Many if not most students purchase cell phones while abroad for a semester or year, or even a 4-6 week summer program. Your US cell phone may work abroad, but you will pay big fees for using it. Cell phones abroad are usually inexpensive and you can usually get a "pay as you go" plan whereby you buy minutes for the phone. To use a prepay phone to call internationally, you will need a calling card (credit or prepay), which can be easily purchased at airports, stores, kiosks, post offices, small grocers etc.
2. Calling Cards
You can call the US by contacting a US operator and by using international phone credit cards such as AT & T, Sprint or MCI. You will need to contact the provider regarding the access code to reach an English-speaking operator. Check rates prior to departure so that unexpected fees do not surprise you.
3. Prepaid Phone Cards
Pre-paid phone cards are available in most countries at airports, kiosks, groceries tobacconists, post offices etc. They are usually the cheapest way to call home and generally afford more minutes per dollar than pre-paid cards for use in the U. S. Sometimes cards purchased in one country cannot be used in another.
4. E-Kit and ISIC Connect: E-KIT
Hostelling International's E-KIT and ISIC CONNECT are message and phone services some study abroad students use. The E-KIT is available to anyone and can be found here. The ISIC CONNECT is for purchasers of the ISIC Card. These services allow your friends and family to call an 800 number in the U. S. and leave voice mails for you to retrieve while overseas. You can also make long distance phone calls to the United States.
5. Internet and Skype
Internet cafes are widely available overseas. You pay for the time that you use the services. Most of your program providers and/or host universities have computers and internet service for students. However, remember that time spent emailing is lost for interacting with the culture, so try to limit your time online and spend time getting to know the country and its people.
SKYPE is a wonderful option for communicating with visual and verbal contact. It is free and can be downloaded for free to your camera-ready computer. As long as you and the phone call recipient have SKYPE accounts and you both are online, you can call family and friends and see them as you speak. Many Internet cafes have this service as well as telephones on which you can you're your calling cards for international calls. Skype also offers "Skype" dollars for discount calls to telephones abroad from your computer.
6. Social Media
Facebook and Provider equivalents and blogging are wonderful means of communication. That said, don't use these media as a means of avoiding contact with the culture. Limit your time online and get out and integrate into the host country. If you do set up a blog, please let the OIE know as we are looking to provide Rider students with access to student generated information about our programs and destinations.
Bringing your laptop overseas is a great idea for making your life easier. However, you should be careful to consider the following:
Protect against loss, damage or theft by insuring your computer before you go. There are locks that attach a laptop to a desk; check with a computer store for information and purchase.
Electrical currents are different as are electrical outlets and the plugs that fit in them. Check this handbook under "Travel Essentials" for information about voltage. Buy a voltage converter AND the necessary plug type (they usually come in sets for all countries) for computers. Computer stores, RadioShack and Best Buy sell both, but be careful to get the correct converter for computers.