International travel is still constrained by the coronavirus pandemic, but an initiative at the University of Georgia is helping put passports in the hands of students to give them a head start on future study abroad opportunities.
With the support of the UGA Foundation, the university’s Office of Global Engagement has provided funding to nearly 400 students to cover the cost of purchasing a passport from Passport Services in the Tate Student Center.
Yana Cornish, who directs global education, emphasized that the passport initiative minimizes barriers while also encouraging students to study abroad. She noted that UGA has one of the highest study abroad participation rates in the nation, with 34% of students studying abroad prior to the COVID pandemic. The passport initiative helps ensure that when travel restrictions ease, students will be ready to go.
“What we’ve learned from research is that when students have a passport, it kind of burns a hole in their pocket and becomes a catalyst for them to consider international engagement,” she said.
Health promotion major Jaquarius Raglin learned about the passport initiative through his role as an ambassador for the Georgia African American Male Experience, which offers leadership development, mentoring and exposure to a range of campus resources. He intends to study abroad with the College of Public Health to examine the health care systems in Italy, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. He’s also interested in visiting Stellenbosch, South Africa to participate in service-learning projects.
“I always say that experience is the best teacher in life,” he said, “and I am positive that studying abroad can help me apply what I am learning in the classroom to the real world.”
Management major Catherine Slack isn’t exactly sure where she wants to study abroad, but she’s leaning heavily toward Spain. She explained that being immersed in the language will help her achieve her longstanding goal of becoming fluent in Spanish.
She admits that the process of applying for a passport at first seemed a little daunting, but an email from the Office of Global Education made her realize that it’s actually pretty easy. Now she “absolutely” plans to study abroad before graduation.
“Learning about another culture in the classroom is one thing,” she said, “but actually experiencing it hands-on is a completely different, eye-opening and valuable experience that I dream of being able to do—and now can thanks to the passport initiative!”
UGA is one of the top institutions for the number of students who study abroad, ranking sixth in the nation in the latest Open Doors ranking. For more information on study away opportunities, visit https://studyaway.uga.edu/.
Author: Sam Fahmy