Keeping in touch with family and friends back home is really important to all of our students. Whether it is just to blog about life overseas, appease worried parents that they are getting taxis everywhere (I'd never get on local transport.... honestly!) or show off a great tan on a Zanzibar beach, mobiles and internet have made it easy to communicate at the touch of a few buttons.
We asked our programme managers to discuss with the students about the best methods for keeping in touch with the folks back home, and here was their response:
In Nepal, Sunil somehow managed to fit in a chat with the student's around the two dental outreach projects he is co-0rdinating - that man never stops! He told us "most of them prefer to use the internet to keep in touch with friends and family back home. Facebook mostly and few emails. That's most convenient. They also use phones sometimes too ...a few texts and some times calls".
Nat only has one students in Argentina, so gave us her opinion too - "Many times the students’ mobiles don’t work in Argentina, some students used public phones to communicate. However, some got their I-Phones to work here, and got SMS from back home, mostly to ask how was the atmosphere during Argentina’s matches in the World Cup.......no comment!". Joella also told he that she "uses the internet café right across the street, because it’s very close to the house and my cell phone doesn’t work here. Other students used to phone home very often, I may try that eventually, but for now, sending an email is cheaper!"
Over in Tanzania, Baptista spoke to the Dar students. Everyone has found that using a Tanzanian sim card in their mobile phone is the best way - "it is very cheap to send texts home". Lizzie told us " ‘On the orientation day we were shown where to buy a phone, sim and credit which seems to be the easiest way. I have found messages on my UK phone didn’t always come through so a Tanzanian sim seems more reliable and only costs about 8p to text but more to ring abroad. Its free to ring in so I get family/friends to ring me! Jasmine did warn that "texts can be unreliable and sometimes don’t reach sender" though, and Alison has found the credit runs out really quickly. Overall emailing is cheaper, so Rebecca advises " you can email across the road at Morogoro store or at Slipway (cheaper & faster)". Stephanie has also used the internet at the hospital, "however it is quite slow!"
In Lake Victoria James says the students also use Tanzanian sims. Monica "bought a Tanzanian mobile (costs 6 Pounds) and a sim card (25p) and it is cheaper to text home and phone. Also email back home from internet cafe where you just need some patience as very slow". The others agreed, confirming that "internet is faster and cheaper in town than at Tilapia Hotel". Of course you can receive post at the house, but Natalie says "I have been sending post cards to friends and family but have not received any post in return!"
Of course in Arusha it is the same story - the Tanzanian sim wins through. Gemma said "a Tanzanian sim has been easy to get and use (with a little help from Freddy). Facebook has been used to tell my friends my new number so the responsibility now lies with them!" Facebook, unsurprisingly is everyone's favourite way to communicate on the internet. Lauren uses it about once a week and Anna tries to update it as often as she can. It seems to be a bit more reliable than mobiles, although Anna has had success with skype - "My family have called my mobile using skype. My Tanzania sim card stopped working after I tried to register it!”.
We haven't heard from our India house, but in Sri Lanka Kavinda tells us that "all the students say they use internet...specially skype and facebook..the students in our house have pooled in and bought a wireless internet dongle which they all share. Aside from internet though, two of the students mentioned that they call their family on and off from the mobile. With laptops though, facebook, email and skype"
Joe in Ghana has been pretty busy this month doing both the dental outreach coordination with Lewis (who is over in Ghana checking out the programme!) and the regular Takoradi Programme, but he has found time to discuss how students communicate with people back home. "Most find it easy getting in touch with people back home - Rachael and David share a common phone which they use to call just their parents and mostly for receiving calls from other relatives. They have also found internet cheap and easy to find, using sites like facebook. Julie has been doing same, although she says the speed of the internet is not as good as the standard back home! To her, even though mobile phone is not as expensive as home, calling friends in Australia really consumes credit and therefore she finds it only reasonable to use the internet which charges just 60 persewas per hour. Hannah has not been in the house for long but she finds a combination of the two already pointed out as a perfect way to communicate to relatives. Whiles it sounded like the options were exhausted, Roisin dropped the mostly used but forgotten approach to this whole issue. Text messaging. Almost all the students have been exchanging text messages with friends and family back home!".
And of course you could always do as Lizzie in Dar has done "I have also sent postcards/letters as it’s a bit different whilst trying to see how long I can go without internet’!