IPO gives out free passports at one-day event

IPO, Council on International Education Exchange and Office for Equity and Inclusion gave out 150 passports


Collegian File Photo

By Michael Connors, Assistant News Editor

Traveling just became a lot cheaper for students looking to go abroad at the University of Massachusetts, as the International Programs Office held a “passport caravan” at the John W. Olver Design Building this past Friday.

The one-day event allowed any freshman, sophomore or junior who is a U.S. citizen and first-time passport applicant to apply for a free passport. A non-profit, the Council on International Education Exchange, paid for 100 passports, while the Office for Equity and Inclusion and the IPO each paid for 25, for a total of 150 free passports.

“There are some students where 150 dollars [for a passport] is really a hardship,” said Cristina Sosa, executive director of education abroad at IPO. “It’s great the CIEE is providing this to students. And also it acts as a jumpstart, perhaps now they can think about studying abroad too. Open up the world a little bit.”

At the beginning of the six-hour event, Sosa was expecting that out of the 150 total passports available, 105 students would take advantage of the opportunity. Even 30 minutes into the caravan, there had already been a few walk-ins of students who did not previously register.

For a student to successfully apply for a free passport at the event, they must have already obtained the necessary documentation, including birth certificates, a passport photo and the application itself.

Betsy Parker Landmann, manager of institutional relations at CIEE said that since 2015, the non-profit had been aiming to give out 10,000 free passports by 2020.

“Our mission these days, sort of our mission in general, is to increase access,” Landmann said. “We’re all about getting them abroad, we actually are giving away over $8 million in scholarships and grants now.”

When a student applies for a passport, CIEE gives them a check for $110 to the United States Department of State and a check for $35 for the United States Postal Service to cover the application fees. The other $5 is paid by IPO for the students to get a passport photo at the student-run cooperative on campus, Campus Design and Copy.

There was no requirement for a student who applied for a free passport to study abroad, though having a passport might inspire a student to take a semester to travel.

“We have 220 programs that we offer, both short term and long term,” Landmann said.

Angelica Troche is a junior studying Spanish who heard about the passport caravan through an email sent by IPO. At first, Troche found the passport application process extremely daunting — and because of that, never made the effort to complete the application.

“I don’t have that kind of money laying around… and having to actually go to the post office to do it was a lot. It’s been holding me back,” Troche said. “Just having this opportunity on campus made me think, ‘I’ll go for it.’ And it’s during the time while I’m at school so it’s perfect.”

Troche said she wants to teach English as a second language in Latin America, preferably Colombia. Now that she has a passport, she’s excited to take the steps to finally go abroad.

“I am excited. I told my mom that, ‘Once I get my passport you’re not going to see my face as often,’” Troche said. “I have that opportunity now.”

Michael Connors can be reached at [email protected].