How Will I Live Without My Cell Phone?

Should I take my phone to Europe? We get asked this a great deal!

To take or not to take?

For high school students today, the cell phone no longer functions as merely a tool for making phone calls. As the technology continues to improve at an accelerating rate, students become more used to relying on their phones to text their friends, store information, listen to music, and surf the Internet. With a study abroad trip on the horizon, many of our students ask, “Do you recommend I bring my cell phone to Europe with me?” While one solution won’t work for everyone, we have recommendations based on our travel experience.

The primary recommendation – calling cards

ECI primarily recommends using calling cards to most students, and their local leader will have them available to sell if they are interested. The biggest advantage of the calling card is avoiding the risk of having a phone break or get stolen while traveling. You also avoid any compatibility issues or the need for a charger that works in Europe. With calling cards you dial the number on the back of the card, enter your code, and then the number you want to dial. The value on the card is used as you make calls, and you can refill the card with more minutes or purchase a new one when necessary. You’ll never be surprised by a sky-high phone bill if you’re using calling cards.

But I must have my phone!

Some students insist on bringing their personal cell phone with them to Europe. If you do intend to bring yours, make sure to check with your service provider about what steps need to be taken for your phone to work in Europe. Some modern phones are ready to make global calls, so in these cases you’ll simply need to make sure you understand the additional fees that go with calls from Europe so you aren’t surprised by your bill at the end of the month. Other phones will require that you purchase a new SIM card upon arrival in Europe to activate the phone. Your chaperone can help you with this, but it may take a few days to find a store that carries the card you need depending on where you are traveling. You’re welcome to bring your phone with you, but most students find they’re perfectly content to leave theirs at home.

Another option – a cheap phone for the summer

A third option is to purchase an inexpensive pre-paid phone upon arrival in Europe. These are very popular for young people there, but you’ll again need to be careful to have the billing rules for calls from Europe to the U.S. explained to you. They are primarily intended for local calling, so if you are making international calls you may use up your minutes much faster than you had expected.

Make sure to smell the roses!

Whatever you decide, remember that part of the experience of studying abroad is about being ready to adjust to a new situation. Students who are used to instant updates about their e-mail and facebook might miss their phone at first, but many find it’s a nice break and focus on connecting with the other students on the trip than their friends back home. You definitely will want to call home to let your parents know how everything is going, but sometimes calling all the time makes it harder to adjust to the new place and can increase a student’s homesickness. There are many options to stay in touch, but above all you’ll want to connect with the people and places you’re visiting. So, yes, you’ll be just fine if you leave your fancy cell phone behind.

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