In this era of modern communication, staying in contact is easy when using email, smartphones, and social network applications. While relying on the internet to utilize these tools in our daily life is normal, unfortunately, internet is not always as reliable in other parts of the world. Make sure you have a plan and discuss what and how much communication is expected between you and your son or daughter while he/she is abroad. Organizing a schedule where you video chat every Sunday evening is an example of developing a plan that works for some families.
Keep in mind that while staying in touch with your son/daughter while they are abroad is important, it is also important to encourage them to step out of their comfort zone and fully immerse themselves in their study and life abroad. Too much communication can sometimes hinder the student experience because it is almost like the student never left. Study abroad and the experiences students have abroad allow them to grow and develop wonderful character traits and skills. These traits and skills develop most when students are fully immersed and focused on their study abroad. Discussing a 'communication plan' with your son/daughter will allow your family to determine the communication expectations for everyone
Here are various vehicles of communication to keep in touch with your son or daughter while they are abroad.
There are cheap (sometime free!) applications available for download on your smartphone, if you have one. Popular text message 'apps' include WhatsApp and Viber. As long as you and your son/daughter are connected to wifi you can text one another for free.
International Cell Phone Plan
Check with you cell phone provider (e.g. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile) and see how much their international calling and texting plans cost. It is worth exploring the option just to see if it's within your son/daughter's study abroad budget.
Your son/daughter will continue to receive and check emails from North Central College while they are abroad. With that being said, email may be the most convenient way to communicate with your son/daughter because he/she will be checking their email anyway.
You can download Skype for free online. After creating a username, you can add contacts (like your son/daughter!) and instant message and video chat them for free! As long as you are connected to the internet, you can have hour long conversations at no cost to you. You can even call land-line phones and cell phones using Skype. The Skype application can also be downloaded onto smartphones and used whenever you are connected to wifi.
Similar to Skype, Google Hangout is a free online feature for those who have a Gmail account. As long as you are connected to the internet, you can instant message and video chat your son/daughter for free! You can even have multiple-person video chats if several people in different places all want to chat together.
Social media like Facebook and Twitter are great to keep in touch with your son/daughter, if he or she uses these sites. Not only can you send messages (similar to email) and send instant/chat messages to your 'Facebook friends,' your student can post pictures and status updates to keep you up-to-date on everything they are doing. This is a great way for you, as the parent, to also post pictures and status updates to keep your son/daughter up-to-date on what is going on at home.
Twitter is great to send short and quick messages to a wide audience. Following your son/daughter on Twitter will allow you to see their experiences abroad. You can post pictures on Twitter and even send direct messages to specific Twitter friends.
Yes, this still exists! Whether they admit it or not, your son/daughter still appreciates a nice handwritten letter. If you want to send your son/daughter a letter or care package of their favorite snacks back home, have them provide you with their mailing address.
As fun as it is to receive a box of goodies and favorites from home while your son or daughter is abroad, we are hearing more often about packages being held up in customs overseas. Sometimes the only way for your son or daughter to retrieve the package sent to them is to pay a fee. These fees can be anywhere from 10 USD to 100 USD (maybe more!) depending on the size of the package and its contents. We suggest refraining from sending packages unless it's absolutely necessary.