International Student and Scholar Services

Keeping In Touch With Home


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It's a great adventure coming to a new place to study, but be fair to yourself and your family: stay in touch with home. Phone home or send a tape; link up with your friends around the world via e-mail; set down your daily thoughts in a journal and in letters to those who helped you get here; plan ahead for a special post-graduation vacation for you and your family. There are all sorts of reasons to stay in touch with home, and all sorts of ways to do so.

The United States has a well-developed network of communications ranging from traditional postal services to advanced telecommunications. In the U.S., you will have access to many communication services, but off-campus services will be required to send and receive international freight and, if you live off-campus, to obtain telephone and Internet service. Most communications services in the United States (with the exception of the U.S. Postal Service) are privately owned and operated; they compete for customers and offer many different choices for a wide range of prices.

Mail Service
The United States Postal Service (USPS) is the main provider of mail service in the United States. Other services compete with the USPS in the areas of express mail and package delivery. These include United Parcel Service (UPS), Federal Express (FedEx), and DHL Worldwide Express (DHL). Unlike postal services in many countries, the USPS does not offer long-distance telephone service or savings accounts.

The nearest U.S. Post Office is located at 7450 Natural Bridge Road. Mail is delivered Monday through Saturday to individual addresses and to boxes available for rent at most post offices. Both UPS and FedEx have boxes located in the General Services Building where you can fill out the necessary forms and mail letters or documents. The instructions and prices are on the boxes.

Many campuses have a campus mail system that distributes regular mail as well as "campus mail," materials sent from one campus department to another. If you live on campus, your mail will be delivered to the Residence Hall by the USPS and then distributed by campus mail to your personal box.

You should not send cash through the mail, but otherwise you can be fairly sure your letter or package will be delivered safely. For additional protection, you may insure your package at the post office.

Telephone Service
Telephone service is provided by local and long-distance telephone companies. Local telephone companies provide local or regional telecommunication services; long-distance companies provide national and international services.

If you live on campus, local telephone service is already provided for you. While there is competition in the long-distance telephone market, you will need to use the university's long-distance carrier.

If you live off campus, you must arrange your own local and long-distance service. To obtain phone service, you need to call 1-800-203-7070. New customers pay a one-time installation charge. Do not forget to have your telephone service disconnected or transferred to your new address when you move. There is no charge for disconnecting telephone service.

If you share long-distance service with roommates or housemates, make sure everyone understands how the bill is to be paid. Check with your long-distance carrier to see if it offers a convenient service that permits each member of the household to enter a personal code when making a long-distance call, thereby simplifying the process of dividing the charges each month.

Detailed instructions for using public telephones (usually referred to as "pay phones") can usually be found in the telephone booth. You can pay with coins or you can pay with pre-paid calling cards. Calling cards are available at the Bookstore in the Millennium Student Center (MSC). You can make long-distance calls from any pay phone in the United States; long-distance service is not confined to certain locales as it is in many countries.

Other Telecommunication Services
Once you have arranged for telephone service, you may wish to look into other services such as facsimile (fax) machines, answering services, and computer-based services such as electronic mail and access to the Internet. Some of these services, such as faxing, are available at low cost from local businesses such as copy centers. It is also possible, for a fee, to send faxes from the Computer Store in the Millennium Student Center.

Most colleges and universities in the United States maintain computer facilities that are equipped with a variety of personal computers and more sophisticated "workstations." These computer sites provide links to the campus computer network, through which users can access services such as library catalogs, on-line databases, electronic mail, and the World Wide Web.

As a student at UMSL, you automatically receive an e-mail account and have access to the university computer labs.