Many students tell us that the scariest part of studying abroad is being away from friends and family for so long. “I talk to my family every day! How can I live without talking to them every day for a week/month/semester!??”
Take a breath, slow your roll. There are tons of communication options in today’s globalized world. Lets break them down.
- Phone – The basic tool for communication. While in Italy, I brought my iPhone. Though I suspended my data and cell package, I could use local wifi to text my brother and friends for free. Some U.S. cell plans have international options you can purchase for the duration of your trip. For me to call home, I got a cheap (~$15) local phone and SIM card from my university. It was an affordable option and I could even text/call my friends in Italy, too.
- Laptop/Tablet – Other great communication tools. Facebook, Blogs, Google Voice, E-Mail, and Skype are all grand options. You can call for free using local wifi and post pictures/blog posts for friends and family following along back home. I kept a blog so my family could keep up with what I was doing and I didn’t have to email daily with updates.
- Letters/Postcards – How often do you write a letter? Maybe take a minute to write a letter to your family and friends. Remember that feeling when you open your mailbox and you see a letter? Who doesn’t love that? Plus, they can keep the envelope with all the foreign stamps/postmarks or postcard as a souvenir! Win/win!
There are TONS of ways to keep in contact with family and friends. But here’s the kicker. You won’t necessarily WANT to talk to them every day. Crazy I know, but hear me out.
When you’re dancing around London, or walking through the Colosseum, maybe hiking in Australia, you’ll be immersed in a plethora of new and noteworthy. And you’ll love it, you’ll get sucked in. And before you know it. you’ll have too many experiences to share and talk about. You won’t have time to call everyone, everyday. And when you try, you’ll find you’re missing out on some of the best stuff. You’ll realize that constantly being in contact with home keeps you from truly appreciating the richness of your host culture. You may even find that calling home makes you homesick, keeping you from enjoying the bangers and mash or the gelato or the Mona Lisa.
Don’t misunderstand, it’s good to catch up with Mom and Dad when you can. Just make sure to manage expectations. Will you call twice a week? Once a week? What days? Don’t forget about the time difference! Taking time to think this out in advance will help you set some parameters. Friends and family will know when to expect your call, and you won’t feel guilty about calling too much or too little.
Regardless of how much you may or may not communicate, don’t let any lack of communication scare you out studying abroad. With today’s technology, you will easily be able to call home. At this point, it’s just a matter of how much you will call home. And that’s a pretty cool problem to have. Now get off of your computer and go see some stuff.