Study Abroad Student Handbook
United States United States
Center for Global Education

Communications While in the U.S.

In this section, you will learn how to communicate better with a program's administration, family and friends while you are in the United States. When looking at a study abroad program in the United States, see if it has a 24–hour communication contact person both in the United States and in the United States. With the advent of the "information age," there now exists more than just one way to communicate internationally.

1. General Information

The U.S. Department of State offers the following additional information on Communication in the United States. For more complete information, please visit the Department of State.

Free Online Video Calls: The most common way that students and loved ones keep in touch is through online video calls, which are offered by a number of programs and should be free as long as both parties have access to the program from their computers or mobile devices. Video calls are satisfying for both families and students to bridge the long-distance gap during a student's time abroad.

email

E–Mail: Electronic Mail is probably the least expensive and easiest method of communication for people in different time zones.

cellular phone

Cellular Phone/ Landline Phone: Cellular phones have become more common and less expensive around the world. Although local calls may be inexpensive, international calls may have a high cost. If your program is a semester-long or more, it may be helpful to purchase a prepaid phone in the country of your choice. Phone cards can also be purchased in some countries to refill minutes if you run low.

You can use international calling cards from your cell phone! Make sure you check your available minutes.

It is important to know the telephone numbers for the program administration in the country of your choice and in the United States both during business hours and in case of an emergency. A regular telephone number may be provided to you while in the country of your choice, so be sure to relay this information to your contacts at home if they need to reach you or your program administrator. The sample Emergency Card includes phone numbers that you should have with you at all times. Some U.S. phones with international capabilities can also be used in the country of your choice if you choose to bring it from home as well.

For calls from the U.S., the caller must dial the U.S. exit code, "011". Each country has a country code, which is then followed by the local number, which may also require an area code. For example, a call to a landline in the United Kingdom from the U.S. would be dialed 011-44-??-????-????. The number of digits may vary, especially if you are calling from a cellular phone.

For calls to the U.S., the caller must dial the local exit code, which may vary. The number is usually "0" or "00". Again, this may vary depending on whether the call is made from a landline or a cell phone. For more information, check out HowtoCallAbroad.com.

Texting: Cellular phones have become more common and less expensive around the world. Although local calls may be inexpensive, international calls may have a high cost. Short text messages sent from a cell phone may be a less expensive way to communicate internationally, provided the person you are messaging can receive text messages on his/her cell phone. Some multi–band phones that can be used in the United States can also be used in the country of your choice.

international calling card

International Calling Cards: The most reasonable way to communicate between the United States and the United States may be through the use of an international calling card, available through various companies/providers. You can also purchase calling cards in the United States.

Social Networking: Students in study abroad programs often post their photos on social networking sites to share amongst their program's peers and with those at home. Sharing pictures and posting highlights from time abroad can be a cherished keepsake both during and after students complete their program. Social networking is also the most popular way that students keep in touch with other program participants later on. Some networking sites have chatting capabilities as well.

fax

Fax: In case phoning is not possible, a program's offices in the United States and in the United States may have a fax machine available for communication.

snail mail

Mail: (Regular or Express): Postcards and letters are still an important and inexpensive method of communication. For those documents that need to get there faster, there are many companies that provide fast international mail delivery. Before you go abroad, it is important to find out the mailing address for both your program's administrative offices in the United States and in the United States, as well as your own mailing address (at your residence or administrative office when available). The national mail system of the United States and other countries may not be as fast as the U.S. mail service, so allow for extra time when mailing from abroad.

wireless PDA device

Wireless/PDA Device: Known as Personal Data Assistants or PDAs, and other wireless communication devices may be another way to communicate while in the United States. You will need to ensure that the device you purchase in the United States will work while you are in the United States.

satellite phone

Satellite Phone: Although still a very expensive alternative to regular or cell phones, satellite phones may be an effective method of communication in parts of the United States where communication is extremely difficult, or in the case of emergencies.

2. Relevant Questions

  • What is the telephone and fax numbers (regular business hours and emergency after hours) for your program's administration office both in your home country  and in the United States?
  • Do you know the address of your program office in your home country and the address of your place of residence in the United States?
  • Have you given out all of your contact information (e–mail, phone and fax numbers) to your emergency contacts in your home country and in the United States, as well as to family and friends?
  • Have you kept a record of everyone to whom you have given out your address, and asked them to alert you before they send you anything in the mail?
  • Will you need a cellular phone while in the United States?
  • If you plan to bring your cellular phone or other wireless device, will it work in the United States?
  • Where can you get the best deal on calling cards, in your home country or in the United States?
  • Does the mail service in the United States tend to run faster or slower than mail in your home country (i.e. how long will it take a standard letter to get to your home country)?
  • Can you register for next semester's courses from your home country , or can you have an advisor register for you?

3. Checklist

  • I know all the important telephone and fax numbers and addresses of people at home and in the U.S. who serve as my emergency contacts.
  • I know the address and telephone number for my residence in the U.S.
  • I know how my calling card plan works and how to use my card to call home.
  • I know where to buy a cell phone in the U.S. in case I need one.
  • If I bring my cellular phone or other wireless device, the wireless service will work in the U.S.
  • I have created an internationally accessible e-mail account address.
  • All of my emergency contacts both at home and in the U.S. have all of my contact information.
  • I know how the mail service operates in the U.S. (efficiency, costs, etc.) and what to expect when mailing items.
  • I have a list of everyone to whom I have given out my contact information.
  • I have asked those to whom I have given my address to tell me before they mail me anything.

4. Resources

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