Cutting the Cord: How I Learned to Ditch the Smart Phone in Jordan

Harold Lyons is a student at the University of Maine, Orono and an ISA Featured Blogger. Harold is currently studying abroad in Amman, Jordan on an ISA Academic Year program.

Smart phones are undoubtedly one of the greatest technological advances in the last 100 years. Music, navigation and internet access make them an invaluable tool in our everyday lives. Recently, there has been an explosion of app development. There is quite literally an app for everything. All of these aspects combine to make an addicting piece of technology.


College marked my first foray into smart phone technology, and I was hooked. As a man who enjoys efficiency almost to the point of laziness, my HTC Desire was the perfect tool for school. Google Calendar allowed me to schedule my time, to plan my assignments and to easily share this information with others. Apps such as Twitter and Flipboard allowed me to check the news while I got my morning cup of coffee. Evernote allowed me to access my notes for impromptu study sessions anywhere.

As many people have, I came to rely on my smart phone. It was an integral part of both my academic and social lives. I was not sure how to handle Amman without a smart phone, when I had been relying on one for the past two years of my life. As my first semester in Amman comes to a close, I realize living without a smart phone was integral to my amazing experience abroad.


  • Without a smart phone, you cannot use a navigation app. Where some may find this a significant disadvantage, I found it has only made me more independent. Without the ability to walk exactly where you want to go, you have to do a bit more looking around. Some of my most fond experiences involve walking around Amman with absolutely no bearings. It is surprising what can be found when you are looking for something else entirely.
  • As a byproduct of having a device that is constantly connected to the internet, we to have become attached to technology. This constant connection is not only rude, but it ruins genuine interaction between people. Connections become more meaningful when they are not tethered by a social network.


  • Smart phones provide the luxury of having the entire knowledge base of the Internet at our fingertips. The ability to Google anything, anytime, anyplace, has made it easy to become complacent in our own inability to retain information. Without the ability of instant search gratification, the challenge of learning is one worth experiencing again.
  • Smart phones are incredibly useful for combating boredom. Long bus ride? No problem, fire up a game of Angry Birds. Have an hour between classes? Whatever, you have the entire population of Twitter to keep you company. Without a smart phone to consume my free time, I found myself doing things that were actually productive. Take the blocks of time that are usually occupied by your iPhone and spend time learning new vocabulary, the history of your new country or the local news.

Smart phones act as a connection to the collective “world”, but they prevent connection to the immediate world around you. Try living without your cellphone for the duration of your study abroad experience. At first it may be challenging, but I can guarantee you will enjoy your experiences abroad even more.

If you enjoyed reading this, be sure to follow me on Twitter @lyons092

*As a safety precaution, I recommend you purchase a cheap, disposable phone for emergencies.


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