A new State Department website allows students to get direct assistance from the federal government while spending a semester abroad.
By visiting https://travelregistration.state.gov, travelers can alert the government of their whereabouts in case they require special assistance. In the past, students had to wait in long lines and fill out paperwork at American embassies and consulates to keep in contact with the government.
Signing up with the State Department through the site, which enters them into the “Warden System,” allows an embassy to help an American staying abroad contact family, register for absentee voting and replace a lost passport. Through the website, students will be able to register with American authorities in their place of visit even before they leave home.
“This is just one more way of making the registration process easier,” said Lynn Leonard, GW’s Office of Study Abroad director.
Leonard emphasized that at a time of elevated terror threats around the world, the State Department can help registered students access information and assistance during a security crisis or civil unrest.
“The Warden System is a communication network which can significantly help travelers while abroad,” she said. “If something was happening that concerned U.S. citizens, this system would make sure they got that information.”
According to the State Department site, U.S. embassies and consulates assist nearly 200,000 Americans each year who are victims of crime, accident, illness or who are abroad during terrorist attacks.
Officials from the State Department declined to comment on the new system, referring question to the website for information.
Leonard said she hopes the Internet-based system will help more students stay safe as they study at hundreds of programs around the world.
“In the past students had to go in to the embassy with papers, passports and other information,” Leonard said, adding that a lengthy process deterred some students from completing their registration.
Some students who previously studied abroad said the website would have made it easier for them to sign up with the State Department.
“When I studied abroad I didn’t register with the embassy, but I would have been more inclined to if I could have just done it online,” said Tanya Patwa, a freshman who studied in England while in high school.
Junior Rachael Evans, who will be studying in Italy next semester, said she would probably not contact the State Department if the new site did not exist.
“Even though it’s not required to register, I would be more inclined to if I could just do it all online before I left,” she said.
“The stronger the connection you have with the embassy, the more beneficial they can be,” said Kris Ansin, a sophomore who plans to study in Australia next year. “This sounds like it will make it easier to make that connection.”