novelty of a new environment, from unfamiliar sights to unique scents, stimulates the senses and demands heightened awareness. Navigating through unfamiliar spaces in the company of newfound friends has sharpened my focus on the present moment, allowing me to fully engage with my surroundings devoid of distractions.

This overseas academic venture has enriched me with unparalleled experiences and relationships that transcend those found within the confines of the U.S. I am more inclined to explore new locales or dine out rather than retreat to my room and engage with screens during leisure time. My attention feels more attuned, fostering a profound connection with both myself and my environment.

As I anticipate my return home in the fall, I harbor a hope that these newfound habits endure. Spending four years in the same town has often lulled me into a sense of complacency, leading me to overlook the significance of seizing each day in Athens. However, my brief sojourn abroad has instilled in me a newfound appreciation for life’s simple pleasures, like people-watching and grabbing coffee between classes, which I am reluctant to relinquish upon my return.

The familiarity of my environment in Athens should not equate to monotony, a mindset perpetuated by my habitual screen time back home. I aspire to retain the mindfulness cultivated overseas and believe that every college student stands to benefit from this practice. Moving forward, I am committed to disengaging from my phone and embracing the present moment, and I urge students globally to embark on a similar journey.

Sophia Rooksberry, a journalism sophomore, shares her personal insights. Kindly note that the opinions expressed are solely those of the columnist and not reflective of The Post’s views. Want to delve deeper into this discussion? Reach out to Sophia via Twitter _.