Mobile/cell phones - Landline telephones - E-mail and Social Networking - Skype - Traditional post

This page will help you to start thinking about the various forms of communication that are available to you while you are abroad. This is not an exhaustive guide; this page simply presents the basic information and is a basis for you to do your own further research online.

Mobile/Cell Phones

Your UK phone should work in the US, but it is recommended that you buy an American (likely pay-as-you-go) phone, otherwise you will pay higher fees for roaming. If you plan to take your UK mobile abroad, ask your service provider before you go. If your UK provider often texts you updates about your plan, don't forget to cancel any of those text subscriptions before you leave to avoid texts in the middle of the night.

Due to the higher fees, many students will buy an American mobile phone (called a cell phone in the US) while abroad. This may be a hidden cost of studying abroad as students don’t realise that on all plans Americans pay to send AND receive texts and calls. This is definitely cheaper than using your UK phone, but beware the costs add up.

Of course, this also largely depends on the type of person you are and how often you use your phone. For short-term study abroad students, pay as you go phones may be the most sensible option. For full-degree students a contract may be more cost-efficient. Visit network websites such as T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T and Sprint to compare prices and additional features such as free evening and weekend calls and data usage, along with various applications. Be aware that some networks will charge you for going over your allocated plan even if it is by 1 minute, so be sure to research this in advance or speak with an American friend or international advisor for advice. Relatively inexpensive handsets can be purchased from stores such as Wal-Mart, Target or electronic stores, such as Best Buy.

Landline Telephones

Some dormitories may have a "dorm", "hall" or "floor" phone which students share or, in some cases, phones installed in each room. These phones can make internal calls to other rooms on campus, or they can make phone calls outside of campus for a charge, but this may need to be set up. For convenience in areas with poor reception, some students might choose to share a private phone with their roommate(s). If this phone is not already placed in the students' room, the roommates must make arrangements to have it installed, and they must pay the telephone bills. If you live off campus, you should have a telephone, not just for convenience, but also for safety.

When calling/dialling from the UK to the US add 001 in front of the 10 digit American number, and when calling/dialling from the US to the UK add 01144 in front of the number without the 0 at the start of the British landline or mobile number.

Remember for any emergencies dial 911 for the police, ambulances and fire department.

For more information on landline phones, contact your ResLife office when on campus.

E-mail and Social Networking

Many students studying abroad choose e-mail as their main way of keeping in touch with friends and family back home. It is quick, easy and can be as personal/impersonal as you choose. You can also attach photos to send to relatives such as grandparents who may not be frequent users of Facebook!

Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites have quickly become one of our top means of keeping in contact with one another. Encourage family or friends who do not yet have a social networking page to join and follow your adventures through status updates, photos, blogs/notes or "tweets". You can also add the new friends you make abroad to keep in touch with once you are back home.


If you would rather avoid purchasing a mobile/cell phone or plan to make many calls back to the UK, Skype provides users with free computer to computer chat and webcam calls, handy for speaking to friends and family overseas. You also have the option to use Skype to make telephone calls by topping up your paid account and calling landlines or mobile numbers through your computer’s keypad and microphone. Often, the minute rates for calls to international landlines and mobiles are significantly lower on Skype than through your mobile service provider.


The traditional form of posting/mailing a letter (also known as snail mail) is becoming secondary to the above forms of communication but certainly does still exist! Many students studying abroad will want to send birthday/Valentine's Day/Mother's or Father's day cards home, adding a personal and thoughtful element to these events while abroad. Stores such as Hallmark specialise in holidays/events cards, and stamps can be bought from Post Offices or commonly in university book stores.

Be sure to check postage costs due to sizes of envelopes or packages. It is always best to go to the Post Office when sending international packages, but it is not necessary. Sending an average/normal sized birthday card from the US to the UK would require 3 stamps with an approximate value of $0.94 each. Remember that the price will vary depending on what you send, so be sure to check in advance.

If you want your letter/package to arrive quickly, be sure to post it using Airmail. It may be slightly more expensive, but depending on the size your package, it will typically arrive in the UK in 5-7 working days.

All mail sent from the US requires a return address (the address of the sender) either in the top left hand corner of the envelope or on the back. In the case that your letter is undeliverable, it will be sent back to you, the sender, rather than getting lost in the post.