Study abroad


Pre-departure Links


Keeping in Touch with Home

Keeping in contact with friends, family, and significant others while studying abroad can be challenging in some ways, because it will be different from how you normally communicate. You will want to maintain a balance between keeping in touch with home and interacting with your host culture, including new friends, new classmates or roommates, and possibly a host family.

Calling long distance can be very expensive, and there are many different options for keeping in touch with your family while abroad. Some students choose to get cell phones while they are overseas. Other students who are abroad for shorter periods of time choose to use computer calling programs, calling cards, and/or payphones.

U.S. Cellphones Abroad
During pre-departure orientation, students are advised to consult their cell phone provider to fully understand the options available to them with their US phone, overseas.

It's important to know that by using your U.S. phone abroad, you can incur outrageous roaming fees simply for having the phone turned on. Many students now use smart phones, specifically the camera function. We recommend students confirm with their cell personal phone provider what the options are for taking their phone abroad, and if so, how to ensure the “data” is turned off to reduce high fees that can occur.

Getting a Cellphone Abroad
A very affordable (and local!) option is to rent or buy a pay-as-you-go or prepaid phone in your host country. This is a very common option for students going abroad for a semester or academic year and eases communicating with other students in your program or country. The process for ‘recharging minutes’ will vary by country.

In this case, it will almost always be cheaper for you to receive a call from the U.S., rather than to call the United States. The same will apply for text messages.

Receiving Direct Calls
Receiving calls directly from home can be an easy option for staying in touch. Public phones in other countries may be very confusing and unclear. AT&T, MCI, and Sprint offer discounted rates for international plans. It is usually cheaper to call from the United States than to call from abroad to the US. It is recommended that students and parents arrange a day and time to place a phone call, taking into consideration the time difference.

How to call the U.S. from abroad:

Post-Arrival Check-In
Upon arrival, it is a good idea to send a quick e- mail, text message, or social media post to notify your family you have arrived and that you are safe. This will help ease family anxieties.

If you do not have immediately accessible means of doing so, do not tell your loved ones you will call them upon arrival. You will likely need time to settle down, get oriented, and “get connected” either by computer or phone. Tell family and friends them that you will be in touch them as soon as you settle down.


Study abroad can be a time of learning, growing, and fun, which will likely be filled with making new friends, attending social events, trying new food, and exploration of cultural and historical sites.

We experience so much during this time abroad, our first instinct is often to immediately “share” our experiences – be it via social media or elsewhere. While it’s important to document your time and capture these memories, it can also be extremely helpful to disconnect and be present during your study abroad program. This does not mean you should stop taking photos altogether or close your Twitter account, but remind yourself that by managing your “connectedness” you can become more aware of the amazing things happening all around you and more readily able to engage in this new culture.

Email is the sometimes the best form of communication between family members. In most cases, it is very easy and inexpensive for you to find computer access. While internet speed might impact video chatting, email is less likely to be affected. Some students will write bi-monthly email updates to a list of friends and family to keep them informed. Also, if you are traveling, it may be easier to reach Marquette or your family by email rather than by phone.

We are beginning to see increased interest in blogging during the study abroad experience. This has taken the place of mass emails, which can sometimes become unwieldy for a student to manage. A blog is effectively an online journal, free and available for viewing by the whole world. Platforms like Blogger, WordPress, and tumblr are effective for sharing news with friends and family all over the world.

Free Video Chat and Calling
There are many free services provided by multiple online programs and applications, such as and GoogleTalk. Both require internet and a microphone, and a webcam if you would like to be able to see your family as well as talk to them.

Skype also offers free call from computer-to- computer.

Sending Text Messages
The following are smartphone or internet applications which allow users to send free text messages to others who have downloaded the same application.

Remember, wifi is often free while abroad but, again, beware of turning on your phone’s data settings at the risk of incurring very high fees!


Photo of students smiling

Office of International Education

OIE works to promote the internationalization of Marquette University by recruiting and advising international students and scholars, developing vibrant partnerships with international institutions and providing innovative study abroad opportunities.
Office of International Education