Study abroad - there's an app for that!

By Bonnie Bottner
Published August 20, 2013

You should challenge yourself while studying abroad—but don’t overdo it by getting lost or being so overwhelmed you miss the fascinating sights and sounds of a new place. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best apps out there so you can get comfortable or get busy hitting the books, or, in general, making an adventure for yourself.

Places to Go, People to See

  1. TripIt (most operating systems; free)
    Like your very own travel agent, TripIt can automatically create your itinerary, allow you to customize your plans with maps, notes, and recommendations, and enables you to share your trip with friends, teachers, or parents (hey, whatever keeps them from worrying, right?).
  2. Google Maps (most operating systems; free)
    Let Google be your guide. With Google Maps, you can find walking directions to the nearby café, reviews for a local pub, or navigation for your way out of the maze-like museum you’re currently in.
  3. iRail (iOS, $2.99)
    All aboard! If you find yourself in Europe, you’ll most likely find yourself on a train at some point, too. Use iRail to display available train times for selected departure and destination stations.

Pocket Translator

  1. Word Lens (iOS, Android; $4.99 per language pack)
    Feeling stumped by a menu or sign printed in a foreign language? Take a photo and have it magically translated into English.  
  2. Google Translator (most operating systems, free) or iTranslate (most operating systems, free)
    Seamlessly translate text or websites into English. Languages include over 70 choices with Google Translator and 60 with iTranslate. With iTranslate, you can also access language dictionaries as well as hear a dialect spoken.

Currency and Measurement Conversion

  1. OANDA Currency Converter (most operating systems; free)
    When sticking to a budget, it’s good to know how much you’re spending. Use this app to find the daily rates for over 190 currencies, as well as calculate ATM and credit card rates.
  2. Convert Units for Free (iOS, free) or ConvertPad (Android; free)
    For those of us that struggle with conversions, here is your answer! Convert everyday measurements like temperature, volume, and mass… all with the tip of your finger.
  3. GlobeTipping (iOS, $0.99) or Global Tipping Guide (Android, free)
    Know the appropriate tip leave in specific regions around the globe. This app even figures out the amount to tip and your final bill total. Great for group totals, too.

Show Me the Money

  1. Simply Declare (iOS, free)
    What did I buy again? When studying abroad, you can easily lose track of purchases. Simply Declare keeps track of these items, even converting the local purchase price into your home currency price.
  2. Mint (most operating systems, free)
    Finances can be tricky overseas—this app follows your transactions and balances, monitors your accounts, and can even send bill reminders. Your checkbook will thank us.

It’s Academic!

  1. Evernote (most operating systems; free)
    Take note-taking to the next level. Using your camera phone, you can take photos of handwritten notes or textbook pages, share thoughts with fellow collaborators, or record audio to be played back later.
  2. Class Timetable (iOS; free) or My Class Schedule (Android; free)
    Being in a new place can be overwhelming, as can finding the right classroom. Remember the time and location of an upcoming class, get a reminder for your big exam, or stay on top of the word all college students dread (homework).

Staying in Touch

  1. Wi-Fi Finder (most operating systems; free)
    Find free and paid Wi-Fi across the world, and even view directions on how to get to the closest hotspot.
  2. TextPlus or Viber (most operating systems; free)
    TextPlus and Viber make it easy to stay connected. Text your friends back home, make free calls, and even share photos or videos with those who also have the app.
  3. Postagram (iOS, Android; free)
    A favorite of ours, with Postagram, you can add your own photo (from your phone, Facebook, or Instagam) to their postcard format and add a special note. A real card is sent for just $0.99!

Little Miss (or Mister) Helpful

  1. AccuWeather (most operating systems; free)
    Know when to don your rain boots or bring a sweater with reliable weather information, brought to you in a colorful app.
  2. Spotted by Locals (iOS, Android; $3.99 per guide) or Goby (iOS, Android; free)
    Craving a local delicacy or where to find a hot spot? Know where the locals eat in large cities throughout Europe with Spotted by Locals or use Goby to map out nearby activities like concerts and museums.
  3. Sit or Squat (most operating systems; free)
    Your potty routine doesn’t know you’re in a different country—when you gotta go, you gotta go. Find a bathroom’s location, as well as hours, on this handy-to-have app.
  4. Smart Traveler (iOS, Android; free)
    And finally, the State Department’s Smart Traveler app gives you the ability to find your nearest U.S. Embassy anywhere in the world, as well as review travel alerts and warnings.

Ready to find a program? Get started now!

Bonnie Bottner has a B.A. in English with a concentration in Communications from the University of Tampa. She has worked in marketing and communications for over ten years, and has taken continuing education courses at Georgetown University and College of Notre Dame of Maryland.