Using technology abroad: Six tools that make communicating super easy

I must preface this post by saying Pamplona has a great wifi system. Most of the city parks and public spaces (indoors and outdoors) have free, unprotected wifi. I am very lucky to have this kind of access. I am still without a phone in Spain, and the internet is the only way I can communicate with people in and out of Spain.

But I’ve been shocked by how easy it is to communicate electronically. Using an iPod touch and iPad (iPhone users, you can also use your phone abroad on airplane mode to avoid data charges), I have been able to communicate with everyone I needed to in a timely and cost-effective way.

With the addition of just a few new applications and using applications I already did in slightly different ways:

Skype calling and video chat: I found it very helpful to buy some Skype credit to call landlines and cell phones for only about $0.04 a minute. Skype video calling is great to communicate for friends and family when you set up times to talk to them, but I’ve found that it this is a great way to call my bank, my home university or my parent’s cells if something comes up last minute that I need to call them about.

Text Plus: This is a mobile application for your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. This app gives you a phone number with an area code of your choosing. You can then message friends and receive messages from this number whenever you have wifi. The interface looks very similar to text messaging on an iPhone. The application can automatically sync all of the contacts you have in your device. But the best part it, you can then give this number to friends/family you want to have it. I told my friends to just replace my regular phone number with this new phone number for the months, while I’m abroad, so they can text me just as easily as they could when I was in the states. I also use this to communicate with friends in Spain as well. Most students studying abroad get prepaid phones, where text messages can cost anywhere from $0.08-$0.15, so this is an economical way to text people. There is a free version available on iTunes and a $0.99 version sans advertisements. My roommate and I both bought the ad-free version, so I’m not entirely sure how obnoxious the ads are, but I think the $0.99 is worth the investment.

TextPlus Calls: This is a free application in TextPlus line. They give you 10 free minutes of calling, much like making a Skype call. It’s a good first step, if you aren’t ready to buy Skype credit.

FaceTime: This video chat application for apple devices works much like Skype, but it’s easier to get in touch with people while they are on-the-go. I’m busy, and my friends are busy. But we both find that we have random stretches of 15 minutes while we are out and about with nothing to do. This is an easy, free way to chat for a few minutes.

Facebook: I designated all of the friends I really wanted to stay up-to-date with as a “close friend,” so I automatically get a notification whenever they post something on Facebook. This makes it easier to keep up on friends lives’ without spending lots of valuable time perusing Facebook.

Twitter: I haven’t used Twitter more than I normally would to connect with friends at home, but I have found it to be a valuable resource to connect me to Pamplona. Someone in Pamplona runs a twitter account called Pamplonahash. This account retweets every tweet that has #Pamplona. While not all the texts are relevant. I also changed my account to show me trending topics in Spain, rather than the U.S.. Following this account has taught me a lot about how Spaniards use Twitter and tipped me off about cool events happening around the city.

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