In a world of increasing connectivity, it may come as a surprise when students choose not to purchase phone plans during their travels abroad. According to one study, up to 98% of Gen Z (16 to 20 year-olds) own a smartphone. Some even refer to Gen Z as the “mobile-only” generation, based on how much of this gen’s daily functions are completed on a smartphone.


If Gen Z is so attached to their smartphone, then why are so many opting not to purchase phone plans while studying abroad? We’ll cover the top 5 reasons students don’t utilize a phone plan while overseas.



Students are on a tight budget and saving money where they can

Phone plans can be costly, regardless of whether your students buy one stateside or overseas. The cheapest U.S. options, such as T-Mobile’s international roaming, cost $75-$80 a month. More expensive U.S. options, such as Verizon, cost up to $10 a day. For students on a budget, relying on free cafe wifi for communication is worth the money saved on a phone plan.



Students are intimidated by the prospect of interacting with the locals

Phone plans purchased in-country (overseas) are most often cheaper than their U.S. alternative and offer the same services, such as texting, calling, and data usage. Yet for students who don’t speak their host country’s language, these phone plans may be out of reach. Even in touristy cities where English can be used, the complex verbiage that revolves around cell phone usage, data, and cellular service can be hard to follow. Many students are intimidated to approach locals who sell these phone plans for fear of being unable to understand what the salesclerk is saying.



Sometimes, it’s nice to take a break from technology and communication with home

Most students heading into a semester abroad are preparing for a transformative semester. They’re preparing to grow as an individual, learn how to rely on themselves, and get a better experience of the real world. To truly immerse themselves in their international experience away from home, some students choose to make it harder to get in contact with home. By limiting their communication, they are allowing themselves to stay in-the-moment and not worry about parents back home while traveling in a new destination.



Wifi is reliable enough for students’ communication needs

In city destinations, wifi is commonplace and easy to access. Especially in toursity cities, restaurant and cafe owners post wifi names and passwords in easy-to-read locations, knowing that students will spend some time if they can easily access wifi. With such ease of access, students who stay in cities can easily rely on cafe wifi for a channel of communication, usually within minutes of when they first need it.



Students prefer to avoid big brother

Depending on their university’s travel safety tools, some students opt to go off the grid to avoid being watched by professors or study abroad staff back home. Many apps and safety tools require students to consistently share their location through their phone. Many students, fearful of alerting their professors on their late-night whereabouts in local bars, would rather avoid the hassle of constantly sharing locations and stick to no phone plan.



So, what now?

By having students without overseas phone plans, your emergency communication plans may be delayed or broken during a crisis. Communication with wifi-reliant students will never be immediate and will only occur once the student chooses to connect to wifi – if they are able to. While it is ultimately up to your students to choose their communication tools during travel, you can educate your students on all international communication options available to them. Who knows; you may change a few students’ minds to buy a reliable communication tool, such as an overseas phone plan.


Stay tuned to the KeynectUp Study Abroad Blog for resources to share with students on their options for staying connected while abroad.

Share this post