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Switzerland by Ayman Maghrabi
U.S. embassies and consulates assist nearly 200,000 people each year who are victims of crime, accident, or illness, or whose family and friends need to contact them in an emergency. When an emergency happens, or if a natural disaster, act of terrorism, or civil unrest strikes during your time abroad, the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate can be a valuable source of assistance and information. 

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service to allow U.S. citizens traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Registration in this program allows the U.S. Department of State to more easily assist you in case of an emergency, as well as to help keep you updated on any health and safety alerts that might impact your travels. 
Before you leave, you should complete the STEP enrollment to register your travel plans with the U.S. Department of State. Make sure to download the Smart Traveler app after you register, so that you can receive these updates to your phone, in addition to your email.

Dual Citizens

If you are a dual citizen with a U.S. passport, register yourself in STEP with your U.S. passport, even if you are travelling to your destination under your non-U.S. passport. 

Non-U.S. Citizens

If you are not a U.S. citizen, you should register with your embassy in the country or countries where you are traveling or studying. The services that the U.S. government provides to U.S. citizens while abroad (including assistance in an emergency) will not be available to non-U.S. citizens, even if you are hosted by a U.S. program. 

Independent Travel

When talking to those who have studied abroad in the past, they almost always wish they had more time to explore their host city. While it can sometimes be tempting to make frequent weekend travel plans, this is your chance to really get to know a new city and make it your home. Explore your host city, immerse yourself in the culture, and live like a local. You won't regret it!

Limiting your weekend air travel will also help reduce your carbon footprint (see our Sustainable Travel page for more advice on travelling sustainably).

If you do travel independently outside your host city:
  • Make sure you know your program's independent travel policies, and always fill out an independent travel form if required by your program.  
  • Avoid high-risk locations, such as locations marked as “do not travel” or “reconsider travel” by the U.S. Department of State. 
  • If leaving the country, research both the entry requirements for your destination and reentry requirements for your home country (which may include vaccination requirements, visa or other entry requirement paperwork, etc.).
  • Communicate independent travel plans with family/friends.  
  • Update your STEP registration to include your independent travel plans, so that you receive any necessary notifications, and research the health & safety conditions for your destination, as they likely differ from your host city.
  • Download the International SOS Assistance App and enable location-based push notifications, so that you receive ISOS alerts for your independent travel destinations.
  • Flight cancellations & delays generally aren't considered "excusable" reasons to miss class or required program activities, so plan accordingly. Avoid the temptation to book that cheap Monday morning red-eye! 
  • Be sure to talk to your on-site staff before making any travel plans - not only will they have great, insider recommendations, but you will also be able to ensure that what you plan on doing is aligned with the local/program guidance and regulations. 

Last Updated January 2023
Photo, Switzerland by Ayman Maghrabi