UW-Madison Study Abroad partnered with The Council on International Education and Exchange to give away 225 free passports Wednesday in an attempt to promote study abroad programs to a more diverse student body.
Many students feel there is a financial barrier to studying abroad, leading to an extreme lack of diversity in a majority of exchange programs— over 70 percent of American students who study abroad being caucasian, according to NAFSA.
“What we did is we partnered with the DDEEA [Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement] and reached out to their students and invited them to come to this passport caravan event where CIEE was willing to offer payment for students to get their first-ever passport,” said Sara Lieburn, enrollment advisor in the UW-Madison study abroad office.
For many students, two major barriers keeping them from pursuing educational opportunities abroad are the financial aspects and miseducation about the programs.
“Personally, the financial aspect is a barrier for me. I was so happy, I was planning on getting my own passport this semester but its really expensive so I was kind of waiting, so the perfect opportunity just came along,” said Erika Carrasco, who is a UW freshman.
By subsidizing the fee of a passport, many students are exposed to the idea of studying abroad when they may have written it off.
“I think there is a myth out there that study abroad is something for wealthy people to do, but study abroad can be at or even less expensive than a semester of school on campus,” said Lieburn.
CIEE believes that the three major challenges that keep students from studying abroad are cost, curriculum and culture. In an effort to break down these barriers, CIEE is offering to subsidize the cost of 10,000 student passports on campuses across the country.
“The goal is to introduce study abroad to as many students as possible because it is something that is open to every student although every student who's coming in might not be aware of study abroad as something that's an option for them or have a preconceived notion that study abroad is unaffordable,” said Lieburn.
Lieburn has been working with different organizations on campus to make studying abroad accessible to as many students as possible — her crowning achievement being the Passport Caravan. She hopes the program’s success will be the beginning of what is a campus-wide push to expand diversity in all study abroad programs.
“We want every student to know if there's a will there's a way and we want to be there to support them if they are pursuing study abroad,” said Lieburn.