Your passport is your official identification document for international travel. If you don’t yet have one, apply now because you’re not going anywhere without one. The U.S. State Department website - http://travel.state.gov/ - is your destination for passports and much more. The site will walk you through all the requirements and allow you to fill out the application online. However, you must apply in person, so you’ll have to print the application and take it, along with various other materials such as a birth certificate and photo, to a nearby Passport Acceptance Facility. Happily, there are many of those, and a link on the site - Where to Apply in the U.S. – allows you to find all the ones in your area. Phone numbers are listed and you should be sure to call first because they often have individual quirks, such as by appointment only or no cash accepted. You don’t want to get there and be disappointed.
Passport photos must meet specific requirements, which you’ll find on the site. Many places take passport photos, including drug stores, FedEx/Kinko’s, AAA, etc. You can even find discount coupons online for some of the drug stores. GOOD ADVICE: While you’re getting your photos, get some extras. If you’re going to Florence for a semester, you’ll end up needing SIX more pictures for your student visa and stay permit. They don’t have to match your passport photo exactly, but it may be cheaper to get them all at once if your photographer is willing to just print a whole sheet.
Speaking of visas, you may or may not need one, depending on your destination and length of stay, but that will be discussed once you’re accepted into a program. A visa is a document granted by your destination country showing that you are authorized to enter or study, etc. Some countries require a visa even for a short visit; others, only for a longer stay; and others, not at all. If you do need a visa, the procedure will likely be that your passport and those of your fellow students will be collected and sent to the destination country’s consulate to request the visas. But don’t concern yourself with visas now – just make sure you have your valid passport ready when needed.
Travel arrangements for your semester or course will be discussed in orientation or information meetings. You may be expected to travel with the group, or you may be permitted to arrange your own transportation. Bring your questions to your faculty leader or program coordinator.
For general information about travel, the US State Department site you visited to apply for a passport is an excellent resource:
The International Travel tab links to a wealth of useful information, including:
• Tips for Traveling Abroad, including Health and Safety Issues
• Living Abroad Tips
• Travel Warnings and Alerts
• Country Specific Information
• What to do about a Lost or Stolen U.S. Passport Abroad
It is strongly recommended that you browse through this site to learn what’s here and to take advantage of this huge store of useful information.