When you find yourself miles and miles away, separated by an ocean, continent or all of the above, with a different language and culture, you might find that keeping in touch during your study abroad with friends and family is a challenge. Though it may seem difficult, especially if there is no consistent access to Wi-Fi, there are several things you can do to ensure you don’t lose contact with the ones you love. E-mail, Facebook, blogging, snail mail, prepaid phone cards and free telephone services provide numerous options for staying connected during your study abroad program.
Despite the felicity that comes along with living in the present, it is crucial to include friends and family in your adventure abroad. They want to know and understand what you are going through; the people you are meeting, the exotic foods you are eating, the monuments and natural beauty you are seeing and the (hopefully) delicious and strange treats you are smelling... everything! In order to do this, below you can find a variety of methods for keeping in touch, even if it is not your best skill!
- Email - As a study abroad student, between attending classes, embracing cultural events, making new friends and traveling, you are undoubtedly living a busy life. If writing responses at your leisure appeals to you, then e-mail is probably the best option. If you have Gmail, you can also use gchat simultaneously to send quick messages. Including photos, videos and messages is simple, and you can elect the time spent writing or responding to e-mails. While it may seem a little antiquated in comparison with Facebook, it is refreshing to focus on correspondence with a single person, instead of all your friends.
- Facebook - Of course, Facebook is full of endless possibilities and allows you to share your life with others, and theirs with you. If you are concerned about keeping in touch, it may be a smart idea to start a group and invite friends and family. You can post periodic updates about your life, photos, entertaining or educational videos, express your passions and even your address. Facebook is probably the best choice if you are looking to stay up to date with friends and family. It makes keeping in touch during your study abroad easy as pie; you will feel like you were at that party, and they will feel like they are traveling with you.
- Blogging - Do you enjoy writing? If so, blogging is a wonderful way to reflect on all that you are encountering during your experience. Not only does it provide friends and family with the opportunity to journey with you, but it also is an excellent account of daily life in your temporary home. Though you may think you will never forget your time as a study abroad student, as the days, months and years come and go, so do the memories. Therefore, by keeping a blog, you will be able to preserve the memories you are making, and recreate the feelings you felt simply by reading.
- Snail (postal) Mail - Never thought you’d be back to writing letters, did you? Indeed, letters seem to be a lost art these days. However, don’t you feel an inner happiness when you receive a letter, out of the blue? There is something magical about it; it is mysterious and rare. By sending snail mail, be it postcards, notes or regular old letters, you are reminding those you love that you are thinking of them at unexpected moments, and you are keeping in touch during your study abroad in an exciting way. Likewise, if you are writing letters, hopefully those you write will return the favor, and you, too, will have a random magical moment! Postcards are particularly delightful, as you can show what you have seen and where you have been. It might not be such a bad idea to snag one for yourself, too!
- Prepaid Phone Cards - As a study abroad student, you will come to learn that acquiring Wi-Fi is frequently easier said than done. Therefore, it is important to recognize that there are other ways you can speak with your friends and family, besides your iPhone. For example, you can purchase a prepaid phone card. While the price per minute varies depending on the country, it is straightforward to use and there are no additional charges, except what you originally pay for the card. You can even add money to your card and continue to use it if you choose!
- Telephone Services - These services are the most direct option, as you can make phone calls and text. WhatsApp is an excellent alternative to texting, as it is a messenger on your phone. You can send photos, videos and even sound bytes. Viber and Magic Jack both offer free phone calls to the United States, while Skype serves as a messenger, and allows both voice and video calls. Beware, though, these services all require Wi-Fi, unless you have an international phone plan.
While the aforementioned options may seem feasible in an ideal world, it is important to acknowledge that staying connected during your study abroad program can be influenced by other unpredictable factors. Some common challenges may include:
- Poor Wi-Fi Connection Depending on your location, it may be extremely difficult to
obtain Internet. If you are not able to get Wi-Fi where you are staying, hopefully there is an Internet café or
someplace nearby you can visit.
On the Sunny Side: Being removed from this constantly connected world can be a good thing. It will help you to live in the moment and soak up every moment of your experience.
- Flakey Friends and Family Sometimes it can be difficult to keep in touch with
everyone. You may be really good at keeping in touch, but your friends and/or family may not, and vice versa.
Don’t let it affect the relationship. Instead, discuss how you can improve the communication; maybe setting a
certain time each week to speak, for example.
On the Sunny Side: Not talking to some people allows you to focus on those that mean the most to you, and, in some cases, deepen other relationships.
- Time Zones It can be awfully frustrating to coordinate a Skype date or make a phone call with a time difference. It may seem impossible, but it is definitely doable. If the time change is so extreme, for example, 12 hours, consider the other forms of communication, such as e-mail, Facebook or snail mail. It may take a little sacrifice on both parts, but if both sides make an effort, you will make it work!
All in all, if you employ one or all of these methods, you are sure to enjoy your experience as a study abroad student immensely, and so will your friends and family! Take the challenges and turn them into positives, and the distance won’t seem too bad. A small amount of effort goes a long way when staying connected during your study abroad program. Fortunately, there are several options that make keeping in touch during your study abroad seamless! Pick your poison. Good luck!