October 16, 2012

Using Foursquare Abroad

To say Foursquare is a popular app is an understatement. Within three years, it has grown to a community of 25 million registered users worldwide. Due to its popularity and breadth, the location-based app is filled with countless check-ins, specials and tips. While checking in may be second nature to you here in the United States, you may not expect to get much mileage — if any at all — with the app when you’re studying abroad.

But you’d be wrong! Aside from the obvious badges and mayorships, Foursquare can actually be useful during your time abroad, for obvious reasons and some not so much. Here are five ways in which Foursquare can enhance your study abroad:

1. Find local favorites.
Every tourist wants to visit the best places a country or city has to offer. Until recently, travelers had only guidebooks to help them on their journey, and while some guidebook recommendations are certainly worth visiting, there’s nothing quite like stopping by a spot frequented and celebrated by locals. Through Foursquare’s Explore button, you can find personalized suggestions for nearby venues. You can also read users’ tips to find out which spaces are the best and what’s worth eating, drinking or seeing. As a student studying abroad, this is a great way to find places where local students and young people hang out, thus enhancing your cultural immersion.

2. Make lists.
Some free spirits prefer to not have an itinerary when they travel, but more often than not, you’ll probably want to see certain places and check out certain events when you’re abroad. Foursquare’s Lists feature allows you to create a list filled with venues you want to see, so you’ll always have them ready to reference. You can also share your list with friends, and they can add their recommendations for places to visit while you’re abroad.

3. Keep track of where you’ve been.
Thanks to Foursquare and its log of your check-ins, you no longer have to worry about trying to remember all of the twists and turns you made and arbitrary landmarks you passed before stumbling upon that wonderful café that rainy afternoon. The digital record ensures that any place you're fond of can be visited time and time again, either on your current trip or on a return visit.

4. Let people know where you are.
Foursquare is best known for popularizing the term “checking in,” and for students studying abroad, checking in on Foursquare is a simple way to let family and friends back home know where you are and what you’re up to (if you want them to know). Plus, it’s quicker and cheaper than a phone call.

5. Find your friends.
Just as people are able to find out where you are based on your check-ins, you can easily find your fellow study-abroad peers by taking a look at their check-ins. If your class got out early or you feel like going out, a quick glance at Foursquare will provide you with the information you need to find and meet up with your friends.

Joshua John currently works in community relations for the University of Southern California’s Virtual Master of Social Work program, which provides social workers the opportunity to earn an online social work degree. He also loves gadgets, movies, and all things Batman. Follow him on twitter: @joshuavjohn.


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