I have to admit – I love the STEP Program.
If you ask any study abroad advisor about the STEP Program, there is a good chance that they will drone on for hours about how amazing the program is.
And – better yet – it’s free!
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.
Back in the dark ages before the Internet, US citizens could call the embassy in their destination city and provide the officials with travel information in the event of an emergency.
Understandably, this was borderline nightmarish and not very accessible.
Then, the State Department birthed this wonderful program for all US Citizens to use!
Travelers create an account by entering their passport, emergency contact, and contact information. Then, once the account is confirmed, a traveler can add different trips (including travel companions) with hotel information as well as dates.
Generally, you will receive confirmation that the trip was registered and that is the end of the communication… unless something goes wrong.
(Or unless the local consulate decides to email you regularly regarding parties at the embassy – we’re looking at you, New Delhi).
So why do you need it?
When I was visiting Turkey, there were rumblings about some tension in the country.
One night at 8:00 local time, I received an email from STEP warning me about impending riots in Taksim Square the following day, suggesting that I avoid the area.
The email also detailed their contact and emergency information.
I took note (I wasn’t planning on going there anyway), but then immediately received an email from my emergency contact for the STEP Program asking if I was going to avoid Taksim Square. I was pretty impressed with how much my contact stayed on top of news.
The next day, the protests turned violent. The State Department maintained communication with all people registered with STEP as needed.
So, in the event of a potential (or ongoing) crisis, the State Department is on it. Well played, DOS. Well played.
I strongly suggest that you register every personal trip, day trip, and side trip out of your country with the Department of State – before, during, and after your study abroad program.
It might feel a tad “big brothery,” but all of your information is protected.
The STEP program is extremely helpful in emergency situations, and they are proud of their history of providing support to citizens. Also, if you lose your passport, the Department of State can better assist you
Having the information uploaded to the STEP Program will make your life a little easier in this stressful situation.
Do you have any stories about how the STEP Program helped you? Share in the comments below!
Study Abroad Guide: Prepare for Anything
What to Do If You Lose Your Passport
11 Things You Need to Research Before Traveling
What to Do During an Emergency Abroad
Things You Do that Stress Out Your Advisor