I was first made aware of WeChat when I went to Shanghai, China over the summer. Most everyone in Shanghai has a smart phone, and because there’s amazing free WiFi access all over the city, most everyone uses WeChat to communicate instead of conventional texting. WeChat is your one-stop shop for all things digital communication: send text messages, videos, pictures – even record your voice and send audio messages, all over WiFi or 3G. That last bit is what made WeChat so much fun for me, and helped me stay in touch with my friends from all over the world in a way that is a bit more special than email or even pictures. All you have to do is be friends with the person you want to talk to, start a new chat with them, and record away! I asked all my friends back home in America to download the app, and soon it was one of the best ways I was keeping in touch with my American friends. I could record a thought, or a funny story, and it would save the audio file so that they could listen to it when they chose to. Even with the time difference it didn’t matter – they could still feel like they were there with me since they could hear my voice, but we didn’t need to go to the hassle of setting up an entire Skype session.
WeChat didn’t only help me stay in touch with America, however. Because WeChat was created by a Chinese company, it’s particularly popular in Asia. I would have the actual phone numbers of Chinese and Japanese friends, but they would rarely text me; it was usually a WeChat notification. This has helped me stay in touch with my foreign friends now that I am back in America. Even though I’ve switched out my Chinese SIM card for an American one, it isn’t meaningless to have all those Chinese numbers in my phone – my WeChat lets me communicate just fine. I am still in contact with my friends from Hong Kong, Japan, and China, all because of this one app.
Finally, one of the coolest things about WeChat is its syncing feature with your laptop or PC. By going to the WeChat website, you can open up a chat window and scan a QR code with your phone in order to sync your contacts and conversations, and then continue on as if your computer is your phone! All your conversations are right there on your screen, and it’s a lot easier to type quickly on a computer than it is on your phone.
WeChat was one of my most-used apps while studying abroad, mostly because of its ease of use and cool features that let me share my study abroad experience with both my foreign friends and my friends back home. It was a great way for me to really feel connected to the culture of my host country, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone with a smart phone who is traveling abroad.
Megan D - Shanghai, China - Fall 2012
Apps for international travel
Return and Current Travelers Reviews of Apps used will traveling abroad. All you need to know about the apps and how the work (or don't) and how Travelers are using them!