In an increasingly technological world, it's hard to imagine life without a laptop and smartphone. Long gone are the days of internet cafes and international phone cards for study abroad students.
When you pack for your study abroad adventure, don't bother lugging around a huge guidebook. Throw your smartphone in your bag, and with a few handy apps, you'll have all the information you need to create a fantastic study abroad experience!
To make your time abroad the best it can be, we've compiled the ultimate list of apps you need to download before you hop on the plane.
If you're studying abroad in a country that doesn't speak English, there are plenty of apps you can download to practice your language skills or help you translate.
Google Translate (Free)
If you have a data plan (which is super easy to get in most countries), the Google Translate app will be your best friend during your time abroad. The app has a bunch of special features you can use, depending on the language. For many languages, you can translate a recording of your voice or a piece of text by scanning it, rather than a typed sentence. You can listen to your translations spoken aloud, and even access your translation history when you're offline!
This app is perfect for exploring your host city and translating on the go. You can even use it to help you with your assignments and language classes. Just be sure not to translate an entire assignment. It never ends well.
If you're heading somewhere where one of the many languages offered by Duolingo is spoken, this little app will become your best friend while killing time waiting for the train or in between classes. This (free!) app will help you learn new vocabulary and grammar in whichever language you're learning using interactive flashcards and games. Trust me, it can become addictive.
Whether you're studying abroad for one month or one year, it's important to learn how to get around your home city. Be sure to check if there are any local bus or subway apps where you can plan routes, check times and get directions.
Download Uber: iPhone and Android
While Uber may have had a bit of controversy in the last year, the company is going strong in many cities all over the world. Check to see if your city uses Uber and download the app to quickly catch a cab anywhere. One of the best features? You can pay by credit card and enter your destination in advance -- which is wonderful if you're trying to explain where you're going without a common language.
Download GoEuro: iPhone and Andriod
This is more for the students studying in Europe, but if you're one of them, it's a really handy app for your weekend travels and figuring out the fastest / cheapest route to get there. It will compare the prices of train, bus, and plane tickets from to/from your destination.
The train might have the best views, but it could be twice as expensive as a flight. And who knows, that bus ride from Madrid to Bilbao might actually be faster and cheaper than a train. GoEuro will help you figure out the smartest option for your trip.
App to help you hail taxis (Varies)
Many cities also have similar apps you can use to hail taxis. Ask a local if there are any taxi apps you can download so that you can always catch a cab whenever you need one. Some places thrive on taxi apps and it's a necessity to download them. For example, where I'm studying in China it's all but impossible to get a taxi without calling one on the app first.
Local public transit app (Varies; Usually free)
Most major cities will also offer an app that helps you navigate the buses, trains, and overall public transportation, using maps and timetables. Some will also let you enter your starting and ending point and guide you through all the steps of getting there, and when!
For example, heading to Paris? Get RATP (it's translated into a dozen languages). London? Then you'll need CityMapper. Going to Madrid? Madrid EMT. Sydney or Melbourne? Get TripView. None of the above? Then do a quick Google search for "public transportation app for __" to see what your city's options are.
Google Maps tends to do a fairly good job of mapping out public transportation, but it's still not as good in some global cities as it is here in the U.S. In Bangkok, for example, if you rely on Google Maps versus Bangkok Transport Map, you won't always be presented with all the route options that are actually available.
When studying abroad you're going to want to explore and enjoy your local city. Need a good restaurant or bar? Want to know where the nearest bank is? FourSquare is great at home (and abroad!) but these apps have you covered.
Foursquare, Yelp, or Zomato (Free)
You likely already have a go-to app for discovering new places to eat at home, and chances are they might work abroad as well. It really depends on where you are, but whether your go to is Foursquare, Yelp, or Zomato, definitely open that app when you first land to see if it's helpful in your host country. They may not have the same comprehensiveness as they do back home, but don't ditch it until you try it!
Where to Go? (Free)
This app will help you find the closest restaurant, bar, grocery store or historical site using location technology. It will even give you directions from your current location to your chosen destination. If you're a bit spontaneous, you can even use the "Shake to Suggest" feature, which will give you a random destination in your vicinity.
This app will give you a complete list of businesses in your area. Everything from restaurants and bars to hospitals and gas stations. You can sort by category and distance, and even add phone numbers to your contact list or email the info to a friend. Best of all, AroundMe also has a map and will route directions for you.
For all the foodies, Foodspotting is the best app for finding restaurants around you. Using location technology, this app will search all of the nearby restaurants, giving you a large list to chose from with exact locations. This app even provides user-generated photos and reviews so that you can be sure you're picking a good place.
While it may be tempting to go crazy and buy all the pashmina scarves or macaroons, it's important to budget during your semester abroad. You'll probably be using more cash than you're used to, meaning many currency calculations and messy tabs accumulated through sharing change. Never fear though, these apps will keep your checkbook balanced!
The ultimate checkbook, this app lets you record your expenses in a ton of different categories. You can set your budget for the month and track your spending in each category to make sure you're on track. You can even link up your credit cards and bank account so that your transactions are automatically tracked or manually enter your cash spending.
Get in a good habit of recording your expenses abroad, and maybe you'll even keep using the app back home. Won't your parents be proud?
Converter Plus (Free)
Download Converter Plus: iPhone
Not only does this app convert currency, it constantly updates to the latest and most accurate conversion when connected to the Internet. If you're American, you may want this app for more than just financial reasons as it also converts temperature, distance, weight, speed and volume.
How fast is 30km/hour? How tall are you in meters? How many kilograms does your bag weigh? How hot is 25 degrees Celsius? Use this app to learn how the rest of the world functions.
If you and your friends are notorious for keeping long running tabs on who owes who, this app will be your lifesaver. In this app you can create individual events and list the people involved in each event. The app even lets you select the currency used in the transaction, and will do currency calculations for you.
At the end of an event, you'll end up with a nicely calculated tab of who owes whom and how much. Then, easily pay your friends using Venmo.
So if you and your roommate go on a weekend trip to France, all those Euros your roommate owes you can be nicely added to the long list of pounds she owes from after school pub nights in the UK. No more "forgetting" to pay your friends back with this app.
There's no better way to cherish your study abroad memories than with a full SD card of photos from your time abroad. Now that smartphones have better and better cameras, there's almost no need to bring a digital camera on your trip. With these handy apps, you can edit and share your photos with your friends back home.
What would our lives be without Instagram? With this app you can edit your photos with the perfect filter, #hashtag them to perfection and make all of your friends back home jealous of your Eiffel Tower or Great Wall selfies.
Adobe Photoshop Express 2.0 (Free)
This app comes with all the basic editing features you could ever need. Color adjustments, filters, and special effects. Plus, it's free -- which is always nice.
Heading to South Korea or Taiwan? Be sure to download Line so you can chat with the locals using cute emojis.
Studying in China? WeChat will become your life. Not only is it a texting app, but it now also serves as China's version of Facebook with a social media app included included with the texting.
Be Sure to Pack Your Smartphone
It's amazing how technology has turned the smartphone into the world's best travel tool. From language barriers to hailing cabs to balancing your checkbook, the worlds app developers have you covered.
When you're studying abroad, your smartphone can impact your experience in two very different ways. It will be tempting to use technology as a crutch. You may want to cling to apps like Facebook, Instagram and Skype to feel comfortable in a place so far from home. While these apps are great for keeping in touch, sometimes you'll need to put down the phone to really enjoy your study abroad experience.
On the other hand, apps can be great for integrating into the local culture. Use Line to send emojii texts to your new Korean classmates, download the local buss schedule to explore the city or use local entertainment apps to find the best restaurants your city has to offer. Technology is what you make of it, so be sure to try and limit your Facebook time and live in the moment.
Can you think of any amazing apps we're missing? Be sure to let us know in the comments!