Regular emails to get you ready and to keep you up-to-date will begin with the signing of your Terms of Award. Please remember US academic etiquette:  a quick response to emails is expected to indicate that you received and read the email.


We STRONGLY recommend a cell phone for your year here.  We have created a cell phone guide to help you choose a cell phone and plan.

Sim Cards

You can buy Sim cards downtown East Lansing, within walking distance of Owen Hall, at Target, CVS, or at the several phone service providers.

Types of phones

Conventional phones: These phones can make calls, text messages, and possibly take photos. They cannot access the internet. Popular brands are LG, Motorola, and Samsung. These phones cost $20 to $75. Many international students choose these types of phones.

Smart phones: These phones can access the internet and can make calls with Skype. Popular brands are Samsung, iPhone, Blackberry and HTC. Smart phones cost from $50 to $500.

Used phones: if you are in contact with another person leaving the United States, you may buy their phone then put your own service plan onto it. Be certain it will work before purchasing it.

Service providers

Once you have a phone, you must have a service provider put a plan on it in order to use it. The providers do this by inserting a SIM card into the phone. The most popular providers are Verizon and AT&T. Others are less popular but may offer service that fits your needs. 

Types of service plans

Card prepaid plans: With a prepaid plan, you can purchase minutes on a card and manually put the minutes on your phone in before you use it. If you run out of minutes, you must buy another card and put more minutes onto the phone. These plans often do not have a contract. This means you can stop using your phone at anytime without being charged a fee. These plans are cheap if you do not use your phone often.

Monthly prepaid plans: With this plan, you can buy a large amount of cell phone service at the beginning of each month. This is a prepaid plan, but you do not have to buy a card and manually put minutes onto your phones. The cell phone provider automatically does that. These plans do not have contracts or they have short contracts. Many international students choose this option.

Contract plans: These plans require you to use the service for one or two years. You must pay at the end of each month. If you decide to sign a cell phone contract, you might get a free phone. If you break the contract and stop paying, you will be charged a fee. These plans are the most expensive.

Questions to ask when buying a cell phone

I am in the US until next May, do I get charged a fee for quitting my phone service then?

How do I pay for my service?

How many calling minutes and texts does the plan include?

Do I get charged for international calls?

Will this phone work in my home country? Do I need a new SIM card for that?

Whom do I contact if I have trouble with my phone?

There are landlines in Owen, but those are not as convenient for making arrangements, keeping in touch here in the US, etc.   An overseas phone calling card can keep international calls reasonable on the landline.


These can all be fantastic ways to keep in touch locally and with friends, family and colleagues back home. Just be sure to balance the time you spend talking/chatting with friends back home with making friends here.