K-State Students Add Skype to list of ways to communicate on the computer

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Many students have friends or significant others who live too far away to see frequently. For them, finding a cheap and easy way to stay in touch is a constant search. Some students are solving this problem through an online messaging service called Skype.

Skype is a free downloadable feature available at Skype.com allowing users to make phone calls to cell phones and landlines internationally or in the U.S. They can also make video calls and chat online. Users can set up an online number, have a voicemail box and forward calls to their cell phones if they are away from a computer.

Gracia Johnson, junior in kinesiology, said she found Skype to be a perfect fit for her long-distance relationship.

Johnson said she found out about Skype in spring 2008 through her fiancé, Bradley Matlack, graduate student in mechanical engineering. Matlack’s sister-in-law used the program to talk to her sister, who lives in Thailand. When Johnson decided in fall 2008 to travel to Europe for four months, she and Matlack thought using Skype would be the best way to keep the relationship alive and strong, Johnson said.

The couple tested Skype two months before Johnson left the U.S. at the end of January. Throughout her time abroad, despite a few weak European signals, Skype worked. Johnson and Matlack said they both found it to be very useful.

If Skype users want to communicate with other Skype members, everything is free. If they wish to communicate with people not on Skype but via SMS text messaging, landlines or cell phones, they must have money on their Skype Credit.

Skype Credit is offered two ways: Pay as you go or pay monthly. Users can make calls starting at $0.021 per minute and purchase various voice messaging plans ranging from $6 to $60 for either three or 12-month plans.

Johnson said she used Skype to call friends while in Europe since many of the people she lived with did not have cell phones.

She said calling the U.S. is cheaper compared to some countries. Once, Johnson used a pay phone in Austria because there was no Internet and the phone call cost her $80 for 20 minutes.

“Skype had a deal while I was in Europe: it was $9 for three months and I was there for four, so I just paid normal for the last month,” she said. “Even though it did not always work, it was better than nothing.”

Kylee Wilks, freshman in secondary education, is also in a long-distance relationship and said she believes Skype is a huge perk because there is no need to watch cell phone minutes. She can see loved ones — her boyfriend, parents and friends at other colleges — by using the video option rather than just hearing their voices.

However, not all Skype users are in long-distance, romantic relationships. Brenna Mitchell, freshman in business, has spread the word about Skype to a number of friends. She said a high school friend told her about the service so the two could stay in touch even though they attend colleges in different states. Mitchell said she fell in love with Skype after that.

“I like how personal it is and how I can see my friends’ appearance and they can show me things like their dorm room and decorations, etc.,” she said. “It is more personal than a text and a call. It kind of feels like you are with them in a way.”

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