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 Keeping in contact with friends, family and Augustana while studying abroad can be challenging in some ways, because it will be a change from how you normally communicate. You will want to be sure to maintain a balance between keeping in touch with folks at home and interacting with your host culture, including new friends, new classmates or roommates, and possibly a host family.

Stay in touch with your family on a regular basis and reassure them of your safety.  We suggest no telling your parents/guardians that you will call them when you first arrive.  You need time to settle down and get oriented.  Tell them that you will call as soon as you get settled.  Sending a quick email letting them know that you have arrived safe and sound will help ease any anxiety they may be feeling until you have time to call or Skype. During your time abroad, if you tell your family/loved ones that you will call, please call them. Remember that Augustana University cannot release your contact information without your permission.  If someone from home needs to know where you are, please provide them with those details.

Here are some ways to keep in contact both with home and Augustana University.

BLOGGING AND JOURNALING

One of the best ways to keep in contact is by writing a blog. You can easily start a blog before you go abroad with sites like blogger.com or wordpress.com. These sites and many others are free. Tell all of your friends and family about your site, and then they can check it regularly to stay up to date on your activities abroad. They can also use Google Reader to follow many blogs at once and to easily access the blogs from iGoogle or Gmail.

Blogs are also an amazing resource after you study abroad. Once you return to the U.S., you can go back to your blog and reminisce by looking at posts and photos. Looking back and reflecting upon your experiences abroad can help you to grow and to become more globally minded. It can also help make you more competitive in your postgraduate plans. Using examples of experiences abroad in graduate school applications or during job interviews can make you stand out from the crowd.

If you have little Internet access or prefer more privacy, journaling might be a better option than blogging. While the two are similar, it may be more personal to write in a journal, as you would not be sharing it with everyone. If you would like to share updates with a specific group of family and friends, you could also consider sending an email update. Typically, whether writing blogs, journals, or emails, students make updates once or twice per week.

Some good topics for blog posts or journal entries are:
  • travel preparations and pre-departure thoughts, expectations and hopes
  • visa application process
  • arrival:  the first few days and culture shock
  • academics and classes
  • entertainment
  • food
  • holidays
  • religious customs
  • cultural differences between home and abroad
  • frustrations and joys of adjusting to a new culture
  • "best of" lists:  restaurants, parks, activities, etc.
  • getting around:  transportation suggestions, costs, etc.
  • trips, excursions and independent travel
  • new friends and family (interview someone!)
  • social or political issues
  • volunteering, internships, or other ways in which you have connected to your new community
  • reflections on skills you're gaining outside the classroom:  language proficiency, flexibility, etc.
FACEBOOK AND TWITTER

One of the ways students commonly keep in contact while abroad is by using Facebook. Almost everyone is already familiar with this social networking site, but there are some ways that you can improve how you use it while abroad. By putting up pictures, you can share what you have seen with friends. You can also update your status when you are doing something exciting, like taking a trip or going to a soccer game. This will let all of your friends know what you are up to, and it will also show them how great it is to travel and learn about new cultures and languages. You can do the same by updating your Twitter while abroad. Tweet about your new experiences or things that you have been doing in an entirely new environment.
  These social media as well as other local social media can help keep you in contact with new people you meet while abroad. While phone calls and texting can be expensive, using social media via the internet to organize plans with new friends is a good way to connect. 

Remember that moderation is the key!  You don't want to spend all your time abroad on social media.  Think of all you could be doing instead of spending hours on Facebook and Twitter.  We strongly suggest setting a daily limit for yourself on how much time you spend using technology.  Remember that you need to have new experiences in order to talk about them! 

PHOTOS


 You should also take pictures while you are abroad. Photos are a great way to share your experience with your friends and family at home. Taking photos will also keep you in contact with the culture around you, through interacting with your surroundings and helping you to remember the experiences you had once you return home.

Everyone who is interested in your study abroad experience will not only want to know about your trips and adventures while abroad, but also about your daily life. Remember to take pictures on your way to school, when you are volunteering, or with your internship. You should also take pictures of your housing, your school or workplace, and some of your other favorite places. One important thing to remember is to be respectful when taking pictures, especially with locals from your host country. If you want to take a picture of someone, make sure to ask first. This can be a great way to start a conversation and maybe even a friendship!

The International Programs Office sponsors a photo contest every spring.  You'll receive an email about this opportunity and we encourage you to enter your photos!  Study abroad photos are often used in campus publications and on Augustana websites.  This can be a great way to share your experience with the Augustana community.