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Technology's Impact on Studying Abroad

By Jennifer Thayer

Technology has had a multifaceted impact on studying abroad. From helping students make a smoother transition abroad to bridging the communication gap, it’s opened many doors and new ways to go about living and learning in a different country, creating an entirely new study aboard experience.

Preparation and Transition of Going Abroad

16th Airborne Command and Control Squadron Tech, Maresa Miessler. (Photo by U.S. Air Force).

The endless access to the information we have thanks to technology has transformed society into one that is constantly curious, looking for answers and expecting to get those answers from the internet. This craving to be always informed has incentivized students to be more thoroughly prepared to go abroad. Students can research the country they are headed to and begin to understand the culture in which they will live for an expanded amount of time. Additionally, they can also learn the language to better assimilate to their new home for the next months and gain a greater ability to get around in foreign territory. Furthermore, social media has become a platform for students in a study abroad program to get in touch with each other. For example, Facebook groups can be used as a forum for students in study abroad programs to discuss what to bring and virtually meet each other prior to the first face-to-face encounter.

Satellite technology can also come into play, as students prep for their journey. They can scope out housing and explore the area they want to live via innovations like Google Earth, which allows users to pinpoint anywhere on the map they want to see with real-life visuals of actual streets and surroundings.

Transitioning into a new place in and of itself is already a stressful task. Moving to a foreign country has an even greater impact on a person’s ability to ease in. During their time abroad, students can get around by utilizing mobile apps. Students can use translation apps like iTranslate, an application that translates text, websites and facilitates voice-to-voice conversations in more than 90 languages. Other travel-friendly apps, like Easy Currency Converter, let students figure out how much they are actually spending on their foreign coin. And the ever-so-popular Uber app is also internationally available in many countries, giving students the ability to get around an unfamiliar town.


Possibly the greatest impact technology has had on studying abroad is on communications. The emergence of smartphones and the ability to connect anywhere and everywhere has caused ground-breaking changes in how students stay connected internationally. Students are able to talk with their friends and their family at home, as well as with their study abroad peers within the same country for free with apps like WhatsApp, WeChat, Skype, and Viber. Many of which only requires Wi-Fi connection (a plus for those without an international data plan). To add, video technology integration in these communication apps allows people to feel even closer to one another no matter how many miles are in between.

The telecommunications industry has also supplemented smartphone technology in its push to further support communications whenever and wherever. Carriers such as T-Mobile feature plans that support 145 countries, providing users unlimited data and texting at no extra cost, and flat-rate calls for a very reasonable price. Having the option for lower rate international data plans is highly appealing to any student studying abroad because it’s budget-friendly and lets them keep in contact with others no matter what country they are in.

Technology has ultimately taken away some major roadblocks that come with traveling in a new country. Students go into the study abroad programs with a goal to expand intellectually through cultural immersion, and technology is helping them break barriers during their exploration to make the most out of their experience.

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