Communicating While Abroad: What Works and What Doesn’t

If you’re like me, communicating with my family and friends is an everyday thing. While at school, I live two and a half hours from my parents and halfway across the country from my best friend. Balancing our busy schedules presents challenges but staying connected is something that is so important to me. Usually this communication consists of random FaceTimes during the week, keeping up over Snapchat, or texting throughout the day.

Going abroad presented a new obstacle to the already challenging task of staying connected. I would be going to class, interning and exploring a new country—all on top of a six-hour time difference. When I woke up to start my day, my family was asleep. During my lunch break they’d just be waking up. When I was done with my day, they would be in the middle of their workday. When it was finally time for bed, they’d be wrapping up work and going to dinner. Our schedules were perfectly misaligned.  I found that I wasn’t able to pick up my phone and call my mom whenever I had time. I didn’t hear from my friends for half of the day when I was awake, and they were sleeping. When we were able to talk things were cut short. What were we doing wrong?


So, here’s what didn’t work

Thinking you will be able to communicate like normal when you’re abroad is sadly unrealistic. You’re living a completely different life abroad and whatever time difference you have will add another layer of difficulty to the situation. Picking up the phone to chat whenever you’re free might not be the best time for your friends and family. You have to be understanding and respect their schedules. Not communicating your schedule to your loved ones is another communication flaw. If you’re not aware of each other’s schedules, you’ll end up missing out on both of your free times throughout the day. To maintain communication, you and your friends and family might have to make sacrifices. It’s definitely not ideal but is well worth it in the end.

Here’s what worked:

Making a plan to communicate with those closest to you is the key to success. It’s important to talk about communication before you leave for your trip. Going abroad is so much fun, but it’s equally as stressful. Talking about how you want to communicate before you leave ensures from day one that you can be connected to your support system. What worked really well for me was planning for Sunday and Thursday night FaceTimes with my family. I had it on my calendar and knew to schedule around those times. Once I was abroad, I made sure to communicate my schedule with my friends and family and was able to find times that worked for us to chat.

The best method of communication I found was using WhatsApp. This allowed me to use Wi-Fi calling, FaceTime and texting without being charged for using data or international calling. I asked my friends and family to download it so we were able to chat. Another way to keep your friends and family in the loop about your journey would be to consider starting a blog or an email list. This isn’t something I personally utilized but loved reading about my friends’ journeys who have done this. Free and easy sites I would recommend for this are Wix or WordPress.


So, whether this is your first time away from home or you’re a traveling pro, communication can be a struggle. If you go into your journey with a plan and make an effort to talk with friends and family, communication doesn’t have to be a stress of your trip.