Hey, if all went well, you are now connected to the Net! Try a 'telnet remotehostname' (remember that abbreviation in your hosts file?). You should get the remotes telnet login prompt. Go on, try it! You can now telnet/FTP/etc. anywhere on the Net from your local machine. How? Your machine is using the remote as a nameserver to resolve addresses (resolv.conf). Experiment, find out what works and what doesn't.
You will not be able to use services that are not provided already on your remote host! For example, if your server doesn't allow telnets, chances are you can't do it either. Why? Because the emulator is only re-directing what is already available.
The obvious text based solution is Pine, you can get it from The University of Washington .
My pick for 'Best Mail Reader, X Based' has to go to XFmail. This has now gotten out of beta, and rocks. Easy to install; requires no local mail system be installed (but will work with local spools) because it has POP built in - no more popclient/fetchpop! Easy to use; totally customizable from the GUI. Also supports MIME. Get it from The XFmail Homesite.
The text based News Reader SLRN is fairly simple to install and use. It is a true NNTP newsreader, which means no local news transport is required to make it work (you don't have install Cnews or INN). It does require that you have access to an NNTPserver, naturally, but most ISPs have this. It is text based, but has color and mouse support, and runs fine in an rxvt window.
The X based News Reader KNews is almost perfect. As with SLRN above, no local transport is required, but an NNTP server is. It's at least worth a look.
Obviously, you will need to have X running for this to work, but it's a simple matter of FTPing the binary, unpacking it, and installing it.