International Service Learning Study Abroad Handbook/About Where You're Going
Technology and Communication
The flourishing of technology, particularly the internet, has facilitated new modes of communication that would have been unimaginable a couple of decades ago. However, access to technology is reflective of wealth and, like wealth, is distributed extremely unequally across the globe. It is important to research access to internet, telephones, and cell reception for the sake of maintaining contact with family and friends back home, as well as understanding the technological and economic circumstances of the area being visited. Furthermore, within one country or region there can be a vast range of access to such services; urban areas are more likely than rural ones to have access, for example. In this respect it is essential to plan ahead – know where you are going and what you will need. For example, if you will need a phone card or stamps, buy them in advance. For those who use technology frequently international travel, study, and/or service learning is likely to challenge reliance on electronic devices. Often we use technology to think or work for us- eliminating that opens us up to new possibilities for experiencing life in a rich and rewarding way. Welcome this challenge and embrace the opportunity to learn a new way of doing things.
Media and Local News
One way to learn more about a country before even visiting there is by keeping up with news, both local and international. Events can change a country in an instance and it is imperative that you keep up with the local news. For example, a sudden event could change currency rates, safety, politics, or even the feasibility of traveling to that country. Also, it is important when keeping up with the news that you read a variety of sources, and consider where the news is coming from and possible motives for publishing such a story. For example, a science newspaper is going to have different motives and highlight different stories than a human rights website would. It is also a good idea to compare local news written within that country and international news. How that country is portrayed abroad will give you a great insight to how the world sees that country. However, local news will portray issues that are important directly to the citizens of that country. Comparing the two will give you a wide range of perspectives. \
In addition to watching your sources, reading the news is a great way to get a taste of the country before you visit. There are many different sources that can be found by searching online. There are also a variety of videos and online radios that will add some variety to your sources. If you are having trouble finding a source, asking your librarian or professor to help you out is always a good idea and could open your eyes to opportunities and information you might not otherwise known about. Listening to speakers or reading books from that country and its people could also give you valuable perspective into a foreign culture. Be creative and look up things you are interested in learning more about.
When traveling, you have many options in terms of how you want to deal with money. While you may find you have a preferred method to handle money while abroad, it is recommended that you utilize multiple methods, just in case a problem arises. Here are some options while you travel:
Cash is very convenient to use. It is important to have cash exchanged into the local currency in order to have the proper exchange rate applied to your purchases. Cash also poses a security risk too. Cash can be bulky to carry, and if stolen, there is no way to recover from that.
A tip from a traveler that wish he'd known earlier: carry small bills. After exchanging for the local currency, I found it helpful to carry small bills, especially when at markets. In many places, I found it commonplace to pay for items using exact bills or exact change, because of the regularity of haggling opportunities. At open-air markets, most items do not have a set price. I made a mistake when we visited a bustling weekly market in Kochia. As I passed a stand with basic writing supplies, I realized I was in need of pens. Having only a 500 shilling bill, and lifting it out of my wallet, I asked how much 3 pens would be. "500" the man replied, conveniently. I quickly traded the bill for the 3 pens, only to realize later that was not such a great idea. Other times I had only 1000 shilling bills, I wish I'd have smaller bills for haggling purposes. As Americans, accustomed to set prices for everything, it adds a new element to be able to haggle.
Debit and Credit cards are extremely easy to use while traveling abroad because they can do the currency exchange automatically. They are also much more secure than cash, and can be shut down if stolen. The downside to cards is that if you are in a rural enough area, you may not be able to use your card. In this case, it is important to find an ATM before you arrive in the rural area, and pull out enough cash in advance.
Travelers checks are very secure. If they are stolen it is easy to get them replaced, and you can also have them issued in foreign currency. The downside to travelers checks, however, is many places will not accept them, or will charge fees to accept them. Because of this, they can become a hassle and become more expensive than they should be.