When you’re a student traveling and studying internationally, you may want to communicate with friends and family back home.  With social media and the prevalence of cell phones, a huge amount of emphasis has been placed on day-to-day communication in our daily lives.  It’s constant and ever-flowing, and many people, especially in the US, have become addicted to it.  As such, when going abroad for an extended period, the need to stay in touch can become expensive.  There are several ways to keep in communication on a limited budget.
There are two primary ways you’re likely to use for communication, a phone and the internet.  Of course, how you communicate can depend on where you plan to visit and the communication infrastructure of your region and accommodations.  

The Cell Phone
Nearly everyone has a cell phone, whether it’s a feature phone or a smartphone.  Chances are, you already carry it with you everywhere you go, and going overseas isn’t going to change anything—except if your phone is unable to function.  Most phones, especially those bought in the US, are locked into a contract on a specific carrier.  In order to function outside of the carrier’s service range, the phone must be unlocked and the SIM card must be changed.

Since there is such a wide range of phones and carriers, you’ll need to look up your phone model to find out the specifics.  You want to be sure you’re device will work in your destination country as far in advance as possible to avoid any issues (and that includes charging)! 

However, consider one of the most budget-friendly solutions: purchase a new phone in your destination country.  Phones can typically be found very inexpensively (which means they aren’t going to be incredibly advanced) along with a prepaid minute plan.  Coupled with an international calling card or service and you’re in business.  You’ll be able to call when you need to and manage your costs.

The Internet 
Like cell phones, the internet seems to be everywhere.  When you’re abroad, it probably won’t be too much of a challenge to find a connection.  There are internet cafés, libraries, community centers, and more, that offer computers with internet access to their patrons.  Additionally, you may find Wi-Fi hotspots, which you always want to be wary of, since they may expose your personal data, especially if you’re using your own computer.  

When you’re online, you can keep in touch via social media websites, VOIP, or even manage your own blog on StudyAbroad.com (email vboyle@educationdynamics if you’re interested!).  In many cases, unless you’re accommodation is providing you with an internet connection free of charge, you’re going to have to pay a usage fee, such as with an internet café.   It goes without saying, the more you use the internet, the more it’s going to cost you.  The solution?  Limit the time you’re on the internet.  Like with phone usage, by limiting the time you’re using electronic communication methods, the less you’ll have to spend, and the money (and time) you’ll have to spend on much more interesting things in the new land you’ve chosen to explore.  On that note…

Please remember, when traveling and studying abroad not to rely on technology and constant communication with home as a crutch.  You don’t want it to become a burden and get in the way of your experience.  Become immersed in the new culture and landscape and meet new people!

Andrei Milosevic is an international student, traveler, and writer.  Over the past few years, he has been studying international business and providing advice and insight into international calls.  In his free time he kayaks and Skypes with his best friend back home in Serbia.