Junior Curtis Dickens has never left the country because he didn’t have a passport. But now he’ll be able to fulfill his dream.
Dickens was one of 100 University of Maryland students who were able to apply for and process passports for free as part of a Passport Caravan event held in Stamp Student Union on Thursday.
“I really want to travel the world. I feel like I have a limited perspective,” said Dickens, a government and politics major. “I’ve always seen other countries on television and how they’re portrayed in the media, but without having the real experience of being [there], you’ll never know — and I don’t want to be one of those people.”
Students filed in and out of the Grand Ballroom at the all-day event that encouraged studying abroad and awarded free and discounted passports to students who applied in advance. The Education Abroad Office at this university partnered with the Council on International Educational Exchange this year to give away 200 awards to students, giving 100 free passports and waiving a $25 processing fee for others, cutting the cost down to $110.
CIEE, a nonprofit organization founded in 1947, specializes in education abroad and intercultural exchange. It works with more than 35,000 exchange students a year, and has committed to sponsor passports for 10,000 students across the country and provide $20 million in scholarships, according to a CIEE media release.
“We know that fewer than 300,000 U.S. students study abroad each year, and we here at CIEE really want to see that number double,” said Beth Donaldson, CIEE vice president of global enrollment management. “Our mission statement is to help people gain understanding, acquire knowledge and develop skills for living in a globally interdependent and culturally diverse world.”
The students arrived at the event during their appointment times and were paired with an agent from the post office. The agents went through the application process with the students, made sure they had all the required documents and certified the materials. The students are slated to receive their passports in the mail in a few weeks, said Amy Dwyer, CIEE director of institutional relations.
Each student who took part in the event also received a $1,000 grant, which they will be able to use toward an education abroad opportunity of their choice, Dwyer said.
The Education Abroad program at this university aimed mostly to award freshmen and sophomores, students who have never owned a passport, and others who are underrepresented in the program, said Lauren Ruszczyk, assistant director of the Education Abroad Office.
“I’ve always wanted to get a passport, but it wasn’t something easy for me to do,” said sophomore Taylor Blare, who received a free passport. She said no one in her family has traveled abroad, and neither has she.
Blare, a criminology and criminal justice major, said she loves the idea of traveling abroad and wants to use her passport to study in Italy this spring.
“We really believe in reducing barriers for students to study abroad,” Ruszczyk said. “We saw this as an awesome way to really help students eliminate a hurdle and make studying abroad a reality.”