Fortunately, it’s not 1982 anymore and you don’t have to light your glowing finger beacon to communicate with your family and friends while you’re abroad; though, I can’t promise you it won’t feel like another planet. So, here are 5 apps you can use instead of extra terrestrial phalangeal luminescence to “phone home” while you’re abroad.
My experience with these apps while I was abroad is limited to their usage in Germany and central Europe, but I did use each of them for different purposes. So, here’s a general description of the app along with my personal experience, and if you want to know more we’ve made it easy for you; just click the icon next to the description to find out more about that app.
“WhatsApp Messenger is a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS. [WhatsApp] users can create groups, send each other unlimited images, video and audio messages.” Source: https://www.whatsapp.com/
I found that most European students used Whatsapp to text in general (because the internet charges were cheaper than SMS charges), so Whatsapp proved useful in everyday situations in Germany allowing me to text friends with different national cellular plans free of international SMS charges.
“Viber is a leading messaging, voice and video service that lets everyone in the world connect. Freely. Users can send free text messages, fun stickers, photos, videos and doodles, share locations, make free HD-quality calls and communicate with Push-To-Talk.” Source: http://www.viber.com/en/about
Viber was great for keeping in touch with family and friends back in the states if they had the app, because I could call or text them via Viber whenever I had wifi.
3) Facebook Messenger:
“Texting and so much more. Know when people have seen your texts. Make HD calls anywhere in the world. Snap photos and shoot videos. Choose from thousands of stickers. Record voice messages. Chat with your favorite groups.” Source: https://www.messenger.com/
Facebook Messenger proved very useful when I wanted to keep in touch with someone I met while traveling; all I needed was their name.
“Skype is for doing things together, whenever you’re apart. Skype’s text, voice and video make it simple to share experiences with the people that matter to you, wherever they are… You can use Skype on whatever works best for you – on your phone or computer or a TV with Skype on it. It is free to start using Skype.” Source: http://www.skype.com/en/about/
I used Skype for work purposes. Since I was working a remotely from Germany doing research, Skype was very reliable for group video conferences, meetings, interviews and collaborations across different time zones.
5) Google Hangouts:
“One app for all your conversation. Messaging, video calls and voice calls from any device with Hangouts.” Source: https://plus.google.com/hangouts
Google Hangouts was probably least used, but my favorite thing about Google Hangouts was the platform it provides for watching a movie while having a video chat. This enabled me to simultaneously have a live video chat with someone and watch a movie (you can also have a text chat in addition to the live chat so no one “talks” during the movie). This was the closest I got to watching a movie with someone across the ocean, which was pretty cool.
So try these out while you’re abroad and let us know how you used them by submitting your comments below. Also, feel free to check out our other tips for studying abroad.
Over and out.
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