Studying Abroad? Learn How To Stay Connected Back Home

By Justin Dennis on 7th October, 2013 | Offbeat Stuff |  No Comments

Studying abroad to have an extended time period of time - usually a semester or a year - may be one of the most rewarding experiences you have ever had, however it can also be terrifying. How will you call home as soon as you arrive? Will your mobile bill skyrocket with roaming charges? And is there in any manner you can text friends and family back home?

Fortunately, with today's technology, going abroad doesn’t mean you will need to drop off the grid completely. Depending in your phone and carrier, you are able to avoid exorbitant charges also to still have entry to local calling, texting, and data services. You can even send texts, call people, or video chat back home for free.

Trust me, having the ability to contact friends and family and family back home as if you never left is a superb thing. Especially if you have been in a country which has a different culture as well as a different language, developing a connection home can be extremely important. So let’s have a look at some of the ways that you'll be able to keep that distinctive line of communication open.

Cancel Or Suspend Your Current Service

If you’re currently guaranteed to a contract which has a wireless carrier like AT&T or Verizon, this part isn’t gonna be fun for you, however it’s necessary. You see, if you are able to’t just get up and leave for months without alerting your carrier - they’ll keep charging you for your service you’re not using, and you don’t want that. Unfortunately, the choices aren’t very great, mostly simply because they want you to use their ridiculously expensive international service.


For AT&T, you need to contact customer satisfaction and ask for the Reduced Rate Suspension. This will reduce your monthly payment to $9.99 and suspend all service in your phone. You can only make this happen for up to half a year, so in case you’re studying abroad for over one semester, this probably won’t suit your needs. Also, your contract will likely be extended for every month your service is suspended.

For Verizon, you'll be able to suspend your merchandise for no cost for approximately 90 days. You can do this twice a year, so as much as 180 days (six months) total. The same restrictions apply here: your upgrade eligibility will likely be extended and you can’t suspend for more than six months.

Of course, your best option is always to call your carrier’s customer support line and ask them the things they can do for you personally. And in the future, don’t sign a two-year contract. We have 10 reasons you need to switch to an MVNO. You can perform it easily in three simple steps, and you can save large sums of money.

If you’re not on a two-year contract, congratulations! Just quit renewing whatever monthly service you’ve been using.

Unlock Your Phone

There’s a great deal of misinformation on the market about unlocking your phone, and I’ve met many people who thought their phone was already unlocked if this wasn’t, or that their phone couldn’t be unlocked in any way.

The truth is, your phone can be carrier-unlocked. If you bought it unlocked, much like the Nexus 4 from the Play Store, then congratulations! However, in the event you bought it from the carrier, it's usually locked compared to that carrier.

Unfortunately for Verizon and Sprint users, your phones are powered by the CDMA network, not GSM, this means they probably won’t are employed in the rest of the world. Some of their phones are “world phones” this will let you SIM card slot, whereby they work like GSM phones, but it’s more probable that they’re locked on their specific carriers. You may want to consider a cheap off-contract phone.


If you’re an AT&T or T-Mobile customer, you’re lucky, simply because they use GSM phones like the rest of the world. If you’ve been in contract for some time, such as more than 3 months, your carrier probably will unlock it in your case. Just give them a call and ask for your unlock code. They’ll need your IMEI number - a unique identifier for your device - and then they’ll supply you with a code specifically on your device. Once you pop in your SIM card, it’ll prompt you for your code. After it’s entered, your device is unlocked.

If you only recently purchased a device or your carrier will not unlock it for a few other reason, you can still get it unlocked through services like Most of these services charge $10-$40 to get a code, but when compared with buying a fresh phone to make use of while abroad, that’s pretty good.

Find A Local SIM

If you utilize your existing SIM card in a very foreign country, you operate the risk of paying international fees. Depending on how long you’ll be out of the house, it’s probably far better to bring it along with you but remove it from your phone and be determined by WiFi connectivity when you initially arrive.

There are things such as international SIM cards, but those are expensive and often meant for people who are constantly hopping from country to country. The cheapest option to get a student surviving in one country to get a few months is to purchase a local SIM card. Unfortunately, the SIM card options vary from nation to nation, and that means you’re best off researching whatever country you will likely be going to and finding a low priced prepaid plan.

What kind of plan you will need depends on simply how much you plan to work with your phone and in case you have entry to WiFi. If you’re a whopping smartphone user and may have limited access to WiFi, you’ll wish to find a plan with unlimited talk, text, and at least 2 GB or 3 GB of information per month. For instance, in Sweden, Comviq provides a the Fastpris plan (unlimited talk and text in Sweden and 3 GB of data) for 245 SEK each month, which is about US$38. This is actually a much better offer than lots of the prepaid plans in the US. They also give you a 145 SEK plan that's the same but only 200 MB of knowledge for those who don’t use much data or that have constant access to WiFi.

Other countries offer similar plans. For instance, within the UK, 3 comes with an All-In-One plan add-on for £15 (US$24) which includes unlimited data, 3000 texts, and 300 minutes, or you might get the £10 add-on which offers the 100 minutes, 3000 texts, but only 500 MB of information.


If you’re visiting a country in places you don’t speak the word what, Google Translate will be your friend. Try going to the Google website for your chosen country (i.e. for Spain, for France, etc.) and searching for prepaid plans. If you’re using Chrome since your Web browser, it is going to even automatically translate any websites you visit. It’s not even close to perfect, nevertheless it should be enough to provide you an idea of what plans are offered.

Also, take note of what sort of SIM card your phone accepts. Most older phones only accept a regular SIM, newer phones use Micro-SIM, and thus far, only the iPhone 5, 5S, 5C and Moto X use Nano-SIM. If you buy a SIM card from the carrier, the cool thing is a standard SIM card with the ability to be popped out in to a Micro-SIM. However, Nano-SIMs are harder to find, and also you may have to specifically request one in the carrier. Pictured above is an ordinary SIM using a Micro-SIM which is able to be popped out from your center.

Find A Messaging Service

The easiest method to keep in contact is to work with whatever service your pals and family are already using. For a great deal of people, that’s Facebook. The Facebook Messenger app helps it be just as an easy task to message someone mainly because it would be for you them a text message, plus you'll be able to see if they’ve read it and use all those adorable stickers. But if friends and family are on Whatsapp, Viber or Skype, use whatever will likely be most convenient for you personally.

Something you will wish to set up prior to leaving, though, is Google Voice. Since it is only obtainable for US users, you should configure before leaving to go abroad, since it’ll need a word confirmation out of your American number. However, once it’s create, it is possible to use it out of your phone or any browser to send text messages back home and call people (out of your computer).


On a telephone, Google Voice provides for texts sent over your data network or WiFi, though the calls go through your regular phone network, and that means you won’t be able to call someone home. You also won’t be able to make calls from, although you'll be able to send sms. Actually, it is possible to only make calls back home for free through the use of Google Hangouts - not the telephone version, just the browser version accessible through Gmail or Google Plus. Type in any American phone number and it will call over your WiFi connection making use of your Google Voice number, and nobody has to pay anything. Yes, I know that it’s confusing, and I hope that soon Google will unify Voice and Hangouts and their messaging services into one easy app. But for now, itrrrs this that we’re stuck with.

For video chat, Skype and Google Hangouts work effectively over WiFi. In fact, I would reason that Hangouts surpasses Skype.


The Internet is fairly amazing. We can move 1000s of miles around the world and still stay in contact with all of our loved ones back. Travelling and studying abroad is definitely an incredible experience, but having the ability to contact your pals and family home is a comforting reassurance when you’re in an unfamiliar place.

And since you’re now a world traveller, don’t forget to look at our 8 tricks for travelling using your tech.

Do you might have any other strategies for communicating across borders? What countries are you considering venturing to this particular semester? Let us know within the comments.

Image Credits: Shutterstock 1, 2, 3, 4, Penn State/flickr

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