Cell Phones & Communication

Share your experience while abroad, but don’t forget to be present in the moment

Communicating with family and friends back home is important, but should not consume your time abroad.

Access to wireless internet (Wi-Fi) will likely determine how much you can communicate for free or affordable prices. Across borders, Wi-Fi is a luxury and not assured. It may cost €20/hour in your Paris café, or be free in your Beijing hostel.

Before you leave, do some research online, ask questions, and keep reading.

Tips for communicating while abroad

  • Check your phone plan rates for international calling, texting and data before you leave. (They can be really expensive!) Make sure you understand how much data you regularly use before buying a data package.
  • It’s cheapest to put your phone in “airplane mode” and rely on free Wi-Fi, especially for short programs.
  • Spending all of your time on electronic devices chatting with friends back home will make you more homesick and take time away from the present.  Remember you went abroad to see and experience new things!
  • Try to only use your laptop/cell phone when you really need to for class or updates back home. Spend your free time exploring your city, people-watching, journaling, etc.
  • Cell phones and laptops can be attractive to thieves. Be discrete when using them and be careful where you store them.
  • Stay in touch with IUI on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
  • Inspire other students to study abroad! Tag your photos with #IUIabroad and #GlobalJags for a chance to be featured on our social media. 

Cell phone apps for staying in touch

If you bring your cell phone and have access to Wi-Fi abroad, here are applications to consider:

  • Skype allows video calls, voice calls, and texting for free while connected to Wi-Fi. You can also add money to your account and call land line or cell phones phones directly from the Skype app cheaply.
  • Viber also allows video calls, voice calls, and texting for free. Your Viber ID is your phone number, so there’s no need to make an account name.
  • WhatsApp is for texting and messaging, not audio calls. It connects to your phone’s messaging system, showing alerts. The app costs $1 per year.
  • Facebook Messenger can work at home or abroad for messaging and file sharing.

Remember, both you and the person with whom you want to connect generally must have the app installed and open when you’re trying to connect.

And technology is always innovating and changing, so do your own research as well. 

For more on this topic and other important travel information, please review the Pre-Departure Handbook.