Cole Taylor is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2016, sharing their story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A journalism and media writing major at Lasell College, they are studying abroad in Dublin this semester.
In this week's post, Cole shares their favorite free apps that will come in handy if you're studying abroad in Dublin.
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When you think about study abroad, typically you are thinking about the paperwork, what to pack, what it will be like when you get there, etc. One thing you do not usually think about, or at least I did not, is smartphone apps. Which apps can help make your Dublin study abroad experience even better and more effective?
Check out the 10 apps that I find to be both entertaining and handy while abroad.
1. GOOGLE MAPS. Google Maps has saved my bacon several times since being in Dublin. Some people use the pre-installed GPS on their smartphone, but I found that Google Maps is more effective and user-friendly. When you open the app, it immediately prompts you to type in a destination and upon doing so, it will show you possible options of transportation in the lower right hand corner; bus, walk, car, or train. It also shows you in minutes how far the destination is from your current location. For Dublin travelers, this app is highly recommended because typically you will travel by bus quite often. When you select the bus option, a drop down list will appear with different bus numbers and routes that will get you there and how long it will take. In my opinion, I have yet to find anything negative about using this app. As long as you have data on your phone, it is the saving grace of all navigation apps.
2. DUBLIN BUS. The two best words to describe the Dublin Bus app would be the following: real time. This app is extremely helpful when using the bus system. The app allows you to do several things including: plan a route, calculate fare, view timetables, receive Dublin Bus news, etc. The Real Time Info tab will prompt you to select one of four options: search by stop number, search by route, search by address, or stops near me. Personally, I use this app almost every day whether it be after work, before work, grocery day, or to run an errand, this app is beyond helpful. By using one of the real time search options, you can find out when the next bus will be for the route you are seeking. For those who have not been to Dublin, this is a big deal. Buses come and go quickly and sometimes there are large gaps of time in between buses you need so with real time information, you can be prepared. Between Google Maps and Dublin Bus, you cannot go wrong, but if you do, you can always get back on track.
3. WHATSAPP. Whatsapp is beyond user-friendly and allows you to keep in touch with family and friends while using your data—you can use it on wifi too! As long as the person you are attempting to contact has Whatsapp downloaded on their phone, you can talk to them when and wherever! It is nearly exactly the same as iMessage or text message. In Whatsapp you can send pictures, create group chats, make calls, share documents, and even record voice memos. Once you download Whatsapp and set it up, your contacts will sync to the app, but only the contacts who use Whatsapp will appear in the contact list. You can send people invites to Whatsapp too! Some people prefer Viber over Whatsapp, but Whatsapp is more popular and hardly ever fails. Sometimes it reconnects when it loses service, but it is incredibly rare. I find Whatsapp to be one of my favorite apps while abroad especially because my dad does not have an iPhone. Since he does not have iMessage, it makes communicating much easier. I even have a group chat set up for my immediate family so we can stay in touch and send pictures, memories, and random messages. If you have data and want to text while you are out and about in the city, Whatsapp is the way to go!
4. INSTAGRAM. While I realize I do not need to explain Instagram to an advanced depth, I must say it is a recommended app while abroad. Facebook is cool, yeah, but with Instagram you are limited to pictures only and those are the things people want to see. Not to mention all the awesome filters. With Instagram, you can post a picture to multiple social platforms at once and it makes things that much easier while avoiding the thousands of features from Facebook or Twitter. Instagram also allows you to tag CAPA (#CAPAStudyAbroad) in your pictures and they just might share your photo! It may all be a preference thing, but it really is an app you won’t regret using while abroad.
5. RYANAIR. This is a highly recommended app to have downloaded onto your phone as soon as you arrive to Dublin - or Europe in general for that matter. Ryanair is an airline that flies throughout Europe at very low rates which makes traveling easy and enjoyable while abroad. It is completely user-friendly and gives you the accessibility to check into your flights, see your boarding pass, manage your trips, book hotels, rent a car, and check the status of flights. The amazing thing is you can book a flight right from your smartphone! Browsing low fare flights is a good time because Ryanair presents you with opportunities to see the world even on a budget. The only warning I have about Ryanair in general is they do not accept digital boarding passes and they will not print them for you. You MUST arrive with your boarding passes printed or you will be charged 45 euro for not checking in on time. Yes, this happened to me but lesson learned. Always print both of your flights if it is a round trip. It will save you time and money. The Ryanair app is incredibly handy and I support their slogan: “Low fares. Made simple.”
(PS - Read CAPA Dublin alumna Lily's guide to surviving Ryanair!)
6. CANVAS. Canvas is especially useful for students attending Griffith College in Dublin. Canvas is similar to the platform you may use at your home institution for checking emails, assignment updates, calendars, announcements, etc. At my school back at home, we use Moodle! Griffith College also uses Moodle, but Canvas allows you to check your course syllabi, calendar events, to do lists, notifications, messages, and you can even check your grades. It can be very handy while on the go or even if you are on the bus and forgot the time for an event. It is right at your fingertips. Canvas is easy to use and is secure with a username and password. I recommend it with reservation depending on how often you check up on things.
7. MINT. Traveling abroad on a budget? Let Mint keep track of all your expenditures for you. Mint is a financial/budgeting app with countless features, yet displays all you need to know on one page. Mint allows you to do easy budgeting, check your credit score, receive alerts and advice, categorize your finances, track investments, and it is safe and secure. The amount of information you enter on Mint, is totally up to you. The most useful part of Mint, in my opinion is the categorization. By separating your expenses into categories, Mint will display where your money is going and how much is going toward one specific category such as food or travel. Mint is simple to set up and is at the touch of a button. It is important to keep track of your spending while abroad because sometimes you can get carried away when wrapped up in the fantasy. Also, Mint keeps you up-to-date so you will almost never miss any changes that are made. Download Mint before you go abroad to get used to it and set yourself up for a successful and reasonable semester.
8. XE CURRENCY. XE Currency does not need much explanation but is highly recommended if you are concerned about or interested in currency exchange rates. Often when traveling, the currency will be different and it is important to know what you are spending. The app has a simple converter for a quick answer. XE Currency also allows currency transfers if you ever need to do so. Another useful tool that the app offers is a travel expense calculator. With the calculator, you can track your expenses while traveling abroad. The tool uses historical rates to calculate foreign exchange charges so you won’t have to. I recommend this app with reservation because I find it fairly easy to track money and currency exchange rates just by looking it up on Google, but for some, this app is handy.
9. HOSTEL WORLD. The Hostel World app is incredibly useful, especially on the go. If you are in another country or need a hostel in an emergency, Hostel World is the way to go. Alternatively, you can book hotels on the Hostel World website before your trip! Hostel World is designed to filter hostels by location, price, review, and preference. Not only is it easy to use, but they send you updates and reminders so you can stay on track with plans. The app also allows you to view photos of hostels which helps put your mind at ease when selecting the place of best fit. Currently, Hostel World has 33,000 properties in 170 countries. It is by far the most simple hostel sorting app and makes searching for a comfortable place easy and enjoyable.
10. COUNTDOWN. The Countdown app is definitely a preference thing. Personally, I find that it is helpful for remembering when your trips are and it is a fun way to count down the days to your next trip. Countdown allows you to personalize each event by adding a photo, text, color, etc. For example, I am going to Paris soon so I have a countdown set up with a picture of the Eiffel Tower. It is not a way to wish the days away but rather to get excited for your upcoming events! I recommend it to those who like customization and want to see how many days until their next big adventure!
Everyone is different. There are hundreds of apps that would benefit you during your time abroad. I had a hard time choosing only 10, but some of them are based on personal preference. It is one of those things you have to feel out and try different apps while you are abroad. It won’t take you long to figure out which ones have an impact on your experience abroad and which ones you can go without. Technology is a powerful thing and having some incredible tools on hand is pretty awesome. All the ones I have downloaded are free! The world is a big place, but the cyber world is bigger. Take advantage of it!
Cole's journey continues every Friday so stay tuned.
PS: Check out CAPA's 41 Apps for Study Abroad too!