By Gavin Pugh Lariat Reporter
Last spring, Dallas senior Lauren Moore, along with several peers, boarded a train from Madrid to Maastricht – leaving behind a fellow student who had lost his passport with what little money they could scrounge up to give him. He would go on to illegally cross the Spanish-French border in the rain led by a bearded man with a staff to take a train back to Holland.
Another student on the same trip had to stay behind and buy a ticket home while she waited for the embassy to create a new passport.
Losing a passport while studying abroad does not only require a trip to the closest American embassy, but could potentially cost thousands of dollars in last-minute airfare purchases or as in Moore’s case, an excursion across borders.
Though border-crossing may seem like a viable option in times of desperation, there are ways to avoid ever having to be in such dire straits.
Moore said she and her peers were advised to store their valuables in a money belt, which is like a fanny pack worn under one’s clothes. But no one chose to follow that advice, Moore said.
Having a passport lost or stolen is not the only way to be stranded without identification abroad. Rochester, Minn. junior, Paige Tierney studied in France during the fall semester with a student who accidentally traveled with an expired passport.
“He went to get out of the country, and they saw that it was expired, and they held him at the border for a couple days,” Tierney said. “So it was a huge ordeal to figure out the fact that he did actually have a valid passport, but he just brought the wrong one. It was just a big inconvenience.”
The price of an adult passport book is $110, excluding service fees. More information on applying and purchasing a passport can be found online at travel.state.gov.
Keeping an up-to-date passport secured in a money belt ensures students can avoid these inconveniences, as well as prepare them for the ease of travel if they are studying in Europe.
Tierney, who was in Paris when the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks took place, was still able to travel without being heckled by police because of her American passport.
“The agents wouldn’t even look inside [the passports] as soon as they saw they were American,” Tierney said.
People from other countries did not get off so easy.
“There was a man from Africa that was sitting behind us and [the agents] completely grilled him with questions,” Tierney said. “It was a little bit disconcerting to see the difference in how they treated us versus someone from Africa. I mean, there was major profiling going on.”
Having a passport in hand has other benefits as well. Because her passport had been previously verified, Moore only needed to show her Eurail train pass while traveling between countries.
“Europe’s transportation system is phenomenal,” Moore said. “It’s all really clean. It’s all really efficient.”
For more information on study abroad and exchange programs, contact the Center for Global Engagement on the second floor of the Poage Library.