Walking through the halls around campus or across the Diag, the average student will see an overwhelming number of posters, flyers, banners and advertisements for many opportunities available to students here at the University of Michigan. However, accessibility, or in many cases, a lack thereof, can play an enormous factor in whether or not students actually have the ability to partake in these experiences. With the burden of paying tuition along with paying for food, rent, utilities, etc., the last thing on a student's mind that is already struggling to get by is to travel internationally or studying abroad. For the last three years, the Center for Global & Intercultural Study (CGIS), the Comprehensive Studies Program (CSP), and the LSA Scholarship Office have worked together to make students aware that there are a number of resources on campus to help them do just that.
Passport Day is a two-day annual event where students who qualify are able to have their passport processed by the US Government Passport Processing Agency here at Weiser Hall; their passport is expedited within two weeks and is completely paid for by donors of the LSA Scholarship Office. Qualified students include participants in the Bridge Scholars PLUS, Summer Bridge Scholars Program, and students who are first-year 4- Year LSA Scholarship recipients.
Bridge Scholars PLUS is for students who have successfully completed SBSP and provides an additional opportunity to enhance academic and professional success, increase a sense of belonging, engagement with faculty, overall wellness, and community citizenship and leadership. Summer Bridge Scholars Program (SBSP) provides a supportive community for first-years to assist scholars transition to the University of Michigan and offers intensive academic preparation, highly individualized academic advising and the personal attention of faculty in an intensive, yet nurturing environment during the summer.
“We tend to have a lot of first-generation students within CSP or students from smaller communities who have never pictured themselves studying abroad,” CSP Bridge Programs Assistant Ardella Williams said. “We want to provide them with a unique experience, help shape their cultural understanding of the world, and give them a sense of global community.”
In 2015, the LSA Scholarship Office awarded passport scholarships to 28 students. In 2016, 69 passport scholarships were awarded, and this year, a record of 131 students were awarded passport scholarships. If eligible, each student receives a $195 scholarship for their passport. Since CGIS offers free passport photos for these students and the fees are covered by the Passport Day scholarship, all students have to worry about is providing the required documents.
“We have great donors that want students to have that experiential learning experience where they can go abroad and see other parts of the world,” Scholarship Coordinator for the LSA Scholarship Office Katherine Weathers said. “The students can take everything that they learned here on campus and translate it with other countries, cultures, and people.”
On top of passport scholarships, this year, the LSA Scholarship Office is providing over $1.9 million for students who are interested in studying abroad. Over 95% of eligible applicants receive an LSA Study Abroad Scholarship that ranges from $1,000 to $10,000 to go on one of 120 programs that CGIS offers in more than 40 countries. Receiving an LSA Study Abroad Scholarship is based on good academic standing and financial need.
“Many students initially think that studying abroad is simply not an option,” Associate Director Pardip Bolina said. Whether it’s affordability, academic credit concerns, or whatever the issue may be, CGIS is here to meet with students to try to identify programs and funding opportunities that address constraints that students may have. We feel incredibly fortunate within LSA to have access to many resources, including this passport program, that really help make the dream of study abroad a lived reality for so many of our students.”
CGIS programs provide a wide variety of courses for different majors ranging from international studies, political science, and economics, to biology, engineering, mathematics, and more. While students from any school or college at UM can participate on a CGIS program, students applying for the LSA Study Abroad Scholarship do need to be within the school of LSA.
“I’m at U-M on a scholarship and one of the things that i’ve always heard when talking to students about studying abroad is that it is expensive, but with being involved with SBSP and having the support of the LSA Scholarship Office, it became more of an option for me,” Psychology major Caleb Adams said. “I’m looking forward to the cultural experience. Growing up in the upper peninsula, it wasn’t diverse at all and getting to go to another country and experiencing their culture, and getting to see how they do things differently than the U.S. is something I want to be a part of.”
Next year, the LSA Scholarship Office plans to expand Passport Day by giving all incoming first-year, need-based students an opportunity to receive a passport.
“There are scholarships available, but students may not know about it. Our goal is to help students study abroad and we know it can be a financial burden for some people,” Williams said. “But if you don’t apply or if you don’t try you won’t get that opportunity. We really want to push the students to at least apply and we will help them through the process.”