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For many students, studying abroad is a life-changing experience. There is simply no better way to soak up a foreign culture than by living in it for a semester or two. Now, that is not to say that studying abroad is without challenges. The transition from the comforts of home to the unknown of a new foreign city has its obstacles.

However, having the right mobile technology can help make this transition period much smoother and more enjoyable. As you acclimate to your new surroundings, put your smartphone to work for you. We rounded up the best apps that make studying abroad easier.

1: Google Translate

Perhaps the biggest initial challenge of studying abroad is learning a new language (depending on where you are). Google Translate is an invaluable pocket translator tool. You can even use the Word Lens feature to take a picture of text (e.g., a menu or sign) and receive a translation instantly. Keep in mind that most translation apps will translate a word literally, so you’ll have to work with a local to learn slang and idioms.

Google Translate is available in the Google Play Store or the iTunes App Store.

2: Convert Any Unit Free

Once you’ve mastered the language, try to tackle foreign conversions. The Convert Any Unit Free app will convert country-specific measurements for temperature, volume, mass, currency and more! Simply select the category and the unit and hit calculate.

Convert Any Unit is featured in the iTunes App Store; for a similar Android app, try ConvertPad.

3: Couchsurfing Travel App

Chances are good that you’ll take a few trips around your new city (and beyond) on the weekends or during a school break. Reduce your lodging costs significantly with the Couchsurfing app, which connects you with people in your destination that have a spare room or couch to share with travelers. According to the app developers, more than 9 million people in over 120,000 cities use Couchsurfing to find or offer a place to stay. At the very least, you’ll have a cheap place to sleep — but it’s more likely you’ll make new friends, too.

Find Couchsurfing in the iTunes App Store or Google Play Store.

4: Viber

Keep your family and friends up-to-date on your adventures abroad! Viber offers free text, HD-quality phone/video calls and photo/video messages. Once downloaded, the app will sync with your contact lists and allow you to call, text or send photos/videos to other Viber users over Wi-Fi or 3G. Group messaging is also available.

Look for Viber in the Google Play Store or iTunes App Store.

5: City Maps 2Go Pro

One of the joys of traveling abroad is hitting the road without a plan, wandering around and getting lost in your new city. But on days when you have a class, test or appointment in an unfamiliar location, get there fast with the City Maps 2Go Pro. One of the perks of the app is that you can download easy-to-use maps via Wi-Fi connection and use them later without Internet connection.

City Maps 2Go Pro is available in the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.
If you’ve recently returned from studying abroad and found other helpful smartphone apps, share them in the comments below!

What are some of the best apps you’ve used?