The past winter break I was in China where some websites and web services are not available. My days were a little bleak without Youtube and Facebook. The worst part was that I had no access to my Carleton Gmail account or Google drive. This made my task of uploading articles to Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art (JHNA) particularly challenging – it was hard to contact my supervisor and the authors, and it was impossible to view the JHNA articles, figures and upload guide since they are all stored on Google drive. I was glad that I realized this problem before I left campus. I tried to resolve this issue by giving my supervisor an alternative email address and installing Carleton GlobalProtect VPN. However, the VPN didn’t work for the first few weeks of my break. Here’s a rundown of the problems I faced, and how I solved them:
(the ones marked with [FAILED] have failed and thus not recommended):
First 2 days of my break
- [FAILED] Sat and cried
Using my personal email account,
- contacted my supervisor, explained the situation
- [FAILED] filed an ITS report, which was automatically rejected because it was not sent from a carleton account
- given that (2) had failed, reached out to all my friends who work for ITS for help
Week 3 – 4
- VPN troubleshooting with tremendous help from ITS
- [FAILED] Experimented some random free VPNs found using Baidu (a Chinese search engine), which brought my laptop some virus problems
- Switched to Yahoo (relatively more reliable than Baidu) and found a few highly ranked VPNs in IOS app store
- Tried one of the VPNs, “Betternet VPN”. It’s free, and though slow, it works! *Note: This app can only be found in the American app store. An American Apple ID is required.
- ITS made some backend updates and GlobalProtect started to work for me!
To summarize, if you are traveling outside of the United States and are likely to have similar problems, consider doing these in advance:
- Install Carleton GlobalProtect VPN (or other trusted VPN software)
- Friend and bribe ITS workers
- Give people you need to contact an alternative email address that you have access to in any network environment
- Save as many things you might need from Google drive to….your hard drive?…as possible
- Download other reliable VPNs to your tablets just in case GlobalProtect fails you
And lastly when you are on your trip and find out that none of above helps, please be patient and stay positive – there’s always going to be a way out; otherwise, enjoy your days free of digital distractions!