Studying abroad is a dream for many college students, and one that can easily be made into a reality with a couple semesters of language classes and a sister school to visit in a student’s foreign country of choice. It’s really no surprise that many students use their time in college to visit foreign shores, learn about new languages and cultures, and ostensibly expand their world view – this is a time in a young person’s life when nothing is tying him down (no family, property, job, etc.) and he’s just starting to learn who he is, who he wants to be, and what he wants to do. In short, this time of personal exploration lends itself well to global adventures. And thanks to the ever-expanding catalog of mobile applications, there are all kinds of useful programs that students can take along on their trip to help them navigate on the go. Here are just a few essentials that no student should go without.
Perhaps the most pressing concern for many students who opt to become strangers in a strange land is the language barrier. Even a student who is relatively confident in the classroom may face some trepidation when it comes to fully immersing himself in another language, surrounded by native speakers. The fast pace of dialogue and the presence of unknown dialect, slang, accents, and so on can quickly derail a student that is more or less fluent from an academic perspective. And even students that can speak a language well may have a much harder time reading it.
Luckily, there are all kinds of translation apps on the market that can help, such as Google Translation, a freebie that offers over 60 languages; Speak Text, a pricy download at $19.99, but worth it for both audio translations (in 20 of the 30 languages offered) and the ability to translate chunks of text; and Word Lens, which allows users to upload photos of text (road signs, menus, etc.) for translation at under five bucks per language.
The next major hurdle for most students studying abroad revolves around getting from point A to point B in a new city. But here, too, there are all kinds of options thanks to apps that rely on the GPS in your mobile device to help you navigate. Google Maps is an absolute must, with multiple views, satellite imagery, and step-by-step directions. But you might also consider downloading an application like Foursquare to help you find restaurants, Laundromats, and all manner of other vendors near your current location. And it couldn’t hurt to use a local taxi app, either. Hailo is one that operates internationally in several large cities (London, Tokyo, etc.) and brings a cab to wherever you happen to be stranded, even if you don’t know where that might be, thanks to your GPS.
Of course, most students will also want to stay connected to the people back home, whether they hail from a prestigious campus like Harvard or they happen to take classes at a UC online school. So if you’re looking to reach out and touch someone virtually, think about services like Skype or Vonage Mobile that can offer you a cheap way to phone home. If you can find yourself a WiFi hotspot, Skype will even allow you to video chat for free, ensuring that no matter where you travel, you’re never far from home.