There are many different ways to communicate while you are abroad. The best form of communication will depend on you, your interests, and the country where you'll be studying. It is important to stay in touch with your family and friends, but not to the extent that it interferes with your experience abroad. Start talking with your family and friends now about the frequency that you'll be able to communicate with them. Make sure to consider the cost of international communication, both in terms of time and money, when having this conversation.
Emails can be used to send group messages to your friends and family. Continue to monitor your Elon Email as campus offices will still send communications to your Elon account.
Cell phones can be purchased in the country in which you will reside. If you decide to get a cell phone, the GEC strongly suggest that you research a pre-paid system in which you buy a certain amount of time. Generally, local calls and international calls are charged at two different rates per minutes. You may also want to consider whether your US cell phone can be activated for international use. Elon does not recommend any specific provider, but some companies that past Elon students have used include The Carphone Warehouse, Piccell Wireless, Cellhire, and Vodaphone.
Calling cards can be purchased in-country and used to call back to the US. If you purchase calling cards in the US, make sure it can be used while abroad. US 1-800 numbers are NOT toll-free abroad.
VoIP can be used to make telephone calls from a computer to a computer, landline, or cell phone. Past study abroad students have recommended using programs such as Skype.
Blogs are a great way to stay in touch with all of your friends and family all at once without spending a lot of time composing individual emails. Two popular blog sites that allow you to set up your own page are WordPress and Blogger/BlogSpot (note: this link may redirect you to log in via your gmail account if you are currently logged into one). For more blogging sites and tools, check out Mashable's Top Free Blog Hosts or WebUpon's Ultimate List of Blogs.
Social media sites like Twitter or Facebook have been recommended for quickly updating a status or postings pictures for friends and family to see. While we don't recommend updating your status constantly, social media sites like these will notify your friends and family on your behalf as post new materials.
Be conservative with the information you release on blogs and social media sites, especially regarding location and personal information such as your address, phone number, date of birth, and any financial information. Review and customize your privacy settings for your social media sites, understanding the inherent risks of publicizing information online. Check out these location-based social media safety tips for more information and instructions on how to adjust your privacy settings.
Receiving packages abroad can be complicated by customs and varying postal services from country to country. Many students have reported that receiving packages abroad is not worth the effort it might take to collect them.
Make sure you balance your time abroad and communication with friends and family back home. Don't miss out on opportunities that exist only while you are studying abroad!