The Kindle can get you free web access at almost any beach around the world, making it perfect for studying abroad. Photo by goXunuReviews and licensed under CC BY-2.0Today’s guest post comes from Daniel Hernandez an international student from El Salvador, senior at Trinity University studying Finance and Economics, and Shep’s old college roommate! He is currently studying abroad in São Paulo, Brazil with CIEE Study Abroad Programs. He spent a month in Salvador, Brazil for a pre-session and later went to São Paulo.

Editor’s Note: The new generation of Kindle doesn’t support web browsing over 3G. For that privilege, be sure to pick up the Kindle Keyboard before Amazon runs out, or buy one used.

You might think that you already read too much in college, so why would you need an Amazon Kindle 3G ? Well, you might not know that in addition to its book-reading capabilities, it’s also a portable international web browser! You can also get books in English, which in foreign countries can be expensive and hard to find. The books can be delivered through 3G (which Amazon calls Whispernet), Wifi, or by connecting your Kindle to your computer.

Check the 3G Availability

Amazon Kindle uses either the faster 3G network or the slower EDGE network depending on your location. I’ve had experience using both networks and they were about the same speed, at least for downloading books. I would worry more about the availability of either than which specific type is available at your location. You can check that here.

It’s really important to note that depending on your study abroad university or institute, Wi-Fi might be extremely limited. I spent a month in Salvador, Brazil before coming to São Paulo and my local university didn’t have Wi-Fi. I stayed with a host family and the host family didn’t have Wi-Fi, and for some reason I have yet to figure out, they would only allow me to plug in my computer to the ethernet cable about an hour a day. Although I would understand if it had been dial up, it was actually a high-speed internet connection, so they weren’t getting charged per minute!

When I wanted to read in my room The Economist, The New York Times, or Facebook I would just turn on the 3G, and go to the website. It was sometimes a bit tricky because the websites aren’t optimized for reading on the Kindle over the web browser. With a bit of practice though it isn’t that inconvenient, you just need to have the right zoom and/or the appropriate screen orientation. If people in the study abroad group posted on Facebook they were meeting somewhere to eat, I could just read it directly from my Kindle and then go there. Having some internet was way better than having no internet!

Downloading Books

The Amazon Kindle is great for downloading books from abroad. The Amazon Kindle Store has books in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese. The Kindle is a great way to keep up with recently released books in English, that otherwise might not be as readily available at your location. Besides, do you really want to carry 10 books with you while traveling ?

Subscriptions 

Beware, it’s free if you want to download books through Whispernet but you have to pay $4.99 weekly to receive subscriptions to your newspaper, magazines, and blog subscription, in addition to the price of the individual subscriptions. 

Web Browsing

This is the best reason why to get a Kindle 3G! The Kindle 3G allows you to web browse for FREE using 3G pretty much anywhere in the world! Although the web browser is very basic, and you can’t watch videos on an e-ink screen anyway, it allows you to do some very basic web browsing! If you’re lost somewhere in the city, you can google your  current location in your Kindle. If you just want to check your email if you’re in a really remote area you can do that too. For the month I was in Salvador, Brazil I had a friend that for some reason didn’t have access to the internet for several days. He asked to borrow my Kindle and he checked his email right in class. His mom had written saying that she was about to call the cops reporting that he had gone missing! 

When I flew to Brazil from San Antonio, my flight got delayed so I missed the meeting point, and even orientation. When I flew in to São Paulo I emailed the study abroad staff through my Kindle so I would know where to go once I arrived to Salvador. The Wi-Fi at the airport was not free, and given that my Portuguese at the time wasn’t that great, so it would have been a bit tricky to figure out how to connect anyway. With my Kindle though, I didn’t have to spend a dime or ask for help.

You can still get 3G for your smartphone in foreign countries but it might be a bit tricky, and it will be expensive. You’ll need to subscribe to a cellphone plan but in order to do that, you will need to prove that you are a resident of the country or have the equivalent of a social security number. You’re stuck in no man’s land, you are neither a resident, nor do you have the equivalent social security number, but obviously you’re there legally! Maybe it is worth it to eventually sign up for a 3G plan for your smartphone but it won’t be free like the Kindle’s and it won’t be automatic. 

Internet can be expensive or really limited depending on where you’re traveling or studying abroad. In addition, you should plan to bring the appropriate converters and transformers (they are not the same!). It might be dangerous to carry a laptop with you if you don’t want it stolen. Although you might still get your Kindle stolen it is significantly less expensive than even your most basic laptop. You have to remember than technology is usually more expensive abroad than in the US, so you really want to be careful with the one you bring. Luckily, with a cheap Kindle in your bag, you’re always connected and have nothing to fear.