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Education Abroad is giving away two free passports at their passport party event

A Western student poses with their passport in the Communications Facility. // Photo illustration by Claire Ott.

By Naileah Abarca

The Education Abroad office is hosting its fifth annual passport party. Students can attend the free event to get their passport photos taken for $8 and for a chance to win one of two passports, worth $145 each. The event is from 5-6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 29 at Western’s card office.

The passport party is part of a two-day event that the Education Abroad office hosts. On Jan. 29, students can attend the event for a chance to win a passport. On Thursday, Jan. 30, the office hosts the Go Abroad Fair. The fair is held in the Viking Union multipurpose room from 11 a.m to 3 p.m. Representatives from organizations across the globe come and talk to students face to face about their programs. The winners of the passports are also announced at the Go Abroad Fair.

The passport party serves as a space where students can ask questions and facilitate conversations about the process of starting a study abroad program.

Program coordinator for the Education Abroad office, Krista Mantello, said there are many advantages after graduation when you travel abroad.

“When you study abroad, you’re twice as likely to be employed after graduation within six months,” she said. “This really sets you apart from other students and future applicant pools for jobs you might be applying for.”

Not only do students not take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad, only about 3% participate nationwide. However, having traveled abroad sets you apart from other students, Mantello said.

“Employers can recognize that the skills students gain by studying abroad are really beneficial in the workplace,” Mantello said. “Cross-cultural communication, getting out of your comfort zone and being flexible.”

The programs and destinations can be easily integrated into many different majors at Western. The most popular majors to travel abroad are business, psychology, human services and any major that studies a language, Mantello said.

There have even been programs suited to fit more strict tracks for students. For instance, those who attend Huxley College of the Environment or Woodring College of Education. While their programs may not be as flexible, some students have seen that specific study abroad programs fit in perfectly with their track to graduate on time.

Ashley Caballero, a first-year graduate student, recently studied abroad in Stockholm, Sweden as a Woodring student. As graduation was approaching, Caballero wanted to jumpstart her English Language Learning endorsement, which allows teachers to work exclusively with language learners in the classroom setting, spring quarter before starting her Masters program in the fall, she said.

After speaking to Jennifer Green, associate professor and director of the English Language Learning Endorsement Program, Caballero was able to take a course in Sweden that was an alternative way to start the ELL program.

“It was a great experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else,” she said. “I truly enjoyed what I learned there and the memories I made. Studying abroad is expensive and it’s truly a privilege to be able to do it.”

One of the main barriers that students said can get in the way of studying abroad is their finances, Mantello said.

Not only are students overwhelmed at the process of getting passport paperwork started, but there are also financial difficulties that come with the investment of $145 without immediate plans to travel abroad, Mantella said.

Green is an advocate for students taking the opportunity to study abroad because of the connection from the classroom at Western to classrooms abroad.

“I love doing this work,” she said. “It is a life-changing experience to spend time in another country and see things from a different perspective.”

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