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Virtually at home

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By Jamila Cherif

For almost two years I have been in the United States away from my home, my family and friends in Senegal, West Africa. However, we stay in contact every day, and guess what? For zero dollars! Since I am trying to manage my budget, I have found some tricks to get in touch with my loved ones overseas for no cost or low cost. Here are my secrets for saving money when talking to my friends and family on the other side of the world.

The first recommendation I will give you is to buy a Magicjack and send it home. It is a little gadget which should be connected to a land line jack, so it is for home-phones mainly. You will also need to download the Magicjack application to facilitate the communication. People will be able to reach you with either your regular phone number or your Magicjack number. The most interesting part is you can call your people with their Magicjack number without any fee. For instance, my mother is in Senegal, but whenever she calls me, I see a 504 area code for New Orleans. To have a better connection, you will have to update the application periodically.

My second favorite communication tool is Viber, and it is getting better and better. Before, you could only use Viber to send text messages and call for free. Now, Viber has a camera too. I have fun doing facetime without any connection problem because it is easy to set up. Moreover, there are a lot of free funny stickers for texting. You will also have to update your Viber account to use the new functions. The other person has to have a Viber account too, and the same applies for Skype, ooVoo, and Google chat.

Skype and ooVoo are my third choices. They are really helpful, but based on my experience, I noticed that Skype does not work well with my friends living in Morocco, ooVoo works better. Both Skype and ooVoo allow you to send text messages and make free calls. The communication is generally pretty clear. Plus, you can send pictures or songs via Skype. Another good application in the same category is Tango. You can also open a free Gmail account and Google Chat on your device with ease.

My last trick to share is WhatsApp. You cannot make calls via WhatsApp, but you can send free text messages, pictures and songs. The transfer comes out really well, specifically for songs. My friends usually send me new tunes from my country, which will come in handy for the international electronica radio show that Meghan Henoumont and I will host on WXDR-LP (98.9 FM) soon.

Thanks to these new applications, communication with families and friends is more flexible, and the distance from them becomes more bearable without costing a lot of money.

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