Modern technology has made keeping in touch with family and friends while abroad much easier and much quicker -- perhaps sometimes too easy and too quick. Be certain to give yourself time to experience your time abroad before calling, emailing, or blogging.
With that said, here are some tips on communicating during your abroad experience.
The International Office will only use your IWU email address for email communication. You must keep your IWU account open and clear to accept messages. You will probably have less access to the internet abroad than you are used to; try to get into the habit of using email less frequently over the summer to help you transition.
Some study abroad programs require that students have a cell phone abroad (and students on the IWU London and IWU Spain programs are given pay-as-you-go phones to use for the duration of their program), but we strongly encourage all students abroad to have s working cell phone with them for use in an emergency.
Perhaps the easiest -- and least expensive -- cell phone option is to purchase a simple pay-as-you-go phone when you arrive in your host country. These phones are generally inexpensive, provide you with a local phone number and good rates for texting, and never surprise you with triple-digit phone bills at the end of the month. However, they may not offer good rates for international calling and generally don't have all the features of today's smartphones. When your program ends, you can often donate these phones to local organizations.
Another alternative, if you have a global phone that is unlocked, is to purchase a local SIM card when you arrive. Again, this will give you a local number and good rates for local calls and texts. It is also possible to purchase SIMs for many smartphones.
It is also possible to take your current phone with you, so long as it is a global phone. However, you will likely need to change your calling, text, and data plans, and the international plans offered by many US carriers tend to give good rates for making or receiving international calls (e.g., calling the US from the UK), but not for making local calls while overseas (calling someone in the same city as you).
Finally, if you have a smartphone while abroad, we suggest you turn off all push functions and data roaming, and use the phone only when you have a wi-fi signal.
Phone cards with access numbers overseas are one of the cheaper options for calling home. Look into offers from the standard companies (MCI, Sprint, AT&T) or global calling card providers (Zaptel, IDT, Ekit).
Of course, the least expensive form of communication is to use a video chat service like Skype.
Communicating With Your Family
Email and cell phones allow students to keep in closer touch with family and friends back home than ever before. There is a good side to this, but it is possible to overdo it so that you focus too much on home to the detriment of your experience abroad. Consider writing frequent letters and postcards, which can be reread and kept as a record of your time abroad. Letters allow you to keep in touch while giving you space to grow in your encounter with a new culture.
Plan family visits to your study abroad site during official vacation periods when you are free to spend time with them and not during the academic session. Visits by family or friends do not count as acceptable excuses for missing class sessions or exams.