Electricity, Converters, and Adaptors
In the midst of so many other large considerations, considering how to use electronics abroad can easily slip students’ minds. UW-Platteville Education Abroad is here to help:
- Step 1 Determine the plug configuration and voltage of your location abroad: The two-parallel-prong plugs and a 110 volt electrical system is standard in the United States, but not abroad. Converters or adaptors, devices that students can plug their electronic device into and plug into the outlet, can help to bridge the gaps. A converter will adapt to the outlet abroad and convert the voltage (typically 220 volts abroad) so not to “burn out” our U.S. electronics. Adaptors will not convert the voltage but will adapt to the outlet. These devices should be purchased before the student departs and can be typically found in most large retailers or online as buying them stateside will be much more economical.
- Step 2 Only take the essentials: Hairdryers, irons, electric shavers, etc. can be easily purchased worldwide and then students don’t run the risk of ruining any expensive U.S. electronics. Most new laptops convert voltage automatically, and if so, the power cord should have a label saying "Input 100V-240V/50Hz or 60Hz". In that case, an adaptor will do the trick and a converter is not required.
Americans are very accustomed to quick, easy, and wide-spread access to the internet, but adjustments with regard to the speed, availability, and cost of Internet abroad must be anticipated. Free Wi-Fi is not the norm in most countries, but internet cafes are very common and popular and will allow students to easily and reasonably connect to the internet. Internet may or may not be available in the accommodation, but Internet can be easily accessed at most academic institutions once the student is registered. More than anything, it is important to remember that every moment spent online is a moment that is not spent exploring the host country, meeting new people, etc. Students should plan to limit their Internet usage and adjust to the availability in their host country and while traveling.
Cell phones and Calling Home
Most U.S. phone providers do offer international plans, but they are not typically economical. In addition, most cell phones sold in the U.S. have a software "lock" that prevents them from working on other networks. If students do have an “unlocked” phone that uses a simcard, students can take their phone abroad and purchase a Sim Card and pay-as-you-go plan.
Most students will forgo all of the hassle and expense of using their U.S. phone abroad and will purchase an inexpensive phone abroad to connect with friends and their roommates or host family in-country. Cell phones, comparable to U.S. track phones, can be purchased inexpensively in most countries and students can choose to purchase minutes and pay-as-they go instead of committing to a plan. Recommendations on where to purchase a phone will be made during the on-site orientation at students’ program sites.
As for calling the U.S., using a local cell phone can be very costly, but texting can be affordable. More often than not, students choose to use Skype to connect with home. Skype allows students to call other Skype users for free or to put money on their Skype account to call any landline or cell phone worldwide. Visit skype.com for more information.