How to Survive Studying Abroad Without Data on Your Phone

There are many things you need to take into account when you’re going abroad to study. From finding accommodation and getting all your paperwork in order to packing and possibly using another language, there’s a lot to think about. One thing you won’t want to forget about though, is figuring out how to use your phone abroad.

One thing you’ll find out quite quickly when studying abroad is that you might not be able to use your cell phone the same way as at home. Even with an international phone plan, you’ll likely be forced to cut back your data usage significantly. You’d be surprised how much data Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and WhatsApp use. So, follow these tips and never have to pay for extra data again!

Find Wi-Fi

Finding Wi-Fi is one of the most important things you can do to preserve data. Waiting to send your texts and Snapchats until you are at a place where they can be sent over Wi-Fi will be a lifesaver. 

Your campus will almost certainly have a Wi-Fi network that students can use. Many restaurants and stores also have a public Wi-Fi network. You might have to ask a staff member for a password though. If you can hold out on using data until you get to one of these locations, you should be in the clear.

Students using their phones in a university campus
Your university campus will almost certainly have a free Wi-Fi.

Download in advance

Another way to save data is to download things while you are on Wi-Fi so that you can access them offline. Netflix lets you download certain shows and movies, Google Maps lets you download the map for any city, and Spotify lets you download your favourite playlists. Through downloading in advance, you are able to continue using all your favourite apps without a hefty data price tag.

Cut back on your phone use

Another thing that you can do to preserve data is cutting back on things that you know use up a lot of data. Sending one text or receiving one Snapchat is not going to use your entire data plan. However, streaming vlogs on YouTube or watching Instagram Reels will, so be mindful of how much data everything you do uses.

A great way to do this is to turn off your data, and only turn it on to do something quick, such as a Google search or texting your friend. This way, no apps will be able to use data without your knowledge. Think about what you really need data for, rather than what you like to do. You’ll likely notice that you don’t actually need your phone so much. Especially when you’re in the middle of a special experience like living and studying abroad, it’s good to be in the moment and enjoy the world around you instead of being distracted by your phone.

A city view of San Francisco with a tram and Alcatraz in the background
When you’re studying abroad, remember to be in the moment and not use your phone too much.

Get a local phone plan

As much as it can be a good thing to limit your phone usage, sometimes you just need to have data, for any number of reasons. If you feel like you don’t want to be limited by your current data plan, you can get a local phone number with a local provider. That way you can use data like you normally would at home.

Just make sure you check what kind of a plan you get and how much data is included. Also make sure that your phone is not locked: in some countries when you buy a phone with a data plan from a local provider, you can then only use your phone with a SIM card from that particular provider. In order to use your phone with a local provider in your new home country, make sure that your phone is not locked. Remember to also make sure that this new plan won’t lock your phone, so that you can use your normal SIM card again once you go back home.

An EE phone shop in the United Kingdom
If you really feel like you can’t get by without data on your phone, you can buy a local phone plan.

Enjoy your time abroad

The main thing to keep in mind is to be in the moment and enjoy the amazing experience of studying abroad. There’s so much we want to do with our phones all the time, and being abroad can really limit our ability to do that. With the right mindset, this can actually be a positive thing. Limit the things you don’t absolutely need and follow these simple tips to be able to do what you actually do need, without racking up massive data roaming charges. So, prepare, use your data wisely, and happy travelling!