I’ve only this week started to feel any pangs of homesickness. My little sister turned 16, and it’s hard not to want to be at home, celebrating her day with family. Thankfully, we have so many ways of staying in contact with home these days, and so I could contact home and still feel a part of the birthday celebrations.
T-Mobile Phone Plan
I have a pay by the month plan with T-Mobile for my iPhone, and for $10 extra a month I get free texts messages to international mobiles and free calls to landlines. There is a limit for how many, but for the occasional text or short call back to Australia it has been working really well. I have a feeling AT&T has a similar plan available, and it’s definitely worth asking about.
Viber is a phone app, available on nearly every phone platform that allows you to send free texts and call via wifi. Unlike iMessage, which requires other users to also be using an iPhone, it doesn’t matter what you have - the message will be free. You can also send pictures. If you don’t have wifi I believe the calls are made through your 3G/4G network, so you will be charged a little, but it’s still a great nearly free option for staying in contact with friends and family wherever they are.
Whatsapp is similar to Viber, except you can’t make calls. Again, it’s available on a variety of platforms. I don’t use it much, but you can send videos with it, and also group text – great if you have a group of people to stay in contact with (even if it’s just your parents and siblings).
Ahhh, Skype. As well as being perfect for making video calls between computers (regardless of which platform you use), you can also Skype call with your phone. Be careful if you’re not on a wifi network though, because the video can suck your data allowance. Skype also allowed you to charge money to your account, and then make calls to international landlines for far cheaper than from a real phone. There’s something wonderful about seeing people’s faces too, as well as the environs of home. My sister’s toured her clean bedroom with me, and dragged the cats meowing onto screen to say hello.
Facetime is an app on iPhones, but you can also install it on iPads and Apple computers. So, theoretically, you could be walking back from class and get a Facetime call on your phone from home, and say hi then and there with video in the street. I don’t use it an awful lot, as I’m pretty good with Skype, but an exchange friend of mine loves it, as her mother always has her iPad around, and it’s a very easy app to use.
Finally, a website great for checking time differences and coordinating all these phone and video calls: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/meeting.html
Though the world is incredibly large, and the distance between home and DC may seem intimidating, technology does help make you feel just that little bit closer.