A passport opens doors to new countries, cultures and communities. And every year, the University of Georgia helps hundreds of its students get one.
Through its passport scholarship initiative, UGA’s Office of Global Engagement has awarded nearly $220,000 in support, funding 1,367 U.S. adult passports for UGA undergraduate students since early 2021. The initiative is a first step toward studying abroad, covering the cost of a passport and providing step-by-step instructions to gather the necessary paperwork.
The passport initiative, along with other OGE scholarships, made study abroad possible for junior psychology major and Spanish minor Kailani Restrepo.
“I’m a commuter, I work a job, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to afford it,” she said.
Restrepo attended the Cádiz summer program, a six-week home stay program in Spain. The experiential learning opportunity accelerated her Spanish minor—she only has one more class to take—but one event in particular stood out. During her last week, she got a stomach bug.
“I swear it wasn’t a bug—it felt so much worse than that,” she said. “But because I was sick, I had to go to the doctor, and when I was at the hospital I realized I could barely understand the doctors. That’s what actually made me want to take UGA’s medical Spanish class this semester.”
She plans to continue along that course, taking a medical interpreter class as well, gaining skills that can help improve other patients’ experiences.
“It inspired me to learn more in that direction,” she said, “because that was me. I was in the hospital, super nervous, and it made the experience so much better to have that language barrier crossed.”
Facilitating study abroad for all students
The Passport Scholarship Initiative’s process is simple. To apply, students must be a U.S. citizen, and they must be an undergraduate student in good academic standing.
And the initiative is just one piece of the puzzle. OGE helps students select the right program and apply for additional scholarships.
“Our goal is to make it possible for every single UGA student to have an opportunity abroad, if that is what they want,” said Associate Provost for Global Engagement Martin Kagel. “We offer programs that range from two weeks to one year and everything in between.”
Study abroad not only provides an exciting opportunity to complete coursework in a new environment, but it also fulfills the university’s experiential learning requirement. It encourages students to learn through a hands-on experience that enhances their education, whether through an internship, research or study abroad.
“So why are we doing this? To develop a phenomenal workforce that will drive the state forward and set us apart from other communities in the country,” said UGA Director of Global Education Yana Cornish. “We are investing in our students as a University of Georgia student and as U.S. citizens to open doors to these global opportunities.”
Each year, around 400 students receive passport scholarships through this initiative. In the 2022-2023 academic year, however, UGA was able to provide an additional 200 passport scholarships thanks to funding from the President’s Office.
“I want to give tremendous credit to President Jere Morehead. He is so supportive of our students and their experiential learning,” Cornish said. “We understand that all resources are quite limited, but this generous additional funding shows where the priorities are on campus.”
Staying on track while off campus
OGE is prepared to set students up for success abroad, making sure they stay ahead in coursework and get an education that meets the standard set on campus.
“Students, and sometimes parents, believe that study abroad is just a trip—it’s a chance to go on a little vacation,” Cornish said. “But of course, with study abroad at UGA, we do it the UGA way—it’s very rigorous, and our students see the long-term benefits and career-focused benefits of an international experience.”
For Bridgett Cox, a senior international affairs major and Chinese minor, an upcoming study abroad opportunity in Galway, Ireland, is the chance to deep-dive into her topic of focus.
“I’m most excited about the aspect of going out of the country because I’ve never been abroad before,” Cox said. “But I’m also interested in studying human rights. Focusing on human rights on a global scale in a program outside of the U.S. will be an opportunity to get a different perspective. So I’m really excited about that chance.”
The four-week program is sponsored by the School of Public and International Affairs and includes six hours of coursework. Resources from OGE helped Cox plan for and fund the trip.
“Everything’s laid out very clearly—all the information, what you need, the order you need to do things,” Cox said. “Doing this through the school has a lot of benefits. Not only is my tuition covered, but my scholarship will also cover my flight. Along with the passport initiative, little by little, it has taken away from the overall cost that can feel kind of intimidating.”
Cornish has simple advice for any student hoping to study abroad: Start the process early. That way, they can work with OGE to determine the best program to meet their timeframe, major and interests.
“Freshmen and transfer students should really go ahead and apply as soon as possible,” she said. “That way they don’t lose time and don’t lose opportunities.”
For more information about OGE’s study abroad programs and scholarship opportunities, go to globalengagement.uga.edu.