The college years often mark a time in life that is the most exciting and transformative, in which people discover who they are and what they want to do with their lives. For many students, this includes meeting new people from a diverse array of social groups, taking classes from a wide variety of disciplines, and engaging in extracurricular activities such as pledging Greek houses, joining athletic or academic clubs, or even participating in unsanctioned events (keggers, for example). And plenty of students turn their eyes to foreign shores and the prospect of using study abroad programs as a way to visit other countries and interact with different cultures. Thanks to the growing world of mobile applications, these opportunities to explore the world are made even easier. So if you happen to be leaving on a jet plane, headed for parts unknown in order to increase the scope of your education, here are a few handy apps that you won’t want to leave home without.
For starters you’ll definitely want some GPS-based applications. Nearly everyone already has Google Maps on their smartphone or tablet, and this will definitely be one of your most used programs when you’re in an unknown locale. But you could also benefit from applications like Urbanspoon that can give you the 411 on eateries near your current location, or Foursquare, which not only offers up restaurants, but also lodgings, venues for entertainment, and more. And you might want to think about downloading an international cab-hailing app like Hailo (available in major cities across the globe, from Tokyo to Toronto), which pinpoints your location via GPS and arranges for immediate (or future) cab service when you book through the app. You can even track your cab to see how close it is to reaching you.
Of course, you still might not get very far if you don’t speak the language, so the student on a mission to study abroad would do well to download a translation app or two. Immersion will help you to flesh out your limited vocabulary and form proper sentences over time, but having the right apps on hand to help you out initially is still a good idea. Google Translate is probably the best app for this purpose all around, with over 60 languages at your disposal, text and audio translation features, and the ability to save faves for online use (not to mention a free download). You might also like Word Lens, which lets you snap pics of signs in order to have the text translated (at up to $4.99 per language) and Speak Text, which is pricy at nearly twenty bucks, but features 30 languages with spoken components for 20, as well as the ability to translate chunks of text drawn from documents.
Finally, you’ll probably want to stay in touch with family and friends back home. And while you can connect through NYU or UC online platforms, for example, you might also consider that apps like Skype allow you to video chat for free via WiFi (although you may suffer delays), as well as make bargain-basement phone calls that would otherwise bleed you dry thanks to sky-high international or roaming charges. You’ll no doubt come across several apps that could also be useful when studying abroad, but those aimed at travel and communication are definitely amongst the must-haves.