iMissYou: The struggles of keeping in touch with friends, family abroad

Sofia Rada, Blogger

The Internet has been the savior of anyone spending time abroad. Imagine having to rely on crazy expensive phone calls and mail that arrives months after it’s been sent to communicate with friends and family back home. Luckily, it’s been years since the early days of email. Even Facebook is no longer a commodity. Now we can send free text messages, images and even videos to friends continents away.

Viber. WhatsApp. GroupMe. iMessage. Snapchat. Instagram. Facebook. Skype. Google Voice. FaceTime. You’d be silly to claim there’s no way to keep in touch. The problem lies elsewhere.

During my first months at Northwestern, it was a struggle to talk to my parents. They were obsessed with Viber, but for some reason iPhones don’t register those calls if you are using NU Wi-Fi. So I’d have seven missed calls without ever hearing my phone ring. “Why aren’t you picking up your phone!?” Um… It never rang.

So then I’d have to disconnect from the NU Wi-Fi and use 4G network to speak to my parents. “What’s all that noise in the background?” Of course, they’d be in the comfort of my beautiful home on a Saturday morning, and I’d be in the dining hall on a Friday afternoon. Eventually I would convince them to call me later, when I could comfortably Skype them in my room.

I feel a pang of jealousy (but also, let’s face it, guilty relief) at the fact that my roommate walks into my room while engaging in a simple local, cellphone to cellphone call with her family, something I never will be able to do. No need to check time zones. No need to try Viber and fail, Skype to Skype and fail, Skype to cell phone and fail and then receive a Whatsapp message — “I’m at the gym, I’ll call you after I’m done” and then explain, “I have class in 20 minutes, let’s try my tomorrow and your tonight.” It’s complicated.

Not to mention getting scolded by parents when you’re lucky (unlucky? you are, after all, up writing that eight-page paper) enough to be able to immediately reply to their messages. “It must be 3 a.m. over there! Go to sleep!”

The ordeal of arranging a phone call is enough of a struggle that they become rare. When they happen, you have at least a month to catch up on. By the time you finish the call, you realize that it’s 4 a.m., but conveniently for the other person on the line, it’s only 6 p.m. So you resort to text messages, but those are always vague and random. Recently my friend and I started sending each other voice recordings of us catching the other up, slightly reminiscent of the record tapes Felicity sent in the show “Felicity.”

I remember when one of the guys in my dorm finally believed that I was international. Some people find it hard to believe because they think I sound and look American (others, of course, love telling me I have an accent and that it’s obvious I’m foreign). But that day he saw me sitting on the floor outside in the hall, with earphones plugged in, Skyping my mom. My roommate was on the phone inside the room. “Can’t you go someplace else where there isn’t that much noise?” Okay, mom. There I was, on the ground with an open laptop, talking to a screen and in Spanish, no less.

Yep, I’m not from here.

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