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If you're considering studying abroad, no doubt it has occurred to you that you might occasionally (or often) talk with the people you know and love back home. Communicating across continents can be challenging.
International phone calls can be expensive. As global infrastructure improves and technology advances, the number of cost-effective phone options continues to increase.
Probably the easiest way to get in touch with folks back home is through phone cards. These will be plentifully available in your host country or you may be able to find cost-effective options online before you leave.
Phone cards enable you to make calls, usually for a set fee-per-minute based on the country you are calling.
If you're only going abroad short-term, phone cards allow you to get back in touch and complete some necessary communications.
There are often fees for calling from public phones and for time elapsed after you activate the card. These fees can add up quickly and cut into the minutes you thought you'd have available for calling home.
It's important to investigate your options and determine what you're going to be charged for, and how your calling needs relate to your available options. If you're interested in exploring the costs and benefits of phone cards further, SpeedyPin.com is one provider that offers helpful information and some tips in this area.
Cell phones are an increasingly effective way of communicating overseas. While short-term rentals can be expensive, they are becoming more common and affordable.
Renting an international cell phone with a pre-paid value of calls can keep you in touch on short-term ventures abroad or longer-term studies depending on the options you purchase. Some providers offer cell phones as well as SIM cards. You may just be able to swap out your SIM card for an international version and be able to make calls from your existing phone.
While this may still result in slightly high per-minute fees for international calls, it will allow you to have a phone that can be used for local calls in your host country, which may be very helpful.There are companies where you can purchase a short-term contract for cell-phone usage. These plans often have free incoming calls. You pay for outgoing calls and text messages.
The cheapest and easiest way to communicate is through the various online options. While needing to find an Internet café or other form of access may be more difficult on short-term trips and probably won't meet your local calling needs, students staying abroad long-term typically find it vital to their continued close contact with those back home.
Instant messengers, e-mail, blogs, and all your other usual online social networking tools are great options for overseas communications.
Students are encouraged to investigate starting a blog if they do not already have one. Blogging avoids the need to send out mass e-mails to relate adventures to a large group of people. It also allows them to check in with the students, leave messages, and contribute to the experience.
If you would like to blog for UTSA, please speak with your Education Abroad Services adviser before you leave. We will arrange for you to connect your blog to the UTSA International Gateway.
Another great innovation of recent years has been the increasingly excellent communication available through Voice Over Internet Protocol.
If you and the people you wish to communicate with sign up for Skype or another similar service, you can do video or voice phone calls through the Internet.
Skype offers very affordable rates for "Skype-out" that will allow you to call regular land-lines or cell phones. Vonage and other providers also allow you to connect regular phones to the Internet.