Study abroad program at IU provides students a chance to see the world

IU Bloomington freshman Toni Pringley always knew she wanted to study abroad. So when the telecommunications major heard about the study abroad program through the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs, she knew she wanted to apply.

Passport Caravan event

An IU Bloomington student receives a passport during the recent Passport Caravan event at IU Bloomington. | Photo by IU Communications

While still in consideration for an upcoming trip to Ghana, Pringley is one step closer to her goal of traveling abroad. On Friday, she received a free passport as part of the Council on International Educational Exchange’s Passport Caravan program.

“I’ve never been out of the country before, but I always knew how crucial it is to have the opportunity to study abroad and to learn more about other cultures,” said Pringley, a 21st Century Scholar. “DEMA and the Caravan Passport event have been so helpful in providing me both financial and overall support to work toward expanding my experiences through study abroad opportunities.”

The passport initiative aims to expose more first-generation, minority and low-income students to international experiences. More than 250 passports were given away to IU Bloomington students who are a part of academic programs in IU’s Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs, including Hudson and Holland Scholars, Groups Scholars and 21st Century Scholars programs.

In 2013, the office, with funding from the provost’s office, launched a study abroad program to provide scholarships for its students. The office also provides financial support for other credit-bearing IU study abroad programs.

“A lot of the students I work with have never left the state of Indiana,” said Ochmaa Escue, director of overseas studies and scholarship program for the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs. “So the program opens up a pathway of new possibilities for students and gives them the mindset that ‘you can do this too.’”

Ireri Perez

Irene Perez in Quito, Ecuador during a previous travel abroad trip. | Photo courtesy of Ireri Perez

In the past two years, the office has provided study abroad scholarships to 225 students who have traveled in over 40 countries around the world. Almost 80 percent of the programs’ students are minority students.

Ireri Perez, a senior majoring in international studies, communication and culture and Spanish, is one of the study abroad students who helped volunteer at Friday’s passport event.

Perez traveled to India in May 2015 as part of a trip to study social injustice. She also took part in a semester-long study abroad trip to Ecuador, which was possible through a diversity office scholarship.

The opportunity to travel abroad, she said, was something she never planned on when she first got to IU.

“I would never have been able to do this without this program,” she said. “As a first-generation student and someone’s who’s at university on scholarships and who wouldn’t be at university if it weren’t for scholarships, to be able to also travel abroad and have it all funded is incredible.”

In addition to the financial support, Perez said she also appreciates the overall support the diversity office’s program provides, such as the classes she took before traveling to India that prepared her for what to expect in a new country.

When she heard IU was part of a program giving away free passports to students, Perez said she wanted to be involved to encourage her fellow students to take advantage of all of the opportunities they can to expand their horizons, see the world and gain powerful knowledge that can’t be taught simply from a book.

“Traveling abroad gives you real-world experience,” she said. “It’s a different feeling when you are in a different country and culture, and getting to experience that first-hand is great. It adds a different perspective and a different way to think about things.”

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