Students participating in a USI study abroad program are required to have an email address. Let the CIP office know which email address you prefer to use while abroad. Make sure to check your USI email regularly for important emails or set it to forward emails to your preferred account. In countries with call centers (see below section on Telephone Calls/Calling Cards), there also may be computers with inexpensive pay-by-the-minute internet/email access in the same place.
You can access all of the major U.S. long-distance telephone carriers – AT&T, MCI and Sprint – from most countries. An access number usually is required and your long distance carrier can provide you with a small card showing the access numbers around the world. These numbers will connect you directly to the carrier’s operator in the United States and all calls will be charged directly to your calling card (or your parent’s). You may also have the option of putting the call directly on your credit card but this may be expensive. Some countries have call centers in which you can make cheaper calls home from one of several phone booths; rates and dialing codes will be posted for your reference. Another option is a prepaid international calling card. A number of international calling cards are available both within the US and worldwide. Look at several to see which provides the most minutes for the least cost.
It is possible to take your current cellular phone abroad, although it is strongly recommended to leave your U.S. cell phone behind and make calls home from a source in your host country. If you plan on taking your phone with you, you will need to speak with your cell phone company first. Even if you are told that your U.S. cell phone will work overseas, it may not. For your U.S. cell phone to work, you can either have your company change your plan to an international plan or replace your SIM card with one from your host country. Foreign SIM cards can be purchased at: www.cellularabroad.com . You also can buy them at a newsstand, mini mart, or phone company once you are in your host country. If your cell phone does not work in other countries, you can buy inexpensive unlocked phones online, or at a used phone store in the city you will be in. You also can buy prepaid cell phones in your host country. For short term rental, another idea is to rent a cell phone from an airport or online agency, such as: www.cellularabroad.com . This can cost about $30-$50 a week, but toll charges could be anywhere from 12 cents to more than $2 a minute for calls made to the U.S. Also, some programs, like CEA, provide prepaid cell phones at a cost when you arrive in your host country. Check with your program to see if a service like this is available.
Magic Jack is a calling device that makes free local and long distance calls through the internet in the U.S. and Canada. The great thing about Magic Jack is that you pay a flat fee of $59.95 and have a free phone service through the internet; you can use it abroad to call home for free. It is quite simple to use and fairly easy to set up. Here’s how it works: First, buy the Magic Jack while you’re still in the U.S. and register it at home with a local number. Then, simply bring it abroad with you, and it will still have your local number. Phone and tablet applications are available at:
There is also the option of using a laptop to call home. VoIP programs such as Skype and Vonage are a couple of programs that can be used via high-speed internet. Skype allows you to call computer to computer for free. They also allow you to call from your computer to a phone for a cheap rate. Gmail has a program like this as well, called Google Hangouts and Voice. This process is a little technical, and it might be difficult to find high-speed internet.
Whatsapp Messenger is a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS. Whatsapp Messenger is available for iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Windows Phone, and Nokia and yes, those phones can all message each other! Because Whatsapp Messenger uses the same internet data plan that you use for email and web browsing, there is no cost to message and stay in touch with friends. In addition to basic messaging Whatsapp users can create groups, send each other unlimited images, video and audio media messages. The first year is FREE! ($0.99/year after).
Another way to keep in touch during your travels is to start your own website or blog. There are several free websites where you can write about your experience and post pictures for your family and friends to view, such as:
Be cautious about what you post: if your site is open to the public, you should not include detailed personal information (full name, address, etc.) or post detailed itineraries listing your travel plans and hotels. Be aware that anything you post online is public information, so if you are doing anything illegal or in violation of University policies, you can be held liable.
We encourage you to stay connected to USI and other students studying abroad by signing up for the USI Study Abroad Facebook page. This will allow for easy communication with the Center for International Programs and allow you to stay in touch with fellow USI students who are experiencing their own adventures.
Please be advised, however, that Facebook is not accessible in China. Access may be limited or prohibited in other countries, as well.
USI Study Abroad on Facebook
USI Study Abroad on Twitter