Resources: Notes on Life and Language in the United States

Tips for International Professionals in the U.S. | Getting Connected

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Mon, Oct 08, 2012 @ 08:15 AM

tips for international professionals in the U.S.Getting ready for a move to the United States?

Wondering how you will stay connected with people back home?

Would you like to know how much money you should budget for your cell phone and internet access in your apartment?

We created today's post to answer these questions for international professionals like you! Keep reading and feel free to leave a comment if you have additional questions.


Please share this article with your friends!


1) Where can I get wireless internet access?

 international professionals in the United States choosing internetSome cafes, such as Starbucks, offer unlimited, free internet access during their operating hours.

Other cafes provide free internet in the morning and afternoon but not at lunch time. Other places give you the first 30 minutes free and then require that you pay. Every cafe is different.

You can also get free internet access for your laptop in some parks.  Public libraries are another option. In libraries there is always free WIFI and if you don't have your own laptop, you can usually sign up to use one of their computers for a block of time.

There are some internet cafes in large cities like New York but they are hard to find and they tend to be expensive. It is best to have your own laptop if possible.


2) How much does it cost to have internet in your home?

internet cordIt is easy to get internet access installed in your home and it costs between $20 and $30 per month, depending on the company that you choose.

Companies that provide wireless internet include:

  • Comcast
  • Time Warner Cable
  • Verizon
  • AT&T
  • Earthlink


View this site for reviews and ratings of each company



3) What kind of mobile phone should I get?

 cell phonesFirst of all, we use the term "cell phone" in the U.S. more than "mobile phone." When you shop for a cell phone in the U.S., you have a few options:

1. Pre-paid phone: If you pay in advance for a certain number of minutes, it is more expensive but you know exactly how much you are paying and there is no chance of getting "overage" charges.

2. Pay per month (contract): These plans usually require a 1- 2 year commitment but you will spend less money. They will charge you an early cancellation fee if you cancel the contract before it is scheduled to end so be sure that this is the right plan for you. You can also be charged for "overage" fees if you go over the number of minutes allotted in your plan. These charges can be up to 45 cents per minute.

The best thing to do is start with a pre-paid phone and then decide which plan you need based on how often you use your phone for the first few months and how long you think you will be staying in the United States.


4) What questions should I ask when I shop for a phone and a calling plan?


  • questions about cell phones in the United StatesCoverage/Service: Ask your friends and colleagues if they are happy with the service or coverage they get from their phone company.  It might be worth it to pay more for better service because it can be frustrating to hear static all of the time.  Some companies tend to provide better quality service in rural areas than others. Verizon has a reputation for providing the best coverage where I live in Boston, but it really depends on your location.
  • Rates: A lower end cell phone plan from Verizon might cost $39.99 per month for 450 minutes with a basic phone. Ask the person in the store exactly how many minutes and text messages are included in each plan.
  • Contract: Find out if you have to sign a one or two-year contract. You can usually get a phone for free if you are willing to sign a long-term contract but remember that if you back out of the contract early (early termination) or if you only want to do a month to month contract, you will have to pay for the phone.
  • Insurance: It's usually a good idea to get insurance for your phone, especially if you are accident prone! For basic models at Verizon, insurance costs about $5 per month.


5) What's the best way to make international calls?


Some cell phones can give you an international calling plan. You can also buy a calling card and use that. These days, most people rely on free software like Skype. You can also check out other online options like Google Voice.


Whenever you move to a new country, it's normal to want to figure everything out before you leave. However, you might want to wait, talk to other international professionals in the U.S. who have been here for a while and get their perspective before you make decisions on things like cell phones and internet connections.


Good luck and please let us know if you have any questions!



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Photo credits: ryanmilani, ysris, Elvert Barnes Photography, Marco Raaphorst, Planet of Success,

Topics: Daily Life in the US, Expatriate Support, Life in Boston, Life in New York

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