Keeping in touch is just a click away

| Assignment Editor

There was a day, not long ago, when students could keep in touch with their parents only via landline telephone and written correspondence. Current technology has enabled Washington University students to keep in touch with their families in a multitude of new ways.

Many students use these emerging technologies to communicate with their families every day.

Freshman Derek Sun uses his cell phone and e-mail to stay in touch with his parents. “When people had to write letters, it must have been much harder. It’s nice to know that I can call my family. It’s comforting to have no waiting period,” he said.

Wash. U. is home to many international students. First-year graduate student Firuz Mohamad’s parents live in Malaysia. She has siblings who live in Egypt and Korea.

Mohamad uses Yahoo Messenger, Facebook, e-mail, her cell phone and calling cards to keep in touch with her family.

“The technology here is excellent and it means a lot to me,” Mohamad said. “If you don’t have this technology it is impossible to keep in touch.’

Karen Coburn, senior consultant in residence at the University, is an expert on student’s college experiences.

“Students and parents certainly are able to keep in touch more easily than ever before,” Coburn wrote in an e-mail to Student Life. She lists cell phones, texting and Skype, among other technologies, as ways that students can now communicate with their parents.

Coburn recognizes the extra support that these new means of communication can afford students, but questions the effect that this increased communication has on the college experience.

“While this support is valuable and much appreciated, the ubiquitous availability of communication with parents can inhibit students’ ability to take ownership of their education,” Coburn wrote. “The challenge for today’s students is to immerse themselves in university life—to learn to use the resources on campus as they make decisions and solve problems instead of simply turning to mom or dad.”

Students on campus disagree with Coburn’s point. Sophomore Lauren Evers talks with her parents every day. She also uses e-mail to communicate with her family.

“We just left home, and it’s nice to have your parents close,” Evers said. “[Communication] is not a crutch. It is just a form of support. It’s good to have a support system and to be able to reach your parents if you need to.”

Second-year MBA student Mustali Shah said that his communication with his family has increased as new technologies have emerged. He uses video chat and his cell phone to communicate with his family two to three days each week.

“It’s good to keep in touch regularly,” he said. “Around exams it is nice to have someone you can talk to.”

New technologies, such as Skype, have also provided a means of communication for students who are studying abroad. Senior Sofia Balters, who has family in Chile, used the program when she spent a semester abroad. She says that Skype has enabled her to develop a closer relationship with her family abroad. Balters speaks with her parents several times each week.

“Skype is great,” she said. “I think our communication has been just great.”

Above all, students are grateful for the new technology.