In many ways, living in Cairo has been my own kind of “borderless” classroom. When I first came to the city in 2008, technology was different. I had no technological devices like a smartphone to help me navigate the complex megacity or distract me from the physical world. I fell in love with Egypt and returned in 2009, and then again in 2016 to pursue my master’s degree at AUC because no matter how technologically advanced we become with Augmented and Virtual realities, education in the physical world is priceless.
Life in Cairo is easier now than it was nearly a decade ago. WhatsApp, in particular, has made it easier to connect with people across the globe. However, I would never trade the experience I had exploring Cairo on my own terms, without the aid of my phone. It forced me outside of my comfort zone and required me to rely on my own capabilities. I took the time to look up and around at the physical world.
Put the screen down and get outside your comfort zone
People today tend to rely on technology or lose themselves in mindless virtual “entertainment” online instead of navigating life and appreciating the beauty of their surroundings. My early adventures in Cairo left me feeling empowered, unafraid to conquer anything I set my mind to. I also left with an appreciation for the beauty of life and nature, something that is only understood by taking the time to get outside and look around.
Life is created by small choices we make
If I hadn’t chosen to study abroad at AUC, I wouldn’t be the strong, independent woman I am today. Getting outside of your comfort zone is one of the most important factors contributing to personal growth.
What is the relationship between technology, learning and the human experience?
Recently, I have been researching the relationship between technology, learning and the human experience. We live in an age of rapid change and globalization. Many of us today have access to information at our fingertips, giving us the ability to learn whatever our hearts desire.
But with knowledge comes responsibility
While technology can augment our learning experience, it is important to continue engaging directly with the environment around us, especially in a place like Cairo. By being “plugged in,” it is possible to unknowingly create virtual walls. When discussing the possibility of a classroom made borderless by technology, it is also crucial to continue emphasizing the importance of having meaningful experiences in the real world. If you do not regularly interact with others in person, you not only forget how to do this, but start to believe that you don’t really need to, thus building up walls around yourself. For centuries, the world has been a borderless classroom— a free space to roam and explore.
Borders, boundaries and divides create manufactured walls of fear
The only way to tear them down is through education, preferably in a borderless classroom that utilizes the beautiful world surrounding us. I encourage everyone to constantly reflect on the way they are using technology. Einstein came up with his theory of relativity by spending time in the natural environment, not by being plugged in scrolling through Facebook. The world is our greatest classroom — borderless, without boundaries and divides. There is so much to learn if you just get out and travel.
Originally published in AUCToday