Tech Ambassadors Abroad – Tech Tips From Barcelona! | Information Technology | University of Pittsburgh

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Tech Ambassadors Abroad – Tech Tips From Barcelona!

Brandon Bowman and Jacob Sosinsky

Pitt IT Tech Ambassadors Jacob Sosinsky (junior, political science/economics) and Brandon Bowman (junior, business information systems/finance) are taking their Panther Pride overseas. They are studying abroad in the vibrant city of Barcelona! They’ve been in Spain for a few weeks and are learning about the countless ways that college and tech use in Spain differs from back home, as well as the many ways they can use the technology to stay connected with their life in the Burgh.

We caught up with them to ask about their first impressions of studying in Europe and the tech tips they’d share with students considering studying abroad themselves.

Jacob, how does tech use in college in Spain differ from the U.S.?

One of the first culture shocks that I experienced in my classes was the difference in the use of laptops and other technology during lectures. In nearly all my classes, having a computer out is a no-go, and having a phone out is even worse. Spanish colleges and professors expect their students to be completely distraction-free in the classroom. Several of my professors have even told us not to drink coffee while in class, with only water being allowed.

This cultural difference came to the forefront in a course I am taking about the history of Barcelona. About halfway through working on an in-class activity, the professor quickly walked around the class and snatched up three students' phones, placing them back on her desk. We all looked around surprised, as most of us had not seen this happen in a classroom in many years. While I did not have my phone out, I double-checked that it was safely zipped up in my backpack!

Brandon, how are you keeping connected with life in the Burgh?

I’ve really used Microsoft 365 as my global IT passport. Pitt provides us with Microsoft 365, which is a robust suite, so I can ensure productivity and security no matter where my academic pursuits take me. I already know how to use it well, and it’s even more convenient while I’m here.

First, it provides me with accessibility anywhere. Microsoft 365 can be operated 100% in the cloud, which means that with a stable internet connection, I can access all my files and applications in my OneDrive account. So regardless of where I am in the world (Pittsburgh, Barcelona, etc.), my work and resources from the 412 are just a click away. And the things I do here will be available to me when I get back to Oakland.

Second, I like to think that Microsoft Teams is my “digital bridge” back to the Burgh. With Teams, I can stay in touch with my classmates, professors, and Tech Ambassador colleagues back in the “O”. We can discuss projects, share files, or simply catch up on a group video call. It’s like we’re in a Team Room in Hillman Library, even if I am overseas. Microsoft 365’s collaboration features work all over the “Big 4” apps that I use the most: Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote. It makes collaborative projects feel local, even when we’re continents apart.

Jacob, what tech is indispensable for studying abroad?

There are several essential items and applications that any student studying abroad should have.

  • Power Adapters – Sockets in Europe are different than they are in the States. You have to have an adapter before you leave, so that you aren’t left with a dead phone on your first day abroad.
  • Translation App – Obviously, most of Europe primarily speaks a language other than English. While I come across many people who speak English, having a solid app for translating a conversation quickly is really valuable for more complex conversations.
  • International Mobile Plan – The cellular plan that I used at home does not work too well abroad. For this reason, I purchased an international mobile plan. Luckily, nearly every new smartphone comes with the ability to use an “eSim.” I can easily load an international plan onto this eSim, which allows me to switch between my American and international plans.
  • Browser Choices – Of course I want to travel to other cities and countries while I am studying abroad. However, many websites have features that raise the prices of flights and trains depending on how many times you visit the sight. I discovered that a browser like DuckDuckGo allows you to visit these sites without them being able to track your activity. This can be massively beneficial in saving a few Euros on my next plane or train ride.

Brandon, how are you documenting your travels?

I am using a OneNote digital notebook. It can be accessed on any device and makes a great memento from my travels. I have organized it by each day of my travels. It’s really nice because OneNote can include rich media, like photos, videos, hyper-links, and voice memos. So I can utilize it to jot down my thoughts, document my experiences, or plan my next adventure, plus for actual academic work like class notes and compiling my research. Since it syncs across devices and automatically saves, I don’t have to worry about combining stuff I created on my laptop with what I recorded on my phone, or forgetting to save it after adding something new.

Final thoughts about studying abroad now that you’ve settled in?

Jacob: Overall, my first two weeks of class and life in Barcelona have been incredible, and I am excited to learn and share more about my experiences over this semester.

Brandon: As I navigate the streets of Barcelona, I'm continually amazed at how technology has erased the physical barriers to education, collaboration, and friendship. Tech tools are more than just a suite of applications; they are a gateway to a world of opportunities. I just want to stay connected, creative, curious, and culturally engaged!


-- By Jacob Sosinsky and Brandon Bowman, Pitt IT Tech Ambassadors
(Interview compiled by Karen Beaudway, Pitt IT Blogger)