A whole new world: free passports encourage student travel

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Student Annalese Abreu got a free passport at the on-campus CIEE Passport Caravan. She plans to study abroad in Thailand.

 

Maybe traveling the world is on your bucket list.

The first step to making that goal a reality: Getting a passport. More than 120 FIU students recently got their first passports for free.

FIU’s Office of Study Abroad and The Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) recently hosted a passport caravan on campus. As part of its support of Generation Study Abroad, a nation-wide initiative to double the number of American students studying abroad by 2020, CIEE committed to pay the $135 passport fee for FIU students.

“It’s about opening access to travel abroad,” Director of FIU’s Office of Study Abroad Laura Boudon said. “We’re helping students with that first hurdle. There are so many benefits for students and for all of us. Whether traveling or studying abroad, as we learn about other peoples and cultures, it gives us more time to reflect on ourselves, our place in the world, our goals and what we want to do in life.”

Senior psychology major Natalie Pearson was one of the students who received a free passport.

“I really want to travel,” she said. “If I can get out there, explore and learn a lot, I’m all for it. If you don’t travel, you don’t know anything about the world. It creates more of an open mind.”

Some of the places on her list: Spain, England, the Netherlands and Germany.

When finance and marketing major Christian Google heard about the passport event, he thought, “Google, you better get that passport.”

He said his enthusiasm wasn’t just about getting the passport for free, it was about being ready to travel.

“It will really help me in my future endeavors,” he said. For Google, a photographer, being able to travel will allow him to strengthen his career, take photos all over the world and go wherever his job may take him.

Google was so happy with the opportunity that he also encouraged his roommate and fellow FIU student – who was getting ready to travel – to come to the caravan and get a free passport, too.

Study Abroad

In 2014, FIU joined the Generation Study Abroad commitment of the Institute of International Education, and made it one of its goals to double the number of students at FIU studying abroad by 2020. Currently, nearly 900 Panthers each year study, research or intern abroad in dozens of countries throughout the world.

Study abroad is traveling with an academic component. Students usually enroll for an FIU course and most often the faculty member teaching the course travels with students and leads the study abroad trip.

From academic, professional and personal development to community-building, there are numerous reasons why study abroad trips are a very special form of travel, Boudon said.

“If you’re traveling with a group every day, you get to know those people in a very different way,” she explained. “There’s a camaraderie, a little community, and I know many students continue to keep in contact after they graduate. It connects them to FIU.”

Studying abroad also has the potential to be a resume builder.

“Companies in the global environment like to see that students know how other people live,” Boudon said. “It broadens their perspective. And it tells employers the student is flexible, maybe willing to try to learn a new language and be in new situations.”


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