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Skype: abroad, alone or away

Erin Kenney, For The Miami Student

(HANNAH MILLER | The Miami Student)

Talking to your computer screen can now be considered "normal" thanks to the creators of Skype.

Skype, a free software download, allows any two people owning computers with cameras to be able to see and communicate with each other.

Back in the "olden days" before even cell phones were introduced, who would have ever thought you would be able to sit at a computer and see your friend or family member and actually communicate? Many people use Skype to communicate with a person located in a different country, state or even the house next door. People have stayed more connected, while having several miles separate them.

Skype is used for many different purposes, including both social and business related.

"Per week, I Skype probably everyday with different people," sophomore Beth Radis said.

Radis is currently studying abroad in Europe and is an avid Skype user. With phone calls being extremely expensive and e-mails taking forever and provide no emotional or persona aspect, Radis uses Skype with her family and friends to share some of her experiences across the country.

"Skype makes me feel that much closer to them," Radis said.

Whether it is across the ocean or in the same country, Skype has been extremely popular with college students according to several Miami University students. Students often feel that they have not skipped a beat with their friends from home due to the advantages of Skype.

"It is as if you are sitting in your living room with the person chit-chatting away, as you always would," first-year Julia Schnieder said. "Skype continues to make the relationships on a real level, instead of just hearing the 
person's voice."

Recently, Skype has become very popular with job interviews according to their Web site. Knowing how to use Skype can give you an edge, according to the site. Companies have found Skype to be more effective in interview prospective candidates because it saves times and cuts down on travel costs.

Not only are college students using Skype, but also many adults are finally becoming technologically savvy.

President David Hodge said Miami alumnus Gerard Lopez had great impact on the evolution of Skype. Lopez graduated Miami with a bachelor's degree in management information systems and operational management. He later co-founded a firm called Mangrove Capital Partners in which they became key investors in the production of Skype.

"I love the concept and think it is a terrific way to keep in touch with people," Hodge said.

His concern remains that our society is so fast paced, it is a challenge to even have two people talk on the phone, let alone both be by a computer.

Education has also seen great advantages in using Skype as well. Classrooms are using Skype to participate in projects with other students around the world, ask questions to authors of novels, listen to speakers and learn different cultures and languages.

Recently, there have been many applications of Skype in the media. Oprah shares with people on her Web site that she uses Skype regularly to talk to fellow celebrities. Once she used it for the first time, Oprah said on her daily talk show she had to share this with the world.

Skype is also being increasingly used in the world of sports, especially in the recent 2010 Winter Olympics. According to USA Today, Women's U.S.A. hockey player Jenny Potter, who is the only mother on the team, said Skype has become her best friend in keeping her connected with family back home.

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Germany's Magdalena Neuner, silver medalist in the biathlon on Feb. 14, communicates with her psychologist via Skype back in Germany throughout the Olympics.

Miami Athletic Director Brad Bates said the athletic department has used a program very similar to Skype for different purposes. He explained they have periodically used it, however there are many NCAA rules and regulations they must be aware of. For example, Miami coaches may only contact a potential player via Skype on a one-call-per-week basis.

"I see the benefits in Skype in the sporting industry, however it is not the first means of communication when contacting players and coaches," Bates said.

Although it seems as if Skype is a wonderful source of communication, there are some downfalls. First, a good communication starts with a good Internet source. Without a solid network, communication becomes choppy and often time freezes.

"Skype often times freezes and it is very annoying," Radis said.