Passport Caravan Gives Away Free Passports

Passport Caravan Gives Away Free Passports
Passport Caravan Gives Away Free Passports

September 14, 2016

When Matthew Sborz '13 came to Susquehanna University as a first-year student, he'd spent much of his life in Frackville, a former coal town in Schuylkill County, Pa.

He'd not given much consideration to studying abroad—that is until Susquehanna launched the Global Opportunities (GO) program in 2009, during his first semester.

Sborz returned to campus recently to attend Susquehanna's Passport Caravan, an event that distributed 100 free passports to students through funding provided by the Council on International Educational Exchange. Although CIEE's funding was a one-time award, Susquehanna alumni have stepped forward to fund an additional 100-passport giveaway next year.

The GO program requires students to study off campus in a culture different from their own, for at least two weeks or as long as a semester, followed by scholarly reflection. Sborz chose to study at the University of Nicosia in Cyprus, an island country in the Eastern Mediterranean.

"It was like putting on a pair of glasses for the first time," Sborz said. "You see more clearly."

Making Study Abroad Accessible

One of the first steps for any student planning to study abroad is to secure a passport—an expense that can be as high as $195. Susquehanna's Passport Caravan is part of the university's ongoing efforts to remove the barriers that can stand between students and cross-cultural study.

Margaux Palaski, a junior international studies and anthropology major from Stroudsburg, Pa., wants to satisfy her GO requirement in Italy.  

"This is great because now I can save that money for other necessities when I go abroad," she said.

Junior biochemistry and physics major Nathan Gillette, of Allentown, Pa., is considering studying in France, for the linguistic challenge, or Australia, for its scientific opportunities.

"The miscellaneous expenses of travel can add up," he said. "It's nice to have opportunities like this to ease the process."

For Sborz, the opportunity to study abroad changed the trajectory of his life. He now works for the University of Nicosia, recruiting American students just like him to broaden their horizons through international study. He spends part of the year in New York City, and the rest in Cyprus, where he is slowly picking up Greek.

"Seventy-five percent of students nationally say they want to study abroad, but only 5 to 7 percent actually go," Sborz said. "Once they do, the reaction is always the same: 'That was the best experience of my life.'"

What's Next?