By KELLY O’GRADY
This past week, flyers were everywhere on campus advertising a free Passport Caravan event to encourage studying abroad. The Council of International Education Exchange is providing $20 million in scholarships for college students to study abroad through the Generation Study Abroad Initiative. This initiative includes free passports that are to be given to 10,000 American students.
The University of Mary Washington was included as a part of CIEE's grant, receiving of $13,500 for the chance to offer its students 100 free passports at a Passport Caravan event on Ball Circle. In addition to the grant, UMW’s Center for International Education was able to provide an additional 10 free passports by contributing $1,350.
“The CIEE’s goal is to get under represented populations abroad, any kind of minority students, men, first generation college students and break down those barriers,” said Education Abroad Coordinator Kate Jordan. “Studying abroad is a way to broaden your perspective and students come back so much more confident with an understanding of the greater world out there.”
The event succeeded in drumming up interest for study abroad programs, even among younger college students.
“I would like to go to Italy. I went to interest meetings about studying abroad, but this is my first time actually looking into it,” said freshman Savara Gunn.
The process of obtaining the passports, which can be a tricky process, was described by Gunn as “very easy and not overwhelming at all.”
Senior computer science major Nathan Nuval participated in the Passport Caravan event. The opportunity the event offered provided Nuval not just a free passport, but also a chance for him to feel he would no longer be “missing out.”
According to the CIEE webpage, fewer than 300,000 American students study abroad each year, averaging to fewer than 10 percent of all U.S. undergraduate students. Through the Generation Study Abroad program, CIEE hopes to at least double the amount of students who study abroad within the next four years by breaking down barriers.
“This is going to be the most affordable time, I don’t think I am going to have another chance for a while to afford it,” said junior communication and digital studies major Madison White. “Everybody has been great and very willing to help.”
To qualify for the event, students were required to bring a Passport Application Form, proof of U.S. citizenship, proof of identity and an official passport photo. Upon CIEE’s approval of their documents, students were given an appointment time to receive their free passport. In total, the Center for International Education gave away 61 free passports through this event.