technology, communication, social networks

Staying in touch with home

Anyone sent a letter recently? No? These days technology provides us with an array of unique forms of communication, ensuring that home is never too hard to reach. From social networking sites to email, telephone calls to Twitter, international students have dozens of way to keep in touch with home for free.Staying in touch

You can’t beat a good moan when things get too much. However, international phone calls can be very expensive, particularly on mobile phones. This is where free call provider Skype comes in.
Charlotte Martin, an international student from England studying at Indiana University in America, has found something valuable to her at the cost of nothing. Charlotte, along with millions of others around the world, uses Skype, a communication service with a free online membership, to talk with her loved ones back home.
“I have been using it for about a year now, after a friend suggested I use it to keep in touch,” Charlotte explains. “I go on there most days, either to call or just IM (instant message.)”
Skype utilises the internet to enable individuals to call other Skype users for free, for as long as they want. Users also may opt to use the service to send instant messages.
Even though there may be oceans between you and your loved ones, that doesn’t mean you can’t see them. One of the most popular draws to Skype is the video call service, also available free of charge. The use of a webcam brings your friends and family alive on your computer screen. Give them a tour of your dormitory room, ask them to hold up your dog for you to see, model your new haircut… Skype opens the door to a new way of communication that makes the distance less daunting.
The one small drawback of Skype is that both you and the person you want to call need to by logged into Skype and online to get the free service. If you want to call a mobile phone or a landline, you will have to pay, although the charges are often much lower than you would from landline phones.
Every now and then, David Sengeh will log on to his Facebook account and be in for a surprise. He has a friend request waiting for him - a person he hasn’t seen for ten years. Sengeh, a student hailing from Sierra Leone attending the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, accepts these requests, eager to catch up.
“(Facebook) is a great way to reconnect with old friends,” says David. “Even though I don’t use it regularly, I still use it to communicate with certain groups of friends, follow events on campus, and for raising awareness and funds for the NGO I help run.”
For anyone that has been on Mars for the last ten years, Facebook is a free social networking website originally created for college students but now serving anyone thirteen and over. Users create profiles which allow them to post photos, share their interests, and display comments on their walls from other friends. Users can also send private messages, join groups of friends, create events and invite others to attend, and much more.
The site has grown to become the most popular social networking site in the world, even spawning a hit film about its creation. More than eight million users now take advantage of all Facebook has to offer. Four billion minutes are spent on Facebook each day around the world, according to the website, and the launch of its new Timeline feature caused a media storm.
Other widely-used social networking sites like Facebook are Myspace - the second most popular social networking site in the U.S., Hi5 – common in Latin America and Friendster – popular in Asia. Google Plus is the new kid coming up on the rails, but can it overtake the giant that Facebook has become?
Whether you think it’s creepy, crazy, or cool, there’s no denying Twitter is catching on in the communication world. Twitter is a service allowing people to stay in touch constantly through short 140 character word messages, and is frequently seen as a source of breaking news.
Twitter accounts are a great way of making new contacts, particularly when it comes to finding work. Almost all companies have a Twitter account these days, enabling them to update their followers on a minute by minute basis. As a Twitter user, you can follow these companies and talk to them directly if you have a problem or an issue.
Celebrity stalking seems to make up a large part of Twitter – where else could you contact Lady Gaga, Rupert Murdoch and Alan Sugar directly? Whether you get a response is another thing entirely.
The best thing about Twitter for staying in touch is how instantaneous it is. If both you and your friends have a phone with the Twitter app, then you can send instant messages without any cost – perfect for conversations on the go.  
No matter which site you prefer, social networking is the perfect way to stay in touch with friends at home and connect with fresh ones in your new country. Let’s face it, studying wouldn’t be the same without obsessively checking your social networking account every five minutes, would it?