YongoPal: Pen Pals, Photo Missions and Culture Sharing

September 12, 2011

9:55 am

If you’re a fan of Instagram, chances are you’ll love YongoPal. In Craig Mod’s words, the newly-released iPhone app is like “Instagram meets awesome, smartly implemented pen pal-like language learning.”

Part of 500 Startups, the app is all about exploring different cultures through daily photo missions and text-based interactions. Two people are matched up based upon age and interests, and then share pictures and messages with each other for one week.

I wanted to try this thing out first-hand, so I entered my name, age (20), location (Centreville, VA but we NoVa folk prefer to just say Washington, DC) and short blurb about myself. Soon enough, the app matched me up with 24-year-old Karim from Antwerp, Belgium.

Karim and I started chatting and uploading photos right away. We shared what we did over the weekend, some of our favorite hangout spots, even the views outside our bedroom windows. It turns out we both love live music and traveling! See screenshots below.

My favorite part about YongoPal were the daily photo missions it sent me on. These could include anything from “share a picture of what you had for lunch” to “share a picture of something that inspires you.” The missions aren’t mandatory, but they are a cool way to get to know your “pen pal” a little better – and vice versa. And they definitely nudged me to venture around town and show off my neck of the woods via artsy photos.

Sadly, my week sharing with Karim and learning about Belgium will end in a few days, but then I get matched up with a brand new guide from a new city somewhere else in the world – and get to start the process all over again. It’s like speed-dating but with pen pals – and it’s so much better than either of those things.

The app takes a really innovative approach to immersing yourself in new cultural experiences through your iPhone. With new friends serving as your local guides, you can discover somewhere new while sharing your own life in photos.

Available now for free, YongoPal is a fun – and quite addicting – addition to your iPhone app collection. On its first day in the App Store, it already attracted users from 13 countries around the globe, including the US, Canada, Mexico, China, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, England, Germany, and Switzerland.

You can download YongoPal here.

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Trisha Cruz is a Tech Cocktail intern with a passion for writing and design. She is a rising third year at the University of Virginia majoring in Media Studies and minoring in Studio Art. Follow her at: @heytrisha

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