Matthew Benczkowski is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2016, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A molecular biology major at the University of Pittsburgh, he is studying abroad in Sydney this semester.
In this week's post, Matthew shares his top 6 tips for staying in touch with family and friends back home while you're studying abroad.
“Homesickness hits hardest in the middle of a crowd in a large, alien city.” – Christos Tsiolkas.
Homesickness really hasn’t hit me yet, at least I don’t think so. I have been in Sydney for three weeks, and yet it feels like I have been here for about five days because time is moving so fast. I am caught in the hustle and bustle of it all, but I still remember that my family is almost 10,000 miles away and they worry. Keeping in touch is not hard, especially in a country where wifi is easily accessible. So let me share some of my tips on how to stay in touch, not only with your family, but all your friends as well!
1. INTERNATIONAL PHONE PLAN. My number one way of keeping in touch with my family is my Australian phone. I am on a prepaid phone plan through Optus Mobile, which very conveniently offers unlimited international calling to the US. This has come in handy because you will probably not receive calls because the person calling you will get charged. When you call the US, the other person does not get charged, only the caller does. This allows you to pick and choose when to call and who to call. In Australia, I am currently 14 hours ahead of my hometown of Erie, PA, so there are limited times when I can actually call my family. I have to call between 8AM and 12-noon, or 10PM and midnight Australian time because that means it is 6PM to 10PM, or 8AM to 10AM back home. So far I have called my grandparents and my mom and dad, and because only my mom is on Facebook. Every call can last well over an hour because my family wants to hear about everything happening so far!
2. WIFI CALLING. The next best way to keep in touch is through wifi calling, like over FaceTime, Skype, Whatsapp, or even on Facebook Messenger. Where wifi is limited, this might not be the best option. I have called my sister, mom and some best friends using wifi so I can show them around (and for my mom so that she can see me as well as hear my voice).
3. SOCIAL MEDIA. A lot of you reading this currently are reading because my mom shared it on Facebook, so thank you for following along with my adventures! In general, I post new pictures to my album on Facebook about every week, highlighting my latest adventures, whether it be my exploring Bondi Beach, or just chilling with some kangaroos. I post so all of my friends know I am still alive and being adventurous as usual. Facebook Messenger is another great way to keep in touch because it is all over wifi. This also allows you to have group chats and keep in touch with your closer friends!
4. SNAPCHAT. I post on my Snapchat story for my very close friends, and I maintain a daily routine with them. Snapchat is good just to say a quick “Hello!” or “How was your day?”.
5. EMAIL. None of my grandparents have the internet, so the best way to get in touch with them is through me calling, but the rest of my immediate family has Facebook…except my dad. So, besides calling, I keep my dad updated via email. I also have been in contact with some of my previous professors and administrators over email. On some of the wifi here, emails are limited and have to be very small to send (one picture at low quality).
6. MAIL. Although unlikely in this day and age of technology, writing a letter is also a great way stay in touch. This is particularly for my grandma who has already sent me letters!
Regardless of how you do it, keep in touch, especially with your family. Remember that they are missing you while you are abroad, so give them a call and update them with everything that is happening. They will appreciate the call, and you get to talk to someone who loves you dearly. You will hear the excitement in their voice, so keep in touch any way you know how. Your family misses you, worries about you, cares for you, and is interested in all you do. Many people never got the opportunity that modern study abroad offers, so answer their questions and call often enough so you family doesn’t worry too much!
Keep in touch!
Matthew's journey continues every Tuesday so stay tuned.