Technology and Communication

Staying in touch with friends & family, keeping up with Carleton, and being reachable by your program at a moment’s notice are all reasons to have a reliable communication strategy while you travel. All students  should discuss with their parents  expectations for being in touch while traveling before, during, and after the program, and plan accordingly.  As of summer 2017, all students on Carleton OCS programs must have a functioning cellular device on them at all times. Students on non-Carleton programs should check with their program provider on their requirements or recommendations for cell phones. has a number of resources related to international calling such as country & city codes, international clocks, date calculators, and so on.

Mobile Phones

OCS and program directors will provide advice and direction to students considering how to obtain cellular service abroad, but students should also do their own research and consult with each other as plans, prices, and options change frequently.

Here are some guiding questions:

  1. How do I plan to use my phone abroad? Emergencies only? Mostly texting? Mostly wi-fi?
  2. Should I rely on the device I already own or should I plan to purchase a phone locally?
  3. Do I need to use the phone in one or multiple countries?
  4. Do I need data service?
  5. What are my family and friends’ expectations of me being reachable when I am abroad? Are they realistic?
  6. What international plans does my US cell phone provider offer and are they a good fit for me?


Skype is a computer-based phone program that allows you to talk (and video chat) with people all over the world. The only requirement is a high speed internet connection and speakers, and a microphone on your computer. You (or your parents) can also purchase credits to use Skype to call a mobile or landline phone. Google Hangout and Facebook chat offer similar services.

Pay Phones

Pay phones are still available in many countries. They generally do not take coins, but rather a pre-paid debit card which can be easily purchased in-country. You are charged a per-minute fee for each call.

Phone Cards

A worldwide access phone card is useful for making calls from a landline. A number of websites sell phone cards for use in the US and abroad. Be sure to check on the conditions of the card you purchase such as monthly maintenance fees, connection charges, expiration dates, etc. as there are plenty of scams mixed in with legitimate cards.


Most email applications are web-based and therefore accessible from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. It’s a fact of life that you will need to check your email periodically while traveling to keep up with Carleton and other business and stay in touch with family and friends.


Many students keep a personal blog of their adventures abroad, and/or contribute to a program blog. Blogs are a great way to keep friends and family up to date with your experiences abroad. There are a number of platforms that can host your blog such as the Google Blogger, Tumblr, or Carleton's own EduBlogs. You are advised to read the OCS Blogger’s Code of Ethics and use good judgment about the kinds of things you post on your blog, remembering that they may be read by your hosts, your program directors, and anyone who performs even a simple internet search unless security precautions such as a password are in place.

Facebook and other social media sites

Most students are active at least to some degree on Facebook, and find that it is a very convenient way to post photos and updates of their adventures to a wide audience. Be cautious about spending too much time on social media sites, so that you are maximizing your time exploring sites, human relationships, and experiences available to you in your host country.

For more on using technology from from off-campus, visit the relevant Carleton wiki page.