Students began lining up at 9:30 a.m., a half-hour before the Study Abroad Office opened its doors Wednesday for the annual Foundation for International Education Passport Day, anxious to take the first step toward a trip beyond the border. They showed up to the second floor of the Academic Building by the dozen to get a helping hand securing a passport, and to dream about all the places they might soon explore.
With three passport officers in the building, 111 students took their turn going through the documentation to get a passport, 77 of whom were covered by a passport grant and got theirs for free. All in all, 330 people showed interest in the event by signing up with the Study Abroad Office to renew their passport or apply for a new one.
For Maggie Mulhern, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, the passport is a gateway to opportunity. Her family visits her great-grandmother’s homeland of Ireland every year, but she’s never been able to join them. The next time they go, she plans to be there, in the county that shares her family’s name.
“I’ll get to spend time around people who are technically related to me,” she said.
That’s not all she has in mind, though. There’s a study abroad program in Germany she has her eye on, and she wants to visit Kyoto, Japan, to see the cherry blossoms. She’s seen the annual festival in Washington, D.C., but with a passport, Japan is within reach.
Jason Wilson, a sophomore chemical engineering major who grew up 30 minutes from Philadelphia, hasn’t been much farther than the Jersey Shore since he was a small child, and never out of the country. But after seeing his big brother in his fraternity secure a passport at the same event last year, he showed up to get his own. He doesn’t have any specific plans in mind, but he’d like to study abroad at some point, and Italy is a dream destination.
“If this didn’t happen, I’d probably wait another five years to get a passport,” Wilson said. “This definitely influenced me to try to study abroad.”
That’s part of the idea for Lisa Shen and her colleagues in the Study Abroad Office. As a study abroad adviser, she wants to connect students to all of the opportunity waiting for them around the globe.
“It’s important for students to have that accessibility, because sometimes it’s a daunting process for them to get a passport,” Shen said. “We’re here to support them.”
On Wednesday, that support included Dragon Card staff showing up to take passports photos, as well as contributions from all around campus. Of the 77 passports covered by the grant, 30 were paid for by the Foundation for International Education; 20 were covered by the Office of International Programs; 20 were covered by the Study Abroad Office; and seven were covered by the Steinbright Career Development Center.
Jules Smith, a sophomore environmental science major, was one of the many Dragons who took advantage of the support. She’s never been outside of the country, so when she saw an email with information about Passport Day, she jumped at the opportunity.
“I said, ‘Oh, perfect. I have no idea how to get a passport on my own,’” Smith said.
For now, she’s planning to study abroad in Scotland. She also has her eye on Australia down the road.
“It’s a really great place for environmental science because they have so much stuff that no one else does,” Smith said with a grin before explaining further why it’s so ecologically interesting. “Like, all the stuff that can kill you.”