For students, Skype is next best thing to being with friends faraway

March 23, 2009

It wasn’t too long ago that saying goodbye to a friend studying abroad was an emotional and tearful conversation. Now, the parting words often exchanged are, “See you tomorrow.”

The newest technologies enable students to keep virtually in touch with friends even when they are separated by long distances. Webcam is among the new technology that has allowed friends to enjoy face-to-face interaction when they cannot physically be in the same room together. Skype is a service offered through the use of a Webcam.

“Skyping is so much better than e-mail and since calling and texting internationally costs so much, Skype is the best choice because it is free” said McDaniel junior Bethany Bachtel. “It is so much more personal than e-mail, and it feels like you are in the same room as the other person.”

Bachtel purchased her Webcam for less than $40 and for the past three months has been able to communicate for free with her friends spending the semester at McDaniel’s campus in Budapest. She found the Webcam easy to install, and Skype just as easy to download onto her laptop or computer. With Skype up and running, Bachtel clicks on one of her friends, calls them online, and in seconds has a face-to-face conversation with them. Their Webcam feed will appear on her computer screen and hers will appear on theirs.

Bachtel says that she “Skypes” with juniors Victoria Steele and Sami Ralli, who  are studying in Budapest. Steele and Ralli visit with Bachtel two times a week for about an hour each time.

“Because of the time difference in Budapest, sometimes it is difficult to figure out when they will be around their computer, but we make it work,” Bachtel said. “When we can’t get in touch, it is still a lot of fun to leave them video messages.”

Junior Ashley Lyles was convinced that she had to buy a Webcam after she saw Bachtel interacting with Steele and Ralli.

“I used to love watching Bethany ‘Skype’ with Vic and Sami,” said Lyles. “I realized that I wanted a Webcam, not only to talk with them but to communicate with some of my friends at different schools.”

Lyles says that she uses Skype to interact with her friends at various colleges because almost all of her friends have Webcams.

“I ‘Skype’ with some of my friends who go to school close by just because if I haven’t seen them in a while, it is way more personal to sit down and have a conversation with someone face-to-face than on the phone,” Lyles said.

It is hard for Lyles and Bachtel to imagine what it was like only a few years ago when there was no Webcam for students, especially those studying abroad. They agree that it would be much harder to keep in touch with their friends but that they would do anything they could to make it work.

“I feel like it would be hard for us to remain as close if we didn’t have Skype because e-mailing is not nearly as personal as using a Webcam,” said Bachtel. “With Skype, I can express how I’m really feeling and they can see it.”

Bachtel and Lyles recently turned 21 – a monumental age in a college student’s life. One of Bachtel’s worries before purchasing Webcam and Skype was that Steele and Ralli would not be able to spend her 21st birthday with her.

“Before they left for Budapest, they gave me a box that said ‘Do not open until your birthday!’. On my birthday, I ‘Skyped’ with both of them and they watched me open up all 21 of the gifts they gave me,” said Bachtel. “I was so happy that they could be here for my birthday even though they were thousands of miles away.”

By Ali Moreland '10