Because we are studying abroad in the 21st century after all
Electronics are some of a study abroad student’s best friends. In some cases, technology has taken away from the cultural immersion experience, but on the whole, it’s had a big (and positive) impact on both travel and international education. There are some pretty awesome gadgets out there (which I may write about in the future), but after having a few technology struggles of my own in the past few weeks, it made more sense to shed a little light on the technology that most of us consider necessities.
Apple iPod Touch
|The iPod – one gadget that I don’t ever see myself taking off this list, and what my travel blogging idol Gary Arndt calls the “Swiss Army Knife of Travel Gadgets”. An alarm clock, WiFi finder, notebook, photo album and web browser all in one. And of course you can listen to your entire library of music and watch videos. Just like the iPad2, the iPod touch also includes iOS 5 with over 200 new features, like iMessage, Notification Center, and Twitter integration, and iCloud. While I’m a huge fan of the iPad, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a necessity. On the other hand, the compactness of the iPod makes it extremely convenient not only for travel and also for everyday on-the-go study abroad life.|
Digital SLR Camera
|There are debates about whether or not the point-and-shoot camera is becoming obsolete, but very few people will doubt the quality of a photo taken with a DSLR. You’ll most likely be traveling to places most people can only dream of seeing, and you’ll want your photos to do those travels some justice. The Nikon D3100, is Nikon’s best and latest entry-level offering and it’s one that I’ve written about multiple times in the past (with good reason). One of the best features is the Easy-To-Use Nikon Guide Mode with intuitive controls and on-board assistance. Great for people like me who aren’t yet that into photography, but want to stop taking bad point & shoot pictures.|
Portable External Hard Drive
|Because the amount of storage space in laptops these days is more than enough for the average user, most people have probably forgotten about external hard drives. While I’ve been abroad, however, I’ve found my portable hard drive to be a life saver on more than one occasion. As someone who takes hundreds of pictures in every new city or country I go to, it’s great as both a safe place to keep a copy of my pictures in case something does happen to my laptop, and as a place to store those photos that I don’t access very often but don’t want to get rid of. If you’re going to spend the money on a quality camera, you’ll want a safe place to keep your quality photos and videos. (It’s also great for a number of other uses, including backing up your entire computer in case something really does happen while you’re abroad.)|
Over-The-Ear Noise Cancelling Headphones
|Ear bud headphones are included when you buy just about any mp3 player, cell phone, or laptop, but it’s definitely worth investing in a quality pair of over-the-ear headphones. I first came to this conclusion on my flight to Beijing, when I had yet to buy over-the-ear headphones, and was had the ear buds in my ears for 14 hours. It became even more apparent that they were needed after learning that during my semester at CET, I would have a listening quiz every morning, and would have to listen to the textbook mp3 for a long period of time every afternoon. Trust me, you’ll be doing both you and your ears a big favor by looking into some decent over-the-ear headphones.|
|Whether you’re at school or traveling, you won’t have room in your back pack to carry textbooks, travel guides, etc. The Kindle is a great solution to the over-sized backpack syndrome. (You can even download your Lonely Planet Travel Guides from Amazon directly to your Kindle.) As far as tablets are concerned the Kindle Fire is among the best, and at only 7.5″, it takes up the space of a small notepad. The Fire also includes Amazon Silk, Amazon’s browser which supports Adobe Flash Player, and gives you the ability to e-mail documents – including Word, PDF and more – directly to your Kindle so you can read them anytime, anywhere. The built-in email app also gets all your webmail (Gmail, Yahoo!, Hotmail, AOL etc.) into a single inbox. If you’re not looking for all of the benefits that come with the Fire, you can now get the original Kindle for less than $80.|
|Skype is the first thing I recommend when I’m asked about keeping in contact with people back home. While you don’t want to be on it all day everyday, it’s the cheapest and most convenient way to talk to friends and family, or even have video interviews when applying for jobs. The partner of Skype is the webcam, and while most laptops come with a built in cam, I still say you should opt for one separate from your computer. (Almost all Logitech and Microsoft cams now have a resolution of at least 5 MP and shoot in HD 720p.) I know The shoddy internet here in China makes Skype-ing hard enough; As for myself, I know I don’t want to have to worry about my webcam freezing up on me, making it even worse.|
|My Chinese wasn’t exactly at it’s finest when I first came to Beijing, and that’s not a great thing when you’re in an intensive language program. At that point, I didn’t have an iPhone or personal translator, so I had to look up words and characters manually, which took up a very large chunk of time. (Drawing characters with your laptop mouse pad has to be one of the most monotonous things I’ve had to do while learning Chinese.) I ended up buying a personal translator a little while back, and I quickly realized how helpful it was, both by allowing me to have quicker access to words and definitions, and by freeing me from my laptop so I could do homework anywhere I wanted. If you’re going to be in China, I definitely recommend getting one that allows you to write characters directly on to the screen – that’s how you’ll save the most time.|
|I know most people would consider this an “awesome gadget” which I said I was going to avoid in this post, but in my mind, if you really want to manage your time abroad, it’s a necessity. The Magic Wand is a handheld portable scanner that you can use to scan pages of books, pictures, documents, and even fabrics (you never know). You just press the scan button, drag The Magic Wand over whatever it is you want to scan, download the scans to your computer or laptop, and you’re done. This was my secret to avoiding the library while studying abroad. I could check out a book, use The Magic Wand to scan the pages I needed to read, download them from the scanner to my computer, and could then do my reading anywhere and anytime. I was able to spend more time doing what I wanted, and a lot less time in the library.|
Dual Wattage International Converter Set
|I’ve written an entire post about outlet adapters, so I won’t waste the space on them here, however, I can’t stress enough the importance of looking into/buying an outlet converter before you head abroad. For some reason, everyone (myself included) seems to think it’s a myth that your electronics will fry if you don’t have the right converter. Case in point, I ignored my own advice when first coming to Beijing, didn’t use a converter when charging my electric razor, and now haven’t been able to use that razor since September (when it fried). This combination transformer/converter steps down foreign electricity (220/240V) to North American (110/125V) current, and can be used with all electronic appliances including hair dryers, clothes steamers, irons, coffee makers, and more.|
Digital Luggage Scale
|After waiting all that time in the check-in line, the last thing you want to hear is that your bags are overweight. The EatSmart digital luggage scale is a simple solution to most airline luggage restrictions. (Don’t quote me, but usually for checked bags the limit is 50 pounds (23kg), and 40 pounds (18 kg) for your carry-on.) Just clip the EatSmart buckle to the handle of your suitcase or bag, then lift. The scale beeps when the weight has been determined, and appears in the backlit LCD. Simple as that.|
Whether it saves you time, space, money, or headaches, technology is a big part of studying abroad. Evaluate the status of all the electronics you plan on bringing abroad, if it if seems like you might have issues some where down the line, it’s better to fix those issues while you’re still at home as opposed to a country on the other side of the world.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below and I’ll get back to you!