The basics
Study abroad : Student Life

Staying in touch with home

How can you stay in touch with family and friends at home while studying abroad? Here are a few methods for you to consider, including Skype and special mobile tariffs...

Student skyping with friends and family
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Have you called home yet to tell your family and friends that you're safe and sound? Or maybe you have but your phone bills turn out to be too expensive? Are you still reeling from your first bill?

Here are a few different ways to keep in touch with friends and family at home:

 

Social media

Thanks to Facebook, Twitter and the like, staying in touch with friends, family and those we’ve just met has never been easier. Facebook is a standard network for keeping in touch with the latest goings on back home, while you can message loved ones privately through the Facebook Messenger. Similarly you can use Whatsapp and even Twitter if you can keep you message short.

Picture-messaging has become increasingly popular, especially since you can add filters and captions to make any photo jump off the screen and stand out. Try Instagram and Snapchat to capture all the mouth-watering new foods you’re sitting down to and breath-taking places you’re visiting. You can also create and share videos with these tools. Additional social media for video-sharing can include YouTube and Vine.

Have you considered keeping a blog? This could be anonymous or something you share with friends. Free platforms like Wordpress are available and mean you’ll have a digital journal of your time abroad which you can look back at years later.

There's always something new around the corner, so keep an ear out for what new social media platforms are coming up so you can jump onboard. There are likely new ones which are more popular in your study destination which aren't as popular at home, so ask about these! Try to add as many of your friends on these platforms before you leave so they don't miss out on a thing.

 

Email

Older generations such as parents and grandparents might not be on social media, but you can always stick to the more traditional email which they may be more comfortable with. Most think you need to find time to sit down and write a proper email; however you can still send quick messages while on-the-go.

 

Letter

If you want to do something special, put pen to paper and try writing a letter. While it will take longer to arrive (you can always pay more to arrive sooner), it will mean more to the recipient because of the time involved to write it. Plus it’s your handwriting which feels more personal. Include a few tiny gifts and a letter from you will certainly stand out amongst boring bills which your loved ones will usually get in the post.

 

Skype

If you miss their voices and their faces, Skype is the best way for you to communicate with your loved ones back home. Skype is a FREE software application which allows you to make voice and video calls over the internet (webcams required, of course). You can install it on most devices so you can Skype wherever you are. Oh and did we mention that it's FREE! You may have to pay a small premium to call abroad though so find out about this in advance.

All you need to do is install the free software and register for an account. Add your loved ones and start "skyping".

 

Pay As You Go SIM cards

We always recommend buying a new phone when you arrive in your study destination – it just makes things easier, and if you lose it, you’ll have a back-up. By using SIM cards and international telephone cards offered by companies like Lyca Mobile and Lebara Mobile you can call home on a much lower tariff. You can either buy these at these providers' shops on a highstreet or corner shops (or 'newsagents'). Often these companies have stands at highly-populated places like train stations. Other mobile companies such as O2, Orange, T-Mobile, or Vodafone also offer such services, but they normally come with a specific SIM card, not the general ones (e.g. your country SIM from O2 or International SIM from T-Mobile, etc.). However do your research to find out which card will give you cheaper rates to call your specific home country, rather than make a decision on the spot while confronted by a salesperson who is speaking a lot of jargon which you don’t understand.

 

Find out how American international student Emilia keeps in touch with her family at home in the States:

 

 

However if you really need to get in touch with family at home...

Go to your university (specifically the International Office). If it's an emergency or you're really homesick, you can explain this to them. We're sure that they will make an allowance and let you use their phone.

 

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About Author

Student skyping with friends and family

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.