Must-Have Tech for a Semester Abroad

One of the biggest benefits of attending college is the life experience you gain. There’s no better way to really immerse yourself than by studying aboard. Overseas programs give students an opportunity to experience another culture by living there for a semester or full academic year.

Some study aboard programs are in exotic locales that are nothing like the states, while others are in similar metropolitan areas within first world countries. Regardless, you’ll quickly notice there are key differences that affect a big part of life – using technology.

From Internet security to outlets, prepare for living abroad by making sure you have the right equipment and setup to use tech safely.

Reliable VPN Service

Cyber security is a huge priority wherever you go. Hackers can strike from anywhere, and some government agencies are known to spy on Internet activity. The solution to both problems is a virtual private network (VPN). Top VPN services are able to secure your Internet activity by encrypting the data so isn’t readable. Instead of connecting to the Internet through an Internet Service Provider (ISP), your computer uses the VPN server so you can anonymously surf the web.

Businesses that have products in development and proprietary information they want to keep under wraps typically use a VPN service. But it’s also a good idea for anyone who’s traveling abroad since Internet regulations and security vary from one country to the next. Another great reason to sign up for a VPN service – you can avoid location restrictions on Netflix and other popular apps.

Solid Video Chat App

When you’re miles away from friends and family you can still stay connected with one of the many video chat apps. Of course, not all video chat apps are created equal. You also have to decide what device(s) will be used for chatting because it can make a difference.

You could always use the video chat feature on your smart phone, but that could get very expensive very quick. Save that money for your travels by using a free alternative that works just as well with Wi-Fi. Skype has been a front runner in video chat for a very long time. Skype to Skype calls are free anywhere, so if you use this method show your friends and family how to download the app before you leave.

Google Hangouts are another way to video chat for free. It’s setup for one-on-one convos and group chats. Now that the Google Duo video calling app is available it’s easier than ever to chat with anyone from anywhere. It’s considered a FaceTime alternative that can connect video chats across operating systems.

Outlet Adapter

Did you know most of the outlets in other countries aren’t the same as the U.S.? There are currently 12 types of power outlets that are commonly used throughout the world, and most aren’t like the one we use in America. If you aren’t prepared when your plane lands you may have to scramble to find a way to recharge your devices.

The simple solution is an outlet adapter. If you plan to travel to multiple countries it’s an absolute must. In the U.S. we use Type A and B outlets. Type A has two differently sized rectangular slats for the flat, parallel prongs. Type B includes an additional round hole for a pin between the two slats. Type B outlets are the most common since they’re compatible without or without the third pin.

With an outlet adapter, you’ll plug your cord into one side, pick the appropriate outlet type and then plug the adapter into the wall. The best adapters will have options for all of the most common outlets (Types A, B, C, E, F, G and I).

Voltage Converter

Without a voltage converter that shiny new outlet adapter could explode – literally. In North America, we use sockets that are typically 110-120v. But the rest of the world primarily uses 220-240v plugs. The difference largely comes down to devices and the local power grid.

A voltage converter can be used to mitigate electrical issues, particularly if you’re using older devices and electronics. The handy tool converts the voltage of electricity from the outlet to match the voltage of a device.

If you’re heading overseas it’s best to remember you won’t be in Kansas anymore and prepare accordingly. Ruby slippers optional.

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