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Nate Nault, StudyAbroad.com’s study abroad student expert and editor of The Study Abroad Blog, partnered with StudyAbroad.com to create the Study Abroad Student Guide.
Communication is a pretty important aspect of
study abroad that usually gets overlooked. Don't wait until you're sitting in
your room with no way to call your parents back home, and no way to get in
touch with those kids you just met in class to finally start looking at ways to
keep in contact.
Do yourself a favor and consider your
communication options ahead of time cell because once you leave home there is a
very good possibility your phone won't work once you arrive at your study
The chance that
your phone will work abroad is very slim. However, you’ll probably still be
able to use many of the functions on the phone with the exception of calling
and texting. Why is this? The U.S. developed wireless technology, known as
CDMA, that’s incompatible with the technology deployed in the rest of the World,
called “Global System for Mobiles” or GSM. While you can buy U.S. mobile phones
that use the GSM system, these phones work on different radio frequencies than
those in most other countries. It may be best to visit your local cell phone
realtor and ask about the specifics of your cell phone plan and how it will, or
won’t, work while you are abroad. Sometimes, you can pay for an international
plan ahead of time for just the time that you plan on being away. Again,
researching your options ahead of time is what’s most important.
If your cell phone provider at home can’t
guarantee you that your phone will work while abroad, you should consider
visiting a store specializing in cell phones soon after arriving at your study
abroad destination. My advice is simple:
buy a phone that allows you to make calls and text, that’s all you need. It’ll
probably be the cheapest one on the shelf. Having studied abroad in both Europe
and Asia, and also having bought a phone in both locations, I can already tell
you that you will probably end up with the same or nearly the same cheap phone
no matter where you go.
Next, you will need a network. Just like in the
U.S., you can either have a pay-as-you-go plan, or a monthly plan. Be sure to
weigh out the costs both ways, and remember that if you want to have a monthly
plan, you will more than likely need a bank account. My advice is to look very
carefully at the different aspects of each plan. I studied abroad with a few
friends from my home university, so we all chose a network that allowed us to
make free calls and texts to each other - really convenient since we
communicated with each other the most.
I’ve already gotten into Skype, but here’s a
reminder. Skype is one of the most efficient means of communication while
abroad. The great thing about Skype is that you can instant message, video chat
and call landlines all with one program, and at no or little cost. As I
mentioned earlier, it’s so easy to set up and use that you really can’t afford
If you are living in a dorm, and your university
provides you with a phone in your room, check and see if you can use it to call
other rooms. Sometimes room phones will have an extension, and to call other
rooms, all you have to do is dial that extension. Also check with your study
abroad program about making calls outside of the dorm. Are you responsible for
charges to call local businesses (if you want to order take out for dinner, for
example) or charges for international calls to call your family in the U.S.?
Make sure you know what you are responsible for before you start dialing.
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