There is a big difference between simply traveling to a foreign country and studying abroad. Studying in a foreign country requires a mix of the preparations needed for both long term living and a short term trip. You’ll stay at an apartment or a room long enough that it’s worth unpacking your clothes but probably not long enough to purchase a bunch of decorations.
So, as you prepare to go study abroad, there are technologies that can help you have an enjoyable experience. This includes staying in touch with your loved ones back home, staying safe while traveling in unfamiliar lands, and getting the most from your study abroad trip.
The Technology Essentials
Let’s get some of the commonly known essentials for foreign travel out of the way. First of which is a power adapter to charge your multiple electronics. Different countries use different styles of plugs, and outlets provide varying amounts of electricity that could fry your tech.
Having a good camera is another must have while traveling. Yes, a smartphone with a good camera can take good photos, but a digital camera can be very useful. It can take a ton more photos without taking up your phone’s storage, can often take better photos, and if it gets stolen, you still have your phone.
Finally, a good laptop is a must have for studying and life in general. Just make sure it can do everything you need for school and has a strong battery.
Your Smartphone While Traveling
Smartphones have become essential both for day to day living and traveling. But, as you go to another country, your data plan might not work. Many providers have international plans that you can sign up for that will give you access while out of the country. Be aware though, these plans might do things like charge by the GB, or just have extremely high rates.
It’s worth looking into getting a local SIM card for your phone the longer you plan to spend in a country. Many local providers have less expensive pre paid plans or short term contracts you can end once it’s time to leave. You might have to get used to not having an unlimited plan like those common back home, but it can help keep your expenses low.
WiFi calling can help lower your data and minutes usage. When at home or at a place with open WiFi, you can set up your phone to make calls solely through that network instead of your mobile one.
Finally, if you are studying somewhere with less than desirable network access, consider getting a satellite phone. While they can’t give internet access like a smart phone can, they are more reliable in remote regions and can help you in case of an emergency.
It’s common for people to study abroad in a new country to better learn the language and immerse themselves in the culture, but starting out can be very hard. Especially if you are going to a place where most people don’t speak your native language.
The key to still getting good at the local language is to only use translation software in dire situations. Relying on it on a normal basis will only limit your language skills and hurt you in the long run. Google has a decent translating ability for figuring out words and simple phrases, but getting more in depth translation software might be worth looking into.
Online and Offline Maps
Living in a new country means you are going to get lost. A lot. At the beginning, you won’t know local landmarks, street structure might not make sense, and you might just take a wrong turn and end up where you don’t want to be.
Of course, resources like Google Maps are essential. They have some of the most up to date maps online, but just check to make sure where you are going has accurate maps. It’s also possible to download a map from Google Maps so you can reference it offline, a must have if you are on a stingy data plan.
Having some of the coolest and handiest tech won’t mean a single thing if they have no juice. Portable battery chargers can give you the ability to keep your phone, laptop and whatever else you are using charged and alive.
If you are planning on doing day trips or extensive travel while studying abroad, a good portable battery could be your best friend. That way, instead of having to search for a free outlet to plug in your electronics and wait for them to charge, you can stay on the move.
Having Rugged Versions For Rougher Terrains
Every study abroad program location is different. Some places are easy living, similar to what you are used to, but other travel programs might go to rougher locations. Programs like Taste of the Peace Corps send students to third world countries and give them a chance to help. But, in such conditions, their tech is more likely to get dropped, dirty, wet, and broken.
If you are going to a rougher area, or plan to do a lot of hiking/backpacking across Europe kind of experience, look into getting strong cases or waterproof electronics.
Being Prepared To Travel
As soon as you know you are going to be studying abroad, start preparing for it. Learn as much of the language as you can, research the culture, and make your purchases. It’s a good idea to try to live a week just on what you plan on taking with you as a trial run to make sure you have what you need.
Now, technology is amazing, but you can’t rely solely on it. Bring along other long distance travel essentials and be prepared what you need to survive day to day. Be aware: you can’t bring everything, so some things like cooking supplies might need to be purchased when you get there. Plan out everything you will need to buy and what to bring long before you leave for your adventure.