While you’re abroad, it’s a good idea to stay in touch with your family and friends back home. It will help put your family and friends at ease and give them a taste of what your experiences are abroad. This may be challenging because based on where you are, you may not have adequate or reliable internet access, and varying time zones make it even harder to find a time to talk. Figuring out the best ways to stay connected may also be expensive, though with so many apps available, this is becoming less of a factor.
Before you leave, decide how often you’ll contact each other and what means of communication you will use with your friends and family. While staying connected is important, it can also be a trap. If you spend too much time and energy keeping in touch with those back home, you’ll miss out on the culture and the other things the host country offers. In other words, it is important to find a balance. Stay in touch with your loved ones, but make the most of your experiences abroad.
Cell Phones and Text Messaging
Cell phones make it easier than ever to stay in touch with everyone back home. There are three main options for cell phone service, and each has pros and cons. While you’re abroad, you can:
- Roam using your U.S. carrier
- Rent a phone
- Use the local cell phone service
Using your U.S. carrier allows you to keep the same phone number, making it easy for friends and family to reach you. However, roaming can be expensive. In addition, some cell phones are not compatible for use overseas, due to the different frequencies used in the U.S. versus abroad. Check with your carrier to see if you can use your phone abroad.
In many cases, using the local cell phone service is the most affordable option, especially for local calls. Your rates will be the same as the locals, and you won’t have to worry about roaming or daily minimum charges.
Text messaging is another convenient way to keep in touch. Check with your cell phone service provider to find out rates for incoming and outgoing international text messages.
International Phone Cards
A prepaid international phone card, sometimes called a calling card, can be more affordable than a cell phone. The card has a number you can use to make calls from any kind of phone. You can purchase a phone card before you leave, but make sure that it will work in your host country. Or, you can buy one once you reach your destination. In fact, sometimes it is more affordable to get a phone card abroad. Phone cards can usually be recharged or you can buy new ones as you need to.
If you have regular internet access abroad, email is a convenient and inexpensive way to keep in touch. With email, you don’t have to worry about time zones. Plus, you can send pictures of the highlights of your trip for your friends and family to see.
Other Communication over the Internet
There are lots of other ways you can communicate via the internet, including internet phone calls, video chat, instant messaging, social networks, and blogs. These services are often free or affordable, so if you have regular internet access, consider using these methods to keep in touch.
Internet phone calls, video chat and instant messaging work in “real time,” so you will have to be aware of time zones. One benefit of video chat is that you can see your friends and family and they can see you, even though you’ll be thousands of miles away.
With social networks and blogs, you don’t have to worry about time zones. These two methods can be a good way to update all of your friends and family at once by posting pictures and writing about your activities.
Things to Consider
- How much does it cost for me to call people at home?
- How much does it cost for people at home to call me?
- How much does it cost to use the internet?
- How much does it cost to send postcards and letters home?
- How often should I call home?
- How often will I be able to access the internet? A phone?
- Will my cell phone work abroad? Do I need to rent or buy a new phone overseas?
- Where and when is it culturally appropriate for me to take cell phone calls?