In my seemingly universal and endless quest to forever be connected to WiFi when I was abroad, I was at first a little bit beside myself when neither of the schools I worked in had any connection! ‘Oh, that’s fine,’ I said to the teachers, silently fighting back tears. But in actual fact, I’m quite glad – in the early days of being here, when I spent so much time liaising with people here and back home via mobile, having a good few hours away from WiFi gave the aching tendons and muscles in my right arm a bit of a break.
Nonetheless, I’ve found certain things on my phone to be particularly useful. So, I’ve compiled a little list to either help you along your Year Abroad (should you ever find yourself on one) or give you sufficient means to develop acute repetitive strain injury.
All of these apps are free and, as far as I’m aware, available on Google Play and the App Store.
is indispensable and I'd be surprised if you didn't already have it. Since I didn’t have a French SIM card, the beauty of WhatsApp is that that doesn’t matter – all you need is a WiFi connection
, and you can speak to your contacts all over the world. I’ve enlisted relatives who were once WhatsApp virgins to download it so they can contact me easily and without additional costs, and its speed means that videos, photos and audio clips can be sent far more quickly than they can through a mobile network. What’s more is that it comes with a legendary array of emojis
, from aubergine to the Honduran flag, and blood-filled syringe to Flamenco dancer. Because you always need them.
Even if you’re not a student of languages, WordReference
is a massively useful app to have in your arsenal. Google Translate, as quick and easy as it is, is notoriously unreliable, but WordReference lets you check a word's context, definition
as well as a verb's conjugation
in a number of languages.
Hostelworld and airbnb
Part of the reason I was looking forward to a year abroad was the possibilities it offers me to travel around the continent. If you’re on a budget, Hostelworld
provides you with many cheap options for an overnight stay
, and airbnb
is a sort of dating site for people who have rooms or apartments to let out
, mainly geared towards travellers. The latter can be a bit of a gamble, mainly because you spend half your time waiting for the landlords to get back to you, all for them to turn round and reject your enquiry anyway, leaving you scrolling through the results once again. But once you find somewhere (a lot of the time I really nice apartment!), it can be a more fun
alternative to the ubiquitous Ibis Budget.
It’s no secret that banks love to charge their customers
an unnecessary amount of money when they want to transfer internationally, and so when I first came across TransferWise
(which now has its own TV adverts!), I knew it would be useful. Your first transfer is free
, and all transfers between foreign accounts thereafter cost a fraction
of what your bank would charge you. It’s very simple, quick
to use and almost made for students on their Year Abroad.
Booking flights can be awfully tedious. While Skyscanner
doesn’t revolutionise booking flights, it’s great because you, or rather it, trawls through all the flights between two destinations in search of the cheapest,
and when you’ve found the flight you want, doesn’t sting you with what-I-still-think-are-completely-excessive admin fees (hooray!).
You’ll probably never spend much longer than 90 seconds on this app
at one time, but it’s practical, useful and very easy to use. It gives you up-to-date transfer rates
as well as a calculator,
so you can accurately find out how much you’re spending in more or less any given currency.
Don’t snub this – or snub me, even – but I have found Tinder
to be a fairly good diversion
on a year abroad; I've used it to speak French with French people of a similar age.
Surprisingly, I’ve learned a fair few words and expressions from it, ones that university doesn’t teach you, but ones that people use every day. It’s best not to expect much from it, not like the 23-year-old girl who was after a husband and who vehemently insisted that the small number of cigarettes I have randomly smoked in my life made me a smoker. OK, everything on Tinder must be taken with a heavy pinch of sexually-tainted salt, but not everybody is after random hook-ups, and when you’re waiting for a train or plane, it’s a good way to whittle away the time.