Communication While Abroad

As college student in the U.S., you are probably used to 24/7 contact with others whether it be through email, cell phones, instant messaging or Facebook. But while these forms of instant communication are invaluable, staying in touch with home can have an unexpected negative effect on your ability to become fully immersed in your host culture. Consider resisting the temptation to spend so much time on Facebook, email or AIM while you are away. Test your boundaries until you find a good balance between staying in touch with friends and family back home and having enough time away from a computer or cell phone to ensure you are getting the most out of your time away.

You may want to have a plan in mind before you leave of how you will stay in touch with friends and family back home. Contact your program to find out what your possibilities are likely to be. Your program will have the best advice on which of the following are realistic:

Cell Phones: Your cell phone company here in the states might have an international plan available. Be sure to talk to your provider about calling rates however, which can range greatly depending on where you are in the world. Keep in mind however that your phone with an international plan may not be useful for loacl calls in your host country.  Therefore, you may want to purchace a cell phone in your host country after you arrive.  A few programs actually provide cell phones to all students.  There are also companies that allow you to purchase an 'international' cell phone prior to departure that you can use overseas, although this may not be the most cost effective option. Bottom line, talk to people who have been to your host cotunry before to decide what option will be best for you.

Skype: Skype is an international messaging and calling web site that allows you to "call" from one computer to another for free (so long as both computers are utilizing the Skype program). Help your parents set up a Skype account before you leave and arrange a time to talk on Skype once or twice a month.

Calling cards: Consider using international calling cards. These are fairly easy to obtain and offer you a great way to keep in touch if you are not near a computer. Rates vary depending on if you are calling a landline or a cell phone (with the later being more expensive) so keep that in mind while communicating back home.