Keeping in Touch While Abroad

Before studying abroad, nightmares of not making friends in Australia and losing my friends back home filled my sleep. Neither version of my nightmares came true, but at the time I didn’t know how to stay in the loop with my American life while overseas. Many students studying abroad report fears about keeping in touch. Here are five tips that make keeping up with your American family, friends and news easier.

1. Postcards and Packages

Studying abroad is a great excuse to practice the art of snail mail. Sure, sending a quick Facebook message is cheaper. But how cool is it to receive a melty Snickers in the mail at the exact moment you start missing American sweets? While receiving postcards and packages from home is exciting, it’s nothing compared to the excitement family and friends will express when they open their mailboxes to items post-stamped by your host country. Since packages can be expensive to send over long distances, postcards are a great affordable option. Plus, they become keepsakes you’ll find magnetized to your friends’ fridges when you return.

2. Modern Technology

You probably already use technology every day to keep up with family and friends. However, when you’re overseas it takes on a new significance. The novelty of Skyping across a 13 and a half hour time difference never wears off. One of you is Skyping into the future and the other into the past. When you can’t communicate face-to-face you’ll also  find your creativity in your use of technology expands. You’ll discover the video message and call features of Facebook and every way imaginable to send photos in real time. Mundane things like the price of a coffee are also suddenly worth Snapchatting. Can you believe how expensive this drink is in the U.K.?

3. Front page, News page.

When overseas you’ll find it’s often as challenging to keep up with American news as it is to keep up with friends and family. While some students prefer not staying in the news loop, for those of you who do there is a simple solution. Set the home page of your web browser to an American news  source. While in Australia, my home page was set to The Washington Post so every time I got online I could click headlines or breaking news that drew my attention.

The same advice applies if you’re looking to keep up with American sports or entertainment. Your home page will pop up every time you get online, allowing quick access to the information you desire. You can also make use of American television stations’ live-streaming or online videos since you won’t be able to access those channels in your host country.

4. Change the Conversation

While abroad, you’ll find many of your conversations with friends and family revolve around your activities and experiences. Remember to ask friends and family about their lives as well. Though they may think your daily experiences are more interesting overseas, keeping up with their activities is important to maintain a strong relationship. After all, both parties are missing out on sharing their experiences with each other in real time. Staying invested in friends’ and family members’ lives will make the inevitable transition home easier. Don’t be afraid to ask silly questions like what your friends or family had for dinner either. Sometimes this brings about the best stories and it’s entertaining and educational to make comparisons between meals, music or other pastimes in your home and host countries. You’ll find living overseas doesn’t only teach you about a new culture, but it informs your understanding of American culture as well.

5. Share your Experience.

Consistently updating friends and family at home can be demanding. You may be tempted to do a massive photo dump only once a month or be intimidated to continue after falling behind on a blog. Scheduling a small amount of time each day for public (or private) life updates can keep you accountable to your intended project. Try updating your journal, blog or photo album every night before bed or every morning as soon as you wake up. Keep in mind these methods of sharing your experience will not only inform and entertain those at home, but they will become a valuable reminder of some of the most formative weeks, months or years of your life. All of the above tips will help you maintain contact with friends, family and American news while abroad. But forming these habits will also help you stay in the loop with your host country when you return home. For now, enjoy your time abroad and keep in touch!