Undergrad students are often encouraged by everyone in their lives to drop everything and spend three months in Europe during their junior year. College grads who chose not to take the leap across the Atlantic Ocean for a semester abroad speak about it with a glassy look in their eyes and regretfully talk about how they “would totally do something like that if they’d had another chance.”
But what happens when everyone and everything you’ve ever known is a plane ride away? Or when you have no cell phone service and limited ways to talk to family and friends back in the United States? In an age where there is a need for constant connection, how do we cope?
Spring Semester at Sea 2020 attendee, Emmy Jacobson, told VALLEY how she stays connected while on a boat on the other side of the world.
“I email everyone, it really isn’t bad,” says Jacobson. “When I email my mom, she usually responds within a minute anyway.”
Between texting, email and social media, staying in touch with your friends while abroad seems easier than ever; however, accessibility to stay in touch with friends through wifi-powered services might not be available.
“For me, it is pretty difficult because I don’t have full access to social media and texting,” Jacobson says. “If people are willing to send me emails, then it is much easier to keep in contact with them because I have full access to my email.”
Since the Semester at Sea program involves frequent traveling and moving around, Jacobson rarely finds herself somewhere with cell service. Thus, she recommends communicating via email; or rather, sea-mail.
“If I was studying abroad in Europe or a country where I had full data or access to my phone, I wouldn’t have any issues keeping in touch with everyone back home,” says Jacobson. “It isn’t as hard as it seems to be away from data. It’s actually been really nice to have a little social media cleanse.”
As beneficial as a social media cleanse can be in terms of staying in the moment, the reality is that it’s still a tool to connect with everyone. Being removed from that access can make being across the world feel a little isolating.
Unfortunately, it can be tricky and expensive to text and FaceTime friends and family internationally. For those who aren’t constantly going from country to country, there’s another solution: WhatsApp.
The WhatsApp website describes the messaging tool as an app “with a laser focus on building a messaging service that works fast and reliably anywhere in the world.” Many students who spend extended periods of time abroad use this as an alternative to SMS messaging.
If you’re studying abroad and have any more tips on how to keep in touch with your friends back home, tweet us at @VALLEYmag on Twitter.