Effective communication is a critical component to a successful study abroad experience. There are several people that you will need to maintain good communication with prior to, during, and after your study abroad experience.
Prior to your departure, you will be in communication with the Padnos International Center and your study abroad provider or host. It is essential that you do your part to effectively communicate with those who are assisting you with your study abroad preparations. Most problems can be resolved with a little creativity, planning, and patience.
Communicating with family and friends is important to consider when you are abroad. Make arrangements before you leave to call home at a certain time. Be sure to follow-through with this agreement in order to let your loved ones know that you have arrived safely. If you are concerned about being able to call the day you arrive, let them know that you will call them the following day. Loved ones at home may be anxiously awaiting a phone call and will be concerned if they do not hear from you.
While traveling, it is always best to leave travel itineraries with your host family, your main contact at the host institution, family back home, and/or friends in the country. Should a situation arise where someone needs to contact you, it is always best to leave an itinerary, so you can be contacted in the event of an emergency. If you plan to travel without concrete reservations, it is prudent to email someone or provide a general itinerary with the cities that you will be visiting.
Calling Home: Calling home from overseas can be both frustrating and expensive. Avoid calling directly from a hotel, as the service charges can be very expensive. Check with your telephone service provider to see what the cost of temporarily adding international calling will be.
Free Video Calling: There are several free or inexpensive ways to do video calls over the internet while abroad. Skype is an easy and inexpensive way of staying in touch with your family and friends. Skype is an internet service that allows you to talk to people around the world at low cost or free of charge. With Skype you can have internet conversations free-of-charge with other Skype users. You can also call landlines or mobile telephones at a very low rate by purchasing Skype credit. Google+ is another easy way to stay in touch internationally for free. Anyone with a gmail account can join.
Calling Cards: International calling cards are an inexpensive and practical way to call home or for your loved ones to reach you when you are abroad.
Generally, calling cards can be purchased at newspaper stands and gas stations but perhaps the most convenient way to find them is by conducting an online search. You will be able to compare rates and see how much it will cost to call from one country to another.
Listed below are some examples of websites where you can get a phone card. You can also conduct an internet search typing the words international calling card to find other options.
Mail: All mail should be sent via airmail. Allow 6-8 days for overseas correspondence (even longer in some countries). The mail system in your host country may be very different than in the United States. It is important to be patient and allow a bit of extra time when sending or receiving mail. Remember to visit the local post office when mailing letters to ensure you have the correct amount of postage. For students studying in Europe, please keep in mind that each country uses its own stamps!
Email: Most overseas institutions will offer email access. In the event that this is not the case, it is becoming more common to locate Internet cafes in the area. Email can be a great way to communicate with friends and family back home. Grand Valley provides all students with an email account that can be accessed overseas.