When you find yourself miles away from home, separated by an ocean or continent, with a different culture and possibly a different language, you might find that keeping in touch during your study abroad with friends and family is a challenge. There are several things you can do to ensure you don’t lose contact with the ones you love. Skyping, Facebook, blogging, snail mail, and prepaid phone cards all provide options for staying connected during your time at the BISC.
There are three ways in which you can pay for a mobile phone service in the UK:
This is the least flexible option and you will be tied into a contract of between 18 and 24 months. If you choose a pay monthly deal and leave before your contract has ended you will almost certainly be charged for early disconnections.
Pay as you go (PAYG)
PAYG is very popular amongst students. You buy a handset and then pay in advance for a set amount of calls and texts. This usually is not the cheapest option, but it does offer great flexibility and is the best way to keep track of how much you spend.
These packages are an intermediary between PAYG and contract phone. You will be provided with a SIM card but no phone, and you will only be committed to a rolling 30 day contract.
There are currently several major mobile phone providers in the UK: 3, O2, EE and Vodafone. However, some of the smaller providers, such as Tesco Mobile and Giff Gaff are also worth checking out. Each provider has its own range of packages so it is important to shop around when you are deciding on the best option for you.
The first thing you need to consider is whether you actually need a new phone handset. If you don’t, you could make a big saving by opting for a SIM only deal. If you have brought your phone with you, it may be worth continuing to use that phone but with a UK SIM card. You may need to get your phone unlocked as some phones are locked to the network from which the handset is purchased. Speak to your provider about this. Alternatively you could buy a new phone handset in the UK.
Before deciding, take a look at an Ofcom pproved price comparison site, like MobilePhoneChecker – this is an easy to use site where you can compare deals across several networks and compare the different services (pay as you go, pay monthly and SIM only). Take a look – you’ll see you can often get a SIM only deal for half the price of a pay monthly contract!
The Carphone Warehouse is a shop in the UK that caters for all mobile networks so may also be a good starting point for comparing the various options.
When you are researching your mobile options, make sure you take into account whether they offer an international calling plan if you expect to make regular international calls. Many providers will offer this as an extra service on top of a monthly subscription, but some are available to PAYG customers too.
Before committing to a contract, make sure you know that the cancellation policy is, and what you are paying for each month.
Calling international numbers from the UK can be expensive, especially if you decide to use your cell (mobile). With Skype you can make free voice or video calls to anywhere in the world as long as you and the person you are calling are both online and have the same software installed. In addition to calling from your computer, Skype has a smartphone app which allows you to make calls via the app to other Skype users. Be aware that this can use a lot of data quite quickly, so make sure you are connected to Wifi instead of using your mobile data.
If you need to call someone who does not have internet access, you can use Skype to make cheap calls to their landline or mobile phones. You can pay for these calls after you make them, or save more by buying blocks of minutes to a specific country.
If you have an iPhone or iPad, then Facetime is a good option – again, it is better to use this only when connected to Wifi to avoid big data charges. You can also use other apps such as WhatsApp for video calling.
You can use international calling cards to make cheap calls from landline and mobile phones, and they are very widely available. You can usually find them in convenience stores and supermarkets. You are recommended to compare different cards to find the one that offers the cheapest rate to your country and has the lowest connection charge, so be careful to select one with the most appropriate access number.
Your mailing address while at the BISC is:Name
Room Number, Bader Hall
Bader International Study Centre
Any received mail will be made available at Bader Reception. Small items will be put in your pigeon hole (a small mail box). Larger items will be held at the reception desk and a notification slip will be placed in your pigeon hole.
To send post you can purchase stamps from Bader Reception and post the correspondence in the red letter box outside Castle Reception.