Well now that I’ve really settled into things around here (aside from classes, they have yet to start) I want to share a bit about staying in touch. The first full day I was here, I had yet to tell my family back home I made it safely. I hadn’t had a chance to buy a cell phone here and my host family had lost the wifi password. The main thing is to forewarn your parents that after touch-down it’ll be a bit before you can check in, that way they’re prepared to wait and not think something horribly wrong has happened. Around the second day was when the wifi got sorted out and I was able to e-mail, Whatsapp (a very useful app that I suggest you download BEFORE going abroad, because you will have to verify the number with a text message) and Facebook my family back home and all was well. When at the house I have access to wifi, and also at the IFSA office. I have also been told that I will have wifi at the schools, which means you can connect with your family back home with your smart phones at any of the main locations you’ll be, which is convenient.
You will need to have a functioning phone here though, in case of emergency, and there are a couple ways of going about getting one. First, and most expensively, you can buy an international plan through your carrier while you are abroad and keep your number. Secondly, you can buy a cheap-o flip phone and preload it with money for data, texting, and calling through a mexican phone company while studying abroad. Thirdly, most complicatedly, you can follow my lead: I had just upgraded from the iPhone 4s to the iPhone 5s for one very important reason, it has a removable SIM card. I have Verizon and nowadays their smart phones are ‘unlocked’ internationally, meaning you can use them with other carriers OUTSIDE the US, within the US they are locked so that you can’t get an upgrade and then just use the new phone with a different company. That being said, I simply brought my iPhone 5s to Mexico, kept it on airplane mode, and took it to a cell phone booth where I bought a new SIM card. Then I simply switched out my Verizon card with the new card and BOOM, functioning phone. Now, my number did change when the card changed, but I kept all my contacts because they were already in my phone, and I could then Whatsapp my family through my new number. DO NOT for the LIFE of you… lose the SIM CARD you have from the US. It can be a HUGE hassle to sort out when you return so SAVE IT, hide it away like it’s the last bit of brownies and you don’t want to share with the rest of the family. So, basically, I suggest getting Whatsapp, buying a new SIM, and telling everyone you know how wonderful Mexico is with your new working number! You can easily reload money on the card at any store nearby, so don’t worry about getting enough data to last the whole trip. Any-who.. that’s how to keep in touch!