Staying In Touch While Studying Abroad: Over the Years

October 11, 2022
staying in touch

Every student who considers studying abroad, no matter what they study or where they go, wonders the same question: How will I stay in touch with family and friends while abroad? Homesickness is a common concern because everyone has someone back home that they will miss. Now, with the help of technology, it’s easier than ever to alleviate that quiet longing for home and stay connected to the people we love most. However, this hasn’t always been the case!

Many of our API team studied abroad during college or high school (or both)! The team loves to share their experiences — including how everyone kept friends and family up-to-date on their travels. No matter the distance or how long ago they studied abroad, they all found ways to keep in contact with family and friends! Read on to learn more about the ways our team stayed in touch over the years. 

How the API Team Stayed in Touch

Prepaid Phones

“Things have come a long way since I studied abroad. I was in Alcala de Henares, Spain, and I had to go to Carrefour to get a prepaid phone. Here’s a picture of me staying in touch with the super cool flip phone!” -Bianca, Programming and Product

staying in touch


Snail Mail and Telegrams

“I studied in Fujinomiya, Japan the summer before my senior year of high school. I didn’t get any phone calls, just snail mail and a telegram for my 17th birthday.” -Debbie, University Relations 

studying abroad and staying in touch


“Here is my 2017 phone from Havana! We used to walk to the hotel to get cell service to use our fancy phones. I would buy a lemonade because buying food allowed us to sit closer to the Wi-Fi signal!” -Anna, Enrollment Management

stay in touch while studying abroad

“I studied in London at the end of my undergrad, and studied in Rome for a summer program in grad school. We only used Wi-Fi and Skype minutes to call home on my iPad. I was very happy to be on the other side of the world, and my Wyoming family was afraid I’d never come home!” -Brody, Curriculum Development 

staying in touch

Internet Cafés

“Here I am with some friends on the API program to Grenoble in 2006. I purchased phone cards at the local tabac to use on my first generation cell phone included with my API program. This was the early days of Facebook, so I definitely spent time at the local internet cafe checking Facebook and updating my text-only online journal (no one was calling it a blog then!) During the last week at my host family’s home, they installed dial-up internet and thrillingly, I got to send one email home before departure.” -Chelsea, Pedagogy and Curriculum Development

stay in touch

Dial-Up Internet

“This is me in my room at my host family’s house in Dijon, France. We had dial-up internet, so I could email, but no cell phones. We had phone cards, pay phones, and paper maps. It is amazing how much cell phones and wifi have changed travel. Cell phones were around when I was in France, but it was more like the ‘carphone’ era when not many people had them. I remember being in a phone booth, and a group of French teens walked past waving their cell phones at me laughing!”  -Carolyn, Student Success

stay in touch

International Phone Plans

“I went to Leeds with API in Spring 2019! I used my cell phone timer to take this picture at Kirkstall Abbey, and while I had an international plan on my smartphone, my favorite challenge was finding and mailing postcards to my family from every place I’d been. My favorite postcard was from a village called Mildenhall in the southeast of England because my grandfather was stationed there with the U.S. Air Force exactly 50 years before I visited. I think it was his favorite postcard, too!” -Kelsi, Enrollment Management


“I studied abroad back in the day (no cell phones and no email) at the University of Reading in England, so I sent many postcards home. If we wanted to call family, we had to use a payphone. The photo on the left is from spring break travels in Europe and on the right is our amazing house – there were 17 of us from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College living at 141 Whiteknights Road!” -Tina, University Relations’

staying in touch

Local SIM Cards

“I studied abroad twice during undergrad. First, I went on a faculty-led summer program for cultural anthropology in Tanzania in 2014, and then on a provider program in Copenhagen for the 2014/15 academic year. Our faculty told us not to bring phones on our Tanzania program, but we all did anyway! Though without any international plans. In the village where we spent most of our time, one time a group of us snuck off to pay a local family to use their internet! 

In Copenhagen, I had one of those phones you could rent for the semester. Between the fall and the spring, I switched to a rented local SIM card–much easier than having two phones! Pictured is the lion in front of Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen–the key to the castle is in the lion’s mouth, but of course, it’s impossible to actually get out!” -Emma, Customized Enrollment

stay in touch


“I sent a lot of postcards to friends and family while living abroad; the man at the on-campus post office knew who I was by the end of the semester! This is me and my best friend from my high school in Baku. She came to visit me in Morocco from Europe during the last week of my program. This is us exploring Fez on the last day, completely unaware of the fact that we were very late for our flight that afternoon!” -Veronica, Customized Enrollment

As you can see, when it comes to staying in touch, a lot has changed over the years! From telegrams to pay phones, there are so many ways people have kept loved ones close while studying abroad. More recently, technology has made it increasingly easy to stay in touch with friends and family while traveling internationally. With video chat and instant messaging via wifi, your loved ones are only a click away, making it so much easier to handle homesickness. 

It’s possible to keep in touch! Now that you know you can keep in close contact with home while abroad, you’re ready to find a program that is right for you! Not sure where to go or what to study? Let us help! 




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