Many of you may be in that exciting stage in your pre-study abroad journey where you are collecting any and all information you can about things to do in your host country, planning trips and collecting the many documents and gadgets needed for travelling. This blog is for those of you who are stuck or overwhelmed by the thought of having to get a new cell phone, because dealing with those cell carrier salesmen isn’t stressful enough! Below you will find 3 definitive cell phone options for your months abroad and some things I’ve learned in my time abroad in London.
Using your US phone
This may seem like the best option for your situation, and it very well may be. I have friends who decided to do this while they were abroad, they were the ones who live off free Wi-Fi and only correspond with family through Facebook messenger or WhatsApp. I am not saying this option is bad at all, but it is definitely the most stressful. Some things to consider when you are wandering a new city is the very probable situation of getting lost, in which case you would have to find a storefront with Wi-Fi in order to communicate with anybody. It is now required for students to have a working phone number within five days of arriving in your host country so that CEA can call you in case of emergency.
Warning: These plans can get expensive! International phone plans vary depending on your carrier. T-Mobile now offers an international plan for $55/month, but then you may have to consider switching providers and that too can get expensive. This may be the easiest depending on your situation (and how often your parents or grandma like to call you). One big thing to consider if you choose to go this route is that service quality can vary by country. Four years ago, I moved to France for a little while with an international plan, I traveled to Italy for a week and my service did not work at all. To top it off, I did not have a smart phone at the time, so there was no easy way to get in touch with family or friends, which was refreshing in its own way, but subsequently gave my mom a heart attack.
Host Country Plans
Before I moved to London, I did an unnecessary amount of research on what I would do for a cell phone, I decided to get a SIM card plan with Virgin Mobile. It was a pre-paid £15/month with unlimited everything. I could use Google Maps and Citymapper all I wanted and when I used iMessage, I could text anybody around the world because apple uses internet whenever it can. It was also a really cool novelty to have an international phone number for a year of my life. For those of you perusing the international internships, you must have an international phone number where your host country boss can contact you, so this might be the best option for you. Another option that one of my flat mates thought to do was purchase a cheap phone that she could use as a Wi-Fi hotspot, kept her iPhone on airplane mode and used the hotspot and her American phone number. You can also find resources in your host country that will fit best with you. That could be renting a phone for text and call, or something like a track phone, but if you are like me, you will want to take pictures with your “third limb” and document your life abroad.
Perhaps the most important thing to do while travelling abroad is to make sure your Family and CEA knows that you are safe and enjoying your time as an international traveler and learner.
Hanna Neitzke is a CEA alumnae and is CEA's Marketing Coordinator. She studied abroad with CEA in London in the Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 semesters.
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