Social media, of any kind, is the connection any student has to their home, their family, and their friends while studying abroad. Without taking advantage of the many free social media platforms, many students may find themselves counting the days until their return to the states due to homesickness or loss of connection to their host-city. For me, I have rarely (if at all) experienced a sense of homesickness or culture shock; which I attribute to my utilizing platforms like Skype, Facebook, and YouTube.
Each platform easily have their designated uses. For instance, YouTube is great at connecting yourself to any recently released music videos or any late night talk show skits that you may yearn for while studying abroad. Just having access to clips of familiar shows or videos is somehow refreshing. Skype is excellent for visually connecting you to your family and friends. Plus, Skype can save you a lot in international calling fees, simply by using Skype’s free service with any wifi-connection. In fact, something I discovered while abroad, you may make free phone calls via Skype to ANY 800 or toll-free number in the US (wifi required). And Facebook… well, Facebook is good for everything – ESPECIALLY showing off your recent travel photos of exotic and cosmopolitan places you’ve visited along the way.
Recently, Facebook has added a separate Facebook Messenger app that foregoes news feeds, and instead lets you communicate directly with Facebook friends via private messaging. In fact, this app even allows you to place phone calls to other Messenger app users (as long as both parties are connected to wifi)! Imagine calling home for free. The Viber app has a similar function, one that allows you to call and text within the app – and all for free. Similar to Viber is the more internationally accepted What’s App. This app is great, but really only becomes beneficial to the user when texting international phone numbers. From experience, when meeting new people, I find myself asking my new friend if they use What’s App. Years prior, I would have been searching for them on Facebook to simply add them to my circle of friends. However, with What’s App, you can text contacts from all over the world. And one last little social media shout-out goes to SnapChat. This app is great for connecting with friends on a visual level. With SnapChat, instead of texting, you send out visual “texts.” This is a fun way to add an additional method of contact among friends.
That being said, any student studying abroad has a library of social media to assist them in maintaing contact amongst family and friends, and to relieve any homesickness.