Avoiding the Phone Bill Blues

“It’s for you!”

Without a doubt, it will be helpful to have a cell phone while abroad.  You’re going to be making a lot of friends, and you’ll want to meet up on the weekends or after class.  You’ll also want to maintain contact with family members and loved ones while you’re away.  As a generation that has grown up on cell phones and text messaging, it’s second nature for us to simply reach for our phones whenever we want to get in touch with someone.

But having a cell phone abroad is a bit different than having one at home—for the vast majority of gap students, you won’t be on a family plan, so unlimited calling and texting isn’t really an option.  You’ll have to be smart about what kind of phone you use (and how to use it) in your host city, in order to avoid the phone bill blues.  Consider the following:

Using a PicCell phone
Aspire by API programs (except those in Costa Rica) offer participants the option to use a free mobile phone from PicCell.  Students order their phone online before they leave, and provide a credit card for billing purposes.

  • Pros: Incoming calls are free with PicCell, so if you want to talk with friends or family from home, you can just call them quickly and have them call you back (or better yet, arrange a time to talk beforehand online).  Plus, the rates on these phones are negotiated, so they are often cheaper per minute than pre-paid phones or buying an international plan for an American phone.
  • Cons: Because you only get billed once a month, it’s harder to keep track of how much you’re spending.  If you’re always on the phone here in the US and you don’t think you’ll have the discipline to limit your phone use, don’t use this option!

Using a pre-paid phone plan

You can also plan to buy a pre-paid phone when you arrive on location.  This option allows you to buy the cheapest model out there (my cell phone in France cost about €20—and looked like it came straight out of the 90s), and then buy credit as you need it.

  • Pros: You’ll still be charged per minute, but you’ll be more aware of your spending habits this way.
  • Cons: If you don’t have any minutes in an emergency situation, you’re out of luck, and if you don’t speak the host country’s language well it can be difficult to figure out which plan is right for you (and even how to use the phone!).  Also, some plans make you buy a certain amount of credit per month in order to keep your SIM card activated, which can end up costing a lot in the end.

Should you call or text? Phone companies charge you differently depending on whether you place a phone call or send a text.  Generally, texts are cheaper.  So, before you call all of your friends in town, think about why you are calling and whether you can get the message across more efficiently via text.  Are you just going to tell everyone to meet up at a certain place?  Text them.  Are you asking a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer? Text them.  On the other hand, if you need to talk about something that’s a bit more complicated, it might be more cost-efficient to call rather than send 10 texts back and forth.

Keep it to-the-point When you do need to call, keep in mind that the phone company rounds up to the nearest minute.   This means that if you talk for a grand total of three minutes and one second, they’re going to charge you for four minutes.  That might not sound so bad on paper, but in practice it can add up pretty quickly.  So try to keep calls as short and direct as possible… save the chatting for when everyone is together at the café.

Use social networking whenever possible This one is pretty obvious, but it still needs to be said: if you’re at home or in the API office, using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter (heck, even email if you prefer that) is free and just as effective as a cell phone when it comes to making plans.  Utilize features like group messages and instant messaging to get in touch with your friends, and save your minutes for when you’re out and about.  Skype and Gmail video chat will also allow your friends and family at home to see your face every now and then!

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May 17, 2021 @ 15:30
API is hiring! We are looking for a Learning Management System (LMS) Administrator to join our growing company.

The LMS Administrator is a member of the Programming team, responsible for providing technical support for the learning management system.

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May 10, 2021 @ 16:02
You still have time to make summer 2021 your best summer yet! ☀️Discover Costa Rica, Italy, and Ireland, or explore virtual programs from anywhere in the world. We also have new programs right here in the U.S.! https://t.co/bHLxwD4oYy. #studyabroad #ispyapi #apiabroad https://t.co/DwrxtieZIy APIabroad photo
Apr 29, 2021 @ 18:30
👋 Hi everyone! I'm Eryn Fleener a senior at DePaul University in Chicago, studying Early Childhood Education. I studied abroad with API Summer 2019 in Florence, Italy! I will be taking over API Instagram tomorrow, make sure you follow along!
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