A Few Tips: Staying in Touch with Friends and Family

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Whether you are planning to be in Costa Rica for four weeks or a year, you’re going to miss your loved ones back home. It may be boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, cousins - heck - you may even miss the awkward cheek-kisses from your weird aunt!

I had the opportunity to stay in Costa Rica for four weeks last July. During this time, I was completely immersed in the rich Latin American culture. Even though it was the best month of my life, I still missed my family and friends like crazy. Here are some ideas to maintain healthy communication with your loved ones from home:

Study Spanish in Costa Rica!

1.) Create a Consistent Schedule

Once you figure out your daily schedule in Costa Rica, plan a consistent time to connect with your friends and family back home. Whether it’s after class once or twice a week, or every night, it’s important to set a plan of communication with your loved ones. Planning a set time for your mom to expect communication will prevent her from having a panic attacks about your whereabouts!

2.) Use Phone Apps and Other Technological Resources

Super important: Before you leave for your trip, contact your phone service provider about their international plans. Most international plans are crazy expensive, so it’s always a good plan to put your phone on airplane mode and turn data roaming off. If you do this, you can connect to WiFi at any time and get Internet access, but you can’t call or SMS text.

Luckily, there are many places in Alajuela and the surrounding areas that provide free Internet. Beyond the School, there are Local Restaurants like Cafe Delicias, Café Dreams, and La Sandwicheria are always safe bets for reliable WiFi.

Buy a Cell Phone in Costa Rica If not being able to make a phone call freaks you out, you can buy a cheap phone and SIM card at almost any kiosks in malls or phone services stores around town. Kolbi is one of the most popular phone services in Costa Rica. When I went on my trip, I purchased a burner cell for $30 and it came with 1,000 minutes preloaded. I was able to text my classmates and call with pretty reliable service!

Here are some useful apps to download before your arrival:

  • iMessage (iOS)

    iMessage is available for any Apple device. It is basically free instant messaging. The cool thing about iMessage is that you can see if your message has been delivered or not. Users with iPhones, iPads, or MacBooks can use iMessage when connected to the Internet.
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  • Viber (Android, iOS, WP8) (Free)

    Viber uses your phone number as your login and syncs your phone to identify your contacts who use Viber. This app allows you to send text, stickers and emoticons, photos, voice and video messages for free to other Viber users. You will need a SIM card and phone functionality to set up Viber.

  • WhatsApp (Android, iOS, WP8) (Free download, $0.99/year)

    WhatsApp automatically syncs with your phones contacts, and it is ad free. Users can send text, photos, voice and short video messages to their WhatsApp contacts. WhatsApp is free to use for the first year, with a cost of $0.99 per year.

  • Email

    Don’t underestimate the power of email! Email services like Google and Yahoo are always reliable when connected to the Internet.

  • Facebook Messenger (Android, iOS) (Free)

    Users sign in with their Facebook accounts and can send other users the usual chat messages, as well as voice messages and voice calls to other Messenger users. On Android, Messenger has a neat "Chat Heads" feature that pops up in the screen to allow you to chat even when other apps are on-screen.

  • Skype (Android, iOS, WP8) (Free)

    The power of Skype is real. There’s just something about seeing your loved one that makes you feel at home again!
    Skype is most well-known for its video and voice call functionality, but Skype's instant messaging features allow you to send text, photos and even short video messages to other Skype users even when they're not online. Additionally, Skype users can use Skype Credits to make calls to mobile phones and landlines.
Send a cool Postcard from Costa Rica to Friends and Family Back Home

3.) The Postal System

Sending mail internationally can take up to 2-3 weeks. If your stay here is a short one, I'd recommend shying away from the somewhat crazy world of the Costa Rican postal system. Once thing that is nice is the simplicity of a postcard. Although you probably won't be sending or receiving too many packages, mailing a postcard back home can cost as little as two dollars and a short wait in line. Go old fashioned and send home a letter or post card from your trip!

4.) Keep a Journal or Travel Blog

You don’t want to forget what you experience and learn during your stay in Costa Rica! Consider writing in a journal or starting a blog during your time abroad. There are many free blog sites online, I personally use Blogger through Google. If you publish a weekly blog post and link it to your Facebook account, your friends and family can stay connected with you on your journey.

In the end: As hard as it is to be away from loved ones, don’t forget to let yourself be immersed in Costa Rica and enjoy the time away from home! Take this time to find yourself and embrace meeting new people and learning about a new culture.

¡Pura Vida!

| Contributing Editor