Drexel Wins Grant to Offer Free Passports to Students

Students received free passports at the Passport Caravan event on Nov. 2.
Students received free passports at the Passport Caravan event on Nov. 2

For some students, the $135 fee to apply for a passport (plus the cost to take a professional passport photo) can be a major detriment when budgeting to study or travel abroad. The Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), an international nonprofit NGO that organizes work and study aboard trips, has pledged to alleviate that financial burden by covering the cost of 10,000 passports by 2020 — and Drexel University is helping with that goal.

This fall, Drexel’s Study Abroad Office won a grant to receive CIEE’s Passport Caravan — the name for the passport initiative, which will be hosted at universities across the country — and cover the cost for 75 student passports. Drexel’s Office of International Programs (OIP) and the Steinbright Career Development Center covered the cost for 15 additional passports. Additionally, OIP covered the cost and hassle of taking passport photos for attendees if students got their photograph done at the Dragon Card office on campus.

Interested students signed up to receive their free passport during an all-day event on Nov. 2. In total, 90 out of 215 students who had signed up for the event received passports that were paid for and completed. Based on the event’s popularity, the Study Abroad Office hopes to hold a similar Passport Caravan in the spring to accommodate more students.

“The Passport Caravan is one part of an ongoing effort by the Study Abroad Office to assist students in participating in an international experience — whether it is for study, co-op or volunteer — while they are at Drexel,” said Lisa Shen, a study abroad advisor.

Kacy Reitnauer, a sophomore environmental science major at Drexel, received a free passport at the Passport Caravan event.

For many students, receiving an all-expenses-paid passport helped with any travel programs they signed up for or were thinking about completing.

“Money is always an issue, so I was so excited to hear about a free passport,” said Kacy Reitnauer, a sophomore environmental science major who had just submitted her application to study and conduct field research abroad on Bioko Island in Equatorial New Guinea.

Environmental studies sophomore Darnell Davies, who hopes to complete a Drexel co-op abroad program in Africa, signed up to participate in the Passport Caravan to eliminate the first costly step in planning for such an extended trip.

“I’m hoping to get a scholarship for a co-op abroad, so now I’m so grateful that I don’t have to worry about using that scholarship money to pay for my passport,” he said.

While at the event, students learned about the various CIEE programs that Drexel offers to study abroad, which include programs in China, France, Japan and Jordan, among others.

An international Mario the Dragon statue greeted Drexel students at the Passport Caravan event.

“Drexel has been sending students on CIEE language and culture programs for over 20 years,” said Shen. “Since we started keeping digital records in 2007, we sent 72 students abroad through CIEE semester programs. We also collaborated with CIEE for shorter Intensive Courses Abroad.”

Last year, a total of 322 Drexel students participated in full-term study abroad programs and 315 in intensive courses abroad, or short faculty-led academic programs held during the weeklong break between Drexel terms. An additional 139 Drexel students also participated in other types of international experiences, excluding international co-op. Last year, 128 exchange students from Drexel’s partner universities around the world came to campus to study at Drexel for at least a term.

“Going abroad is more than just traveling and Instagram photos,” said Shen. “Going abroad helps students develop valuable career skills, fosters personal growth, broadens student’s world view and perspective and grows student networks beyond the borders of the United States. The Study Abroad Office is prepared to help and support Drexel students’ international ambitions every step of the way.”