Things you take for granted in the U.S. like unrestricted, affordable internet and telephone access will most likely be more difficult to come by in your student’s study abroad destination. While keeping in touch can provide a good perspective on how students are progressing while studying abroad, constant communication may actually not be beneficial in facilitating intercultural competency.
Students must leave a phone number with the Center for Global Studies so they can be reached while abroad. Also, communication methods will be agreed upon in advance in order to minimize costs. For example, students may want to consider contacting their phone service provider to arrange for a calling card, research internet phone options (i.e. Skype), or learn the most inexpensive way to call collect or wirelessly from the destination country. They may be able to select an international plan that has reduced calling rates to that particular country to minimize costs of calling home. Given the cost of telephoning, it might be better to set up a regular schedule for e-mailing or instant messaging, instead.
A note on international calling: The following is the usual dialing procedure for international calls from the U.S.: 011 (international access code) + country code (usually 2-3 digits) + city code (usually 1-5 digits) + local number. The “0″ that must be dialed at the beginning of a city code from within a country is dropped when dialing from outside the country.
Additional tips regarding international calling and telephone access:
Long distance calls are less expensive over a landline. Host families may not be amenable to students using their home phone.
If accessing a U.S. bank account through an ATM card, the following is recommended:
- Contact your bank about special procedures such as an international PIN number (i.e. 4-digit numbers only)
- Designate a family member to have access to the account from the U.S. in case of access problems
- Link ATM cards to checking (and not savings) accounts
- Students should bring a duplicate card along with them in case the card is lost
- Contact your bank to notify them that the card will be used internationally.
Calling centers (often in the same building as internet cafés) generally offer land lines at low rates, which students can use to place international calls. Pay phones work for incoming and outgoing calls and are much more prevalent in foreign countries.
A note about cell phones: Most students will want to purchase a cell phone when they arrive in their host country to use for communication while abroad (cell phones are provided on certain programs). These are generally available for purchase with a pay-as-you go plan. Incoming calls on a cell phone will usually be free. Parents may wish to contact their telephone provider and purchase an international calling plan for a small fee so they can easily call their sons/daughters directly from their home land line. Remember that student cell phones will most likely work when traveling outside his or her host country, but may encounter limited service and increased roaming charges.
As with access to telephones while abroad, e-mail accessibility varies by program. Generally, students do have access to e-mail, but rarely to the degree that they are accustomed to at Tusculum College, or at home. Many overseas cities often have Internet cafés that provide web access; however, this too, may be costly. Students may, therefore, consider purchasing a pass for a certain number of hours that makes using the computer/internet less expensive. E-mail access is certainly an important way for students to keep in touch with family and friends, but too much time online may actually interfere with their cultural integration.
A note about laptops: While a laptop is by no means required to study abroad, many students find it to be very advantageous. First, students will not need to spend money at an internet café to do simple word processing (i.e. for school papers, assignments, etc.). Additionally, it is an excellent way to upload and store digital pictures without having to worry about storing them on an internet site or deleting them from a memory card.
It is not necessary that students purchase a new laptop immediately before studying abroad, but bringing a slightly older model may be useful. Students may want to think through the pros and cons of bringing a laptop with them in order to determine whether it would be beneficial during their time abroad.
Shipping and mailing
Students should not plan on having items shipped to them while abroad. Packages are often lost or held up in customs, which requires students to pay significant taxes on their items. NEVER ship medication to students, as this is highly suspicious to customs officials.