Navigating Your Digital Options for Study Abroad

Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa

As of November 2012, American college students choosing to study abroad was at an all-time high, according to CBS News. During the 2010-2011 academic year, 273,996 students studied abroad to help expand their worldview, and many of those students are taking clever digital gadgets, gear and apps to help them navigate. Some students choose to take fewer electronics to avoid losing an expensive tablet or smartphone. Plan your digital strategy while abroad long before you board the plane with help from these stellar ideas:

1. Send Text Messages for Savings

One adventurous communications option is leaving your tablet or smartphone at home and buying a pre-paid phone once you arrive at your destination. With use of a pre-paid cell phone, or your smartphone if used in a limited capacity, avoid the high costs of using international minutes when talking on your cell phone. Consumer Reports recommends supplementing phone calls with brief text messages to help keep costs down, noting that Sprint offers the best text price at $10 per month of unlimited international texting.

2. Use Your Laptop to Stay in Touch Using Email, Facebook and More

If you know you will have consistent and easy access to Internet service with your laptop or a public computer, you have many communications options. Send emails, post to your Facebook wall or private message, tweet, create a blog or use Skype once you return to your dorm, hostel or host family’s residence. Using these types of communication platforms gives you the chance to write more detailed descriptions of your trip and send more photos and videos.

3. Protect Yourself From Identity Theft and Fraud

When traveling overseas, you may rely on credit cards more than usual. However, keep your guard up when using them. A criminal could easily manage to take a look at your credit card number while you make your purchase at the counter. They could take your number, gather your information and wreak havoc on your credit record. Identity protection services such as LifeLock prevents you from becoming a victim of identify theft and fraud by monitoring your identity, and sending you regular alerts regarding its monitoring results. The service also alerts you and takes action when it detects suspicious activity regarding any of your accounts. Check out some of their informative videos on LifeLock TV before you depart to get helpful tips to prevent criminals from getting your sensitive information in the first place.

Here are some more tips regarding where to stay, safety considerations and helpful reminders:

1. Hostelworld

For those exploratory treks away from your dorm room on campus while abroad, you will need a place to stay, or several places if you’re staying in multiple cities. USA Today College recommends Hostelworld to find the best student-friendly accommodations. Find guest reviews and information about security, cleanliness, cost, shared or single rooms and more.

2. Gauge the Safety of Travel Destinations Before You Set Out

Visit Travel.State.Gov, a service of the Bureau of Consular Affairs, to make sure your destination is hospitable to visitors or not either due to weather, natural disasters or civil unrest. While there is no app for this website, it is good to check updates and news releases frequently.

3. What to Do in Your Home Abroad

If your travel abroad takes you to Europe, take a look at Sandeman’s New Europe website to learn about walking tours of your favorite cities for a little exercise while taking in the sites and learning something new.

4. Stay Healthy and Trim Away From Home

If you thought the “Freshman 15” was bad, wait until you see how much you can pack on with French pastries, real Italian gelato, German cream puffs, Indian Gulab Jamun and more. Use your favorite food and exercise tracking apps or mobile websites like My Fitness Pal to monitor your caloric intake and physical activity to keep yourself on track. Use your diary app as a guideline so you can enjoy all exotic delights in moderation without having to buy new pants during your stay.