Keeping in Touch
Thanks to today's technology, parents and students can keep in touch almost constantly. When students study abroad, this is a major change. While there are ways to keep up the contact, we like to remind parents that daily contact will keep your student from maximizing his/her personal and academic growth throughout the study abroad experience. If you can set up a time to talk once a week, you'll find that you not only have more to share with each other, but you'll also give the student some room to grow and develop.
Calling long distance can be very expensive, and there are many different options for keeping in touch with your son or daughter while he/she is abroad. Some students choose to get cell phones while they are overseas. Other students who are abroad for shorter periods of time choose to use calling cards and/or payphones.
During pre-departure orientation, students are advised to consult their cell phone provider to fully understand the options available to them with their US phone, overseas. It's important to know that if a student uses their US phone overseas, they can incur outrageous roaming fees simply for having the phone on. Many students now use smart phones, specifically the camera function. We recommend students confirm with their cell phone provider that it's ok to take the phone as a camera, with the data turned off.
Abroad Calling Cards
Calling cards bought abroad to call internationally can be purchased in many stores and can be very inexpensive.
US Calling Cards or Operators
Cards using American operators can be purchased before going abroad. Be aware of hidden charges incurred when calling from a hotel or phone or when using a foreign operator.
This can be very expensive, because fees are charged for the use of abroad operators and services as well as an expensive rate per minute.
Calling your student directly from home may be the easiest option. Public phones in other countries may be very confusing and unclear. AT&T, MCI, and Sprint offer discounted rates for international plans. It is usually cheaper to call from the United States than to call from abroad to the US. It is recommended that students and parents arrange a day and time to place a phone call.
Depending on the country, students may be able to use an international SIM card on your US phone. Or they may be able to rent or buy a phone and pay as they go in the host country. In this case, it will almost always be cheaper for the student to receive a call from you, rather than to call the United States. Same goes for text messages!
*To dial an international call: Dial 011 + Country Code + City Code + Number
Talking Online: Video chat, email & free calls
Email is the best form of communication between family members. In most cases, it is very easy and inexpensive for students to find computer access, wherever they are. In addition, it may be easier to reach your student by email rather than by phone if they are traveling.
We are beginning to see increased interest in blogging among study abroad experience. This takes the place of mass emails, which can sometimes become unwieldy for a student to manage. A blog is effectively an online journal, free and available for viewing by the whole world. Platforms like Blogger, WordPress and tumblr are effective for sharing news with friends and family all over the world. Many of our scholarship recipients are blogging to fulfill their hours of service to our office.
Another free service provided by multiple programs, such as Skype.com and GoogleTalk. Both require internet and a microphone, and a webcam if you would like to be able to see your student as well!
Skype and Google Chat offer free computer to computer calls. If you have an iPhone, iPad, or Mac computer you can FaceTime for free or send messages through iMessage using WiFi. Additionally, Viber and WhatsApp are free apps that you can download for your phone to either call or text internationally for free.
Visiting Your Student
Consider visiting your student while he or she is abroad. Yes, really! This is a great way to learn about where your student is studying and a good opportunity to travel to another country. Also, your student will be very appreciative to see familiar faces while abroad. Please try to arrange your visit to coincide with your student’s vacation times or after the program has ended. Your student will be more readily available to travel and will not have to sacrifice academic achievements. Learning about your student's host country is a great way to begin to understand his/her experience.