How to stay in touch with family and friends while abroad
To stay in touch with family and friends while you study abroad is often harder than it seems. First, there is the time difference. Then, there is so much to do and explore. And third, a combination of both: You finally have a few minutes to squeeze in for your loved ones at home… and you realize its 3.00 AM back home right now. Here are some ways, how to stay in touch with family, like letting your parents know that you are alright and keep your friends up to date about your adventures while you study abroad:
Skype is a great way to call your friends and family and even videoconference with them. As Skype is for free to register and Skype users call each other for free, make sure that your friends and family have an account and know how to use it, before you go. If you study abroad for a longer period and your grandpa, parents or even friends are not that tech-savvy or don’t have internet, consider buying a SkypeIn number with you local home area code. Then your “old-fashioned” acquaintances can just call that number, pay the local fare and you answer the call on your computer.
FaceTime allows video calls between the following Apple products: iPhone, Mac, iPod Touch, iPad, and iPad Mini. As long as you are connected to WIFI, you can FaceTime for free to other Apple devices all over the world.
Google Voice or Hangouts
Google Voice is similar to Skype and best for 1-on-1 calls to anybody with a gmall account. Google Hangouts are a great tool, when you want to connect with a larger group and have a conference-type call. Get up to 9 friends connected and you and your buddies can catch up with each other no matter where you are at.
WhatsApp is a very popular text message and video call app that allows you to send free text messages to everybody on your contact list, who also downloaded the app. It is not free, but the $ 0.99 for a whole year are an affordable way to stay in touch with your friends.
Viber offers the same functionality as WhatsApp, but is known to have better Video call quality than its competitor. However, fewer people use Viber, so it might be beneficial to download both apps.
Social Media is a great way to stay in touch with family and friends back home, as well as connecting with your new friends from abroad. But we all know how Facebook, Instagram and Co can be a big time sink as well, so instead of living in a virtual parallel universe, go out and experience your host country and connect with IRL (in real life).
Instead of sending mass emails to hundreds of people to keep them up to date on your adventures abroad and risking your email account getting suspended, you could set up a blog to document your time abroad. If you like to write and post pictures, blogging can be a great way to share your stories with you family and friends and lets you keep in touch while you study abroad. Of course, you can set up your own website on your own domain (which is easier than you think), but for newbies there are many easy to use blogging sites out there, such as Expat Blog. Just register and start writing. I wrote my own here on my own website, and I still look at my entries and pictures and think of the amazing times I had in China.
Email, Post Cards & Letters
Good old fashioned emails, post cards and letters are also a great way to stay in touch with family. So go ahead, send your grandma a post card, will ya?
No matter which option you choose, always remember that staying in touch is important while you are living abroad. Otherwise you will come home to some very angry and mad family members and friends. Remember, they are excited for you and want to know, what you are up to and what you are experiencing. And they worry a lot and think about the things that could happen to you, so let them sleep better and let them know you are alright!
How to stay in touch with family – image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/philwolff/4582276033
My best friend just went to study abroad in China. When she’s home, we talk everyday and its hard keeping in touch while shes away.I told her that she should blog when she got a chance and upload pictures so we could see them! But I still feel like there’s something missing. I didnt know of any cell phone company that could help me stay in contact with her. I did some research to see if I was wrong. In doing my research, I came across Tracfone. They have a plan that’s their international calling plan. I went on their website and found out how to call her. Once she responds to my email with her phone number, we can talk and talk!
Here’s how you do it:
1. Dial 1.800.706.3839, the access number for TRACFONE International Long Distance (From Alaska, Hawaii, and the U.S. Virgin Islands please dial 305-938-5673 instead).
2. Choose the desired language (1. English 2. Spanish) Listen to the instructions. After selecting language dialing instructions can be interrupted any time and you can skip to sep 3.
3. Dial 011 + city code + telephone number (For Canada just dial: 1+city code + telephone number)
Please note that if you use our FREE TRACFONE Frequent Numbers service, you will not be required to dial the International Long Distance access number. Please refer to the TRACFONE Frequent Numbers section in this web site for more information.
it’s awesome! And they offer this for over 100 countries outside the U.S. It’s amazing how they came up with this concept.
I had the same problem as a student attending school far away from my family. I found the best option was SKYPE. Cheers, N.
Hi! My best friend is studying in Austria, and we also use Facebook and Skype a lot. As a birthday present I gave her a Travelsim card, and have one for myself, so we can also make cheap international calls to each other.
Such great tips! I would like to add some more advice from my personal experience within exchange programs in different cities, then I did my bachelor. I am not sure guys, how it was for you, but the first few weeks in new country for me was really bad. I missed my family and friends a lot, so I called them quite often. And all the time I used my own old SIM card, until one of the friend advice me to buy a local prepaid card. Because I was studying in Lithuania, the best choice for me was to buy Omnitel Extra (https://www.omnitel.lt/angliskai) prepaid card. I am not sure how it is now, but at that time they had great plans especially for the Internet and it was quite cheap.