A new travel alert issued today by the State Department amid concerns over potential terror attacks overseas is advising American citizens throughout Europe, including U.S. students studying abroad, to take precautions.
The U.S. Department of Education estimates that more than 80,000 Americans study abroad each year. In fact, for dangerous times such as these, the U.S. study abroad office advises parents on what to do to keep their child calm if and when an alert has been issued in their host country.
Travel alerts, which are issued by the State Department, advise citizens of short-term conditions within a particular country that may pose a risk to their safety, especially with regards to terrorist attacks.
Travel warnings, which are more severe, are issued when the government strongly recommends that American citizens avoid traveling abroad because of long-term conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable.
Most universities and colleges receive routine emergency postings from the State Department, and in turn provide links on their websites so that the information is disseminated to their students.
The Office of Overseas Services lists the following suggestions to help students and parents remain prepared and calm in the event of an emergency while studying abroad:
Register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department's travel registration website . Registration will make your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an emergency.
Know How the Privacy Act Affects You and Your Child. In accordance with the Privacy Act, information on your welfare and whereabouts may not be released without your express authorization. Remember to leave a detailed itinerary and the numbers or copies of your passport or other citizenship documents with a friend or relative in the United States. (U.S. embassy and consulate locations can be found under the Country Specific Information section.)
Have a plan for reaching your child. If your family needs to reach you because of an emergency, they can pass a message to you through the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 202-647-5225. This office will contact the embassy or consulate in the country where you are traveling and pass a message from your family to you. Remember consular officers cannot cash checks, lend money or serve as your attorney. They can, however, if the need arises, assist you in obtaining emergency funds from your family, help you find an attorney, help you find medical assistance, and replace your lost or stolen passport.