News From Our Blog

Youth Exchange Scholarships for High School Students

The U.S. Department of State offers a number of exchange programs and scholarships for American high school students to study abroad.

If you’re interested in studying abroad, one of these programs could help cover expenses for your trip:

The National Security Language Initiative for Youth offers merit-based scholarships for overseas study of these foreign languages:  Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Korean, Persian (Tajik), Russian and Turkish.  

The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Abroad Program offers scholarships to spend a semester or an academic year in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mali, Morocco, Oman, Thailand, and Turkey.  

The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program offers students a fully-funded year abroad in Germany. 

The American Youth Leadership Program offers opportunities for students and educators to travel abroad on a three- to four-week-long exchange program.

Learn more about these student exchange programs.

Image description: Peace Corps volunteer Jason Hays took this photo in Zambia.

Building a new home in rural Zambia takes a lot of time and effort. On May 30, 2008, in a small village in the Luapula province, much of the community helped to build a home of mud bricks and dried grass for a struggling family in the village. The photograph I took shows six women carrying pails of water from a nearby stream to the men who mix the water into mud to make new bricks and mortar.

Image description: Peace Corps volunteer Jason Hays took this photo in Zambia.

Building a new home in rural Zambia takes a lot of time and effort. On May 30, 2008, in a small village in the Luapula province, much of the community helped to build a home of mud bricks and dried grass for a struggling family in the village. The photograph I took shows six women carrying pails of water from a nearby stream to the men who mix the water into mud to make new bricks and mortar.

Asked by Anonymous

So I want to go to Cuba. What are the rules with that? Will my government arrest me for traveling?

U.S. citizens and permanent residents are not allowed to travel to Cuba, unless they have special permission from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) at the Department of the Treasury. OFAC does not grant permission for tourist travel to Cuba.

The travel restriction also includes travel to Cuba from or through a third country, such as Mexico or Canada. 

Travelers who fail to comply with the regulations could face civil penalties and criminal prosecution upon return to the United States.

Learn more about travel restrictions to Cuba.

Tips for Traveling Abroad

We all know that the holiday season is peak travel time. Although airports will be crowded, that doesn’t have to ruin your holiday travel experience. Whether you are packing your bags for the sunny beaches of the Caribbean or headed to the snowy slopes of Switzerland, we hope you will take advantage of the following tips to help make your holiday travels safe, smooth, and stress-free.

Enroll in STEP

Record your travel plans with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a free online service that allows us to better assist you if there is a family emergency in the United States or a crisis where you are traveling. You’ll also receive updated travel information for countries you plan to visit. In accordance with the Privacy Act, information on your welfare and whereabouts will not be released to others without your express authorization.

Apply early for your passport

Did you know that a U.S. passport book or passport card is now required for land and sea travel to Mexico and the Caribbean? If you do not have a passport and you plan to travel outside of the United States this holiday season, apply for your passport now. Our current commitment for passport processing time is four to six weeks for routine service and two to three weeks for expedited service. There are 26 passport agencies and more than 8,800 passport acceptance facilities across the United States. Passport application forms are available on our website.

Sign your passport and fill in the emergency information

Make sure you have a signed, valid passport, and a visa, if required, and fill in the emergency information page of your passport. Most passports are valid for ten years. Write the contact information in pencil so you can change it as needed over time.

Leave copies of itinerary, passport data page, and credit card

Sure, you’ve enrolled in STEP so that your family and the State Department can contact you in an emergency, but you should also leave copies of your itinerary, passport data page and visas with family or friends at home. Leave a copy of your credit card too; in an emergency, the credit card company can help your family locate you.

Check your overseas medical insurance coverage

Ask your medical insurance company if your policy applies overseas, and if it covers emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. If it does not, consider supplemental insurance. Medical treatment and evacuations can cost thousands of dollars – some countries won’t allow you in through customs unless you can show proof of medical insurance!

Familiarize yourself with local conditions and laws

While in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws. Our website has useful safety and other information about the countries you will visit. You can also download the Smart Traveler iPhone app to have the country information at your fingertips.

Find the closest U.S. embassy or consulate

Take a moment to locate the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in your destination country. This can come in handy if you need the assistance of a consular officer.

Take precautions to avoid being a target of crime

Practice the same safety tips you would in any unfamiliar place: do not wear clothing or jewelry that would attract attention and do not carry excessive amounts of money; do not leave unattended luggage in public areas; do not accept packages from strangers; and do not travel with anything you’d hate to lose.

Contact us in an emergency

We are here to help you. Consular personnel at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad and in the United States are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to provide emergency assistance to U.S. citizens. Contact information for U.S. Embassies and Consulates appears on our website, or you can call the Office of Overseas Citizen Services for assistance with emergencies at 1-888-407-4747 (if calling from the U.S. or Canada), or 202-501-4444 (if calling from overseas).

From the Bureau of Consular Affairs to you, we wish you good cheer this holiday season and safe travels!