Since communication options can vary dramatically from country to country, Summer Abroad advises checking with the instructor or the Program Specific Guide for advice about what might be the best option for your particular program.
Calling the U.S. from Abroad
Many U.S.-based long distance phone companies provide special services that make it easy for you to phone home from abroad. Some provide toll-free access numbers that connect with an operator in the U.S. Some provide the means to charge long distance calls to a credit card or to a third party. Some provide better long distance rates. Others provide access to emergency, medical, legal, translation, and entertainment information. Students are encouraged to investigate these options before departure and to shop for the best services and rates.
Global Cell Phones
Most cell phone companies can sell you a special global cell phone with the option to add more minutes as needed. Also, most cell phone companies can unlock your cell phone for global use, but this requires a trip to a provider at your destination who will give you a SIM card and sell you minutes. Check with your cell phone provider for more information. Global cell phones are also available through travel agencies and online. Be sure to check the policies for both incoming and outgoing calls and text messages.
Cell Phone Rental
Some students choose to rent a cell phone that works at their destination. Some companies will ship the phone directly to the student in advance of the program dates—and include a packet for sending the phone back when they return. Interested students can locate service providers via the Internet.
Many travel agencies and specific phone providers carry great options for phone cards. Check the rates available from your long distance provider. You can often buy phone cards on site.
Skype is a computer program that you can download for free that allows you to talk (for free) on the phone over the Internet with anyone else who has Skype. Go to www.skype.com to download the program. For an extra fee (as low as .02 cents/minute) you can enable your Skype to call land lines instead of just other computers. You will need a microphone and headset so that you can talk to the person on the other line. Skype also includes a chat option for instant messaging.
Instant Messaging Systems
Instant messaging systems are also a great free way to communicate with people back in the states. There are numerous options for messaging systems from AOL Instant Messenger to Yahoo Messenger. Just about every messaging program can be downloaded for free online.
Computer and internet access varies by program. Information for your site will be listed in your Program Specific Guide.
Internet access is offered in all the countries we go to, but the reliability of it differs from program to program. Internet can be accessed through internet cafes. Some programs also offer access through the dorms or on-campus computer labs. Internet cafes are very reasonably priced and often times have various instant messaging programs installed and headphones available to chat with loved ones. Relying on internet cafes may reduce worry of bringing your own laptop with you. You can upload pictures at most internet cafes, but remember due to the speed of some connections, it may be a better idea just to bring multiple memory cards to avoid spending your whole day on the computer.