An affordable option is to buy a local phone card or even a US-based calling card system with local country numbers. You can buy calling cards with very cheap rates (calling a local number on a phone to connect to a calling card, and then to the States). Can be used on landlines or cells.
You can purchase a cell phone in Madrid, as the staff does not encourage you to use your US cell phone while abroad. The NYU in Madrid office will provide information on how to purchase one on the first day of orientation.
Heather –I was on Movistar, a pay for what you use (vs. pay as you go), which was not bad until the last bill slammed me with some unexpected fees. Just mail their phone back to them on time.
Alison –I had a Vodafone phone that was a pre-paid minute plan. I bought a card that put 10, 20, 50 euro son your phone. When these ran out, I refilled my minutes.
Your host family may provide internet, but it is not the norm. There are computers on campus or we suggest finding an internet café. These are helpful sites to locate them: http://www.cybercaptive.com
•It is a free internet phone service to speak to family and friends. You need a headset and it is free if the person you are calling has a Skype account as well.
•You can also purchase a U.S. number from skypefor about 30 euros. When people call you they are charged local rates as if you were in the U.S. You also get free incoming and voicemail.
Online Communities & Blogging
Show off your time abroad and connect with travelers:
http://www.Blogger.com –Free and easy to use blogging software.
http://www.CheckPointBlack.com –Free internet site that connects travelers and has forums for posting stories, videos, questions, journals, etc.
http://www.LonelyPlanet.com –Thorn tree is a great forum to speak to other travelers.