what to do with your American cell phone

what to do with your American cell phone

The options are (practically) endless!

Part 1: What is your “plan” for your phone plan

Make the choice as to what YOU want to do about your American phone plan and then choosing a plan once you arrive in Europe!

Photo on 7-31-13 at 12.39 PMThis assumes that you have a two-year plan that  you have signed up for in the states. My two-year plan is Sept 2012-Sept 2014 (that’s a long time!). I will be gone from Oct 2013-June 2014 (roughly 9 months of my 24 month plan!). I am going to discuss some options that I have debated for my personal cell phone plan and the advantages and disadvantages of each option. This is an unbiased but TOTALLY biased post. I want YOU to be practical and try not to waste money on international calls, texting, data, etc. (you already have PLENTY of other expenses, HELLO student loans, traveling around Europe and shopping!). I am going to try to break this down for you by cost and effectiveness of each option.

Vocabulary to learn before reading on (I didn’t know what word to use!):
Ticking: signifying that your phone plan is still functioning and you (or your mom) will still be paying for your American phone plan. Also, if you went back to the states you will be able to use this particular phone as “normal”.
Assumptions before reading on: I am roughly estimating that the cost of my extra line on the family plan is $30/per month…(we have the unlimited everything data plan from Sprint and all smartphones require a data plan so I am going to assume most phones, no matter the company, are roughly the same if not more and $30 each month!)

What are my options for my American phone? For a smartphone (Pricing depend on your company):

  • Option 1: Leave your American plan ALONE!

    No fee for breaking your contract!

    Your plan will still keep ticking.
    You can use your phone right away when you arrive back in the states.

    $30/per month for a phone line you aren’t using ($270 for the 9 months!)

  • Option 2: Get an International Plan (VERY EXPENSIVE OPTION)

    No fee for breaking your contract!

    Your plan will still keep ticking.
    You won’t have an extra 9 months added to your plan.

    You can use your 3G, 4G, LTE or whatever it is in the US and Europe
    You can text and call in the US and Europe
    $30/per month for your line

    $20 more/per month for international capabilities
    Plus, you lose your “unlimited” plan or whatever you have and you pay per text, call and for each bit of data you use (oh my!)

  • Option 3: Activate a non-smartphone on your American plan (A phone that DOESNT REQUIRE INTERNET!)

    No fee for breaking your contract!

    Your plan will still keep ticking.
    $10 less a month for your phone line (saves about $90)
    You will be able to make calls and send texts on your non-smartphone right away when returning to the US.
    Can activate your smartphone as soon as you want (or as soon as you are able)!
    You won’t have a smart phone right away when you arrive in the US
    You will have to unlock your phone (for some companies it’s difficult, click here for AT&T unlock request)

  • Option 4: Suspend your phone (Here is my bias…DO NOT MAKE THIS CHOICE!)

    No fee for breaking your contract!

    $0-10 a month for your phone line (depending on your phone company)
    You can reactivate your phone WHENEVER you want!
    Your phone will NOT keep ticking
    You will NOT be able to use it until you take it off of suspension
    Max $10 a month for the suspended months ($90 for the time your are one)
    Adds the months your phone is suspended onto your plan (Ex. Suspension for 9 months, your contract is now 2 years + 9 months)
    9 months more of your phone plan when you get home (9x$30=270)
    Some companies make you call back every 6 months to continue the suspension

  • Option 5: Cancel your American plan 100% (DON’T DO THIS EITHER…it’s not like you are leaving forever!)

    No worrying about having to pay any amount for an American phone that you aren’t using
    $$$$$$ break your two-year contract and it will cost you ($300+) *Update: I was told that if you are moving out of the country your fee for breaking your contract could potentially be waived*
    You won’t have quick access to am American cell phone when you arrive home
    You lose your American phone number! );

Part 2: Choose your choices and unlock your phone!
I chose option 3.

CALL YOUR PHONE COMPANY. CALL YOUR PHONE COMPANY! CALL. YOUR. PHONE. COMPANY! I promise they will help you with any difficulties you may have when trying to figure out your options when it comes to your american plan. I personally UNLOCKED my iPhone through Sprint super quick and easy!), later on I will ACTIVATE a non-smartphone and then get a SPANISH SIM CARD once I arrive in Europe. Take a look at your options, but I think I am taking one of the most practical routes! Also, a friend of mine unlocked her AT&T Phone, so here is her advice as to how to get an AT&T phone unlocked WHILE still keeping your contract and while not having to pay the fee! In addition, I have found that iPhone 5’s come unlocked! So, any 5S or 5C should come unlocked too!

In addition to planning on getting a Spanish SIM card, I also had an international plan on my phone for a couple of days so that when I arrived in the airport I would be able to send a couple quick texts or if something crazy happened then I would be able to make a call or something. The idea of arriving in an airport and having no contact to the outside world makes me so afraid. The problem with that was I didn’t have my settings right on my iPhone when I arrived in Europe. When I got to the terminal in Barajas, I connected to free 15 minutes of WIFI and whatsapped everyone and tell them that I hate the world because I can’t figure out why my phone won’t connect to Spanish networks! I called Sprint (with their toll free number) and I was told that I had my settings wrong. Make sure your settings are right! Then a new section under settings will pop up called “carrier” and you will receive a text from your company telling you the costs of your calls/texts/data usage. Good luck!

Phone Settings
1. Make sure Cellular Data is OFF and Roaming is VOICE ONLY
Vodafone ES
2. “Carrier” shows up out of nowhere to tell you which network you are on
Text from sprint
3. Get a text from your company saying you are going to get charged like crazy!

What “Options” did you choose? Anyone choose an option that I did not mention? Also, Did you unlock your phone for international use? Was it THAT easy for you too? Any typos? Anything? Let me know!



I have to get a Spanish visa, and so do you my dear.

I have to get a Spanish visa, and so do you my dear.

How to get a Visa: Chicago Consulate

All of the information for a long term visas is at the Chicago consulates website. The directions are not exactly what I would consider easy. Here are some basics to translate the document for you.

To be an auxiliar you need a “Long Term Visa

Let’s break down your needs using the numbers they provided to us, some things you should already have and are easily obtained. Other things are not as easy, so I will try to explain how to obtain these documents. Comment if you still don’t understand and I will help you! If you are through CIEE, BEDA, the ministry, whichever program, the visa is the same for all of us at the Chicago consulate.

For the 2014 Applicants I actually found a specific link for the “Language and Culture Assistant Visa“…Here is the breakdown of the documents you need to submit with your application (in order following the order on the website linked above)

  1. Visa Application in English can be found here and here is how to fill it out…line-by-line-visa-instructions_madrid. 23 and 26 should be filled out with your schools information.
  2. Passport and ID (Can be driver’s license or state ID): You have made it this far so I am assuming you have these documents.
  3. Affix a recent passport sized photo to your visa application (You DO NOT need to cut it to fit into the box!)
  4. Letter of Appointment (“Carta de Nombramiento” in Spanish) provided to you by e-mail from the Spanish Ministry of Education (late May or June)
  5. Your “Carta” will state the dates that you will be in Spain. You can also print out purchased airline tickets if you already bought them anyways.
  6. State level background check: (FBI NOT RECOMMENDED, it takes FOREVER). *MUST GET THIS NOTARIZED FOR AN APOSTILLE!* Call MorphoTrust and set up an appointment in your city. Go to your appointment with appropriate documents and money order in hand. Save TRN # and call your state police 24 hours later and ask them to send you a notarized copy of  your State Level Background Check. Here is mine: Notarized State Level Background Check It must have a notary statement and stamp in order to get an Apostille of Hague. (This has things blocked out for my protection and protection of the notaries)
  7. Medical certificate, stating: “The applicant has been examined and found in good physical and mental health to travel to study abroad and is free of contagious diseases susceptible of quarantine and drug addiction or any other illnesses which could lead to Public Health repercussions according to the International Sanitary Regulations” On company letterhead with a doctor’s signature. It doesn’t have to be notarized or apostilled this year, so that is one less worry!
  8. Self addressed Express Mail PREPAID ($19.95 in Summer 2013). If you do this, you don’t have go to pick up your visa at the consulate. If you don’t get the right envelope, you have to go pick up your visa in person because they won’t mail it on their own dime.
  9. $160 money order made out to the Consulate General of Spain

You have to get your Apostilles done at the Department of Index (There is one at 17 N State Street, Chicago, IL (downtown) which is a few blocks from the Spanish Consulate in Chicago). I went to the walk-in hours at the Dept of Index downtown because that’s one of two places to get apostilles in Illinois. I went about an hour and a half before my scheduled visa appointment.  It took about 40 minutes and then I went to make copies of my new Apostilles (VERY CAREFULLY) and walked to my visa appointment. I was early to the appointment. If you have to make a special trip into the city to get your paperwork done, I would say do it all in one day (the apostille and the consulate). Then enjoy the city afterwords!

You must have all of the ORIGINALS plus ONE COPY! Anything you turn in you WONT get back.

Plus, bring an envelope for them to send it back to you in. Must be a USPS Express Mail Envelope $19.95. They have a $19.95 stamp but were all out at my post office so they put $19.95 worth of random postage on it (talk about making me nervous and unsure if the consulate would put it in the mail!!) Don’t worry, the consulate sent mine back in my envelope even though it had a thousand stamps on it…USPS Express Mail Envelope

I hope that this covers the Chicago Consulate visa process efficiently! If there are any confusions feel free to comment or send me an e-mail and I will help you as best I can or direct you to someone who would be able to help! I hope you are getting excited for your big move to Spain! All your hard work will pay off in the end!