Reaping the benefits of Centre’s Your Passport
September 13, 2012 By Leigh Cocanougher
where she lived in Merida but explored (sometimes via horseback)
other areas, including San Cristobal, Chiapas, above.
Junior Cody Cook (front row, third from right, with his Access
Merida class in the Yucatan) says that Centre's Your Passport
"opens so many doors for Centre students."
Mary Wells '14, another Centre's Your Passport participant,
studied abroad in London last spring. Here, she captures
Paddington Station in all its glory.
Lily Brooks '14 (above, on Isla Mujeres during Spring Break of her
Centre-in-the-Yucatan term) says studying abroad challenges
students "to think beyond borders about various issues."
Centre College doesn't take commitments lightly. When the college guarantees all students the opportunity to study abroad during their time at Centre, it does everything in its power to make good on this promise. And that means ensuring that no student stays on campus for all four years because he or she cannot afford a passport.
Begun in 2010, the Centre's Your Passport initiative provides reimbursement for all first-year students to get a passport if they do not already own one. "This program demonstrates Centre's commitment to helping our students become globally aware and globally involved, to prepare them for positions of leadership in the global community," says Dr. Clarence Wyatt, special assistant to the president, chief planning officer and Claude D. Pottinger Professor of History.
Mary Wells '14, who received reimbursement for her passport through the program and studied abroad in London last spring, remembers standing outside of Old Centre for opening convocation as a first-year student and receiving information about the program. "It truly cemented the fact that I had come to the right place—not only did this college I had just become a part of value study abroad, it was already offering to help me make my dreams come true in an even more tangible way than I thought possible," she says.
The Centre's Your Passport program "opens so many doors for Centre students and encourages people to study abroad, which is a rite of passage in some ways," says Cody Cook '14, another student who received reimbursement for his passport and one who studied abroad in Merida, Mexico, last year. "Most people come back changed and with a broader perspective and a different outlook on the world. A lot of students base their future career paths on their experiences abroad."
And because the program instructs first-year students to get their passports at the beginning of their college careers, "it takes a huge burden off of the students' shoulders," Wells says. "You're not scrambling for a passport at the last minute; instead, you can instead focus on personal things to prepare for your time abroad."
No matter where students study abroad, all agree that the experiences are transformative, and they remain grateful that Centre's Your Passport enabled them to embark upon such life-changing adventures.
"The most rewarding things about my time in London are definitely the practical skills I've acquired," Wells says. "You're basically dropped in the middle of a massive city and have to learn how to take care of yourself rather quickly. After that experience, I came back to Centre with significantly more confidence in myself that I can apply to both my academic pursuits and to situations outside of the classroom."
Though many aspects of his time in the Yucatan were valuable, Cook says he benefited most from his community service abroad. "When I was in Merida, I taught English for a program called Access Merida hosted by the United States Embassy. There, I learned a lot about Mexican culture and the language. It really made me think about the world differently, and because of that experience, I now have lifelong friends in Merida and throughout Mexico."
Like Cook, Centre's Your Passport participant Sarah Green '14 believes that experiencing another culture was the most rewarding aspect of her time in Merida. "By being there for three months, I was able to go beyond the 'tourist experience' and actually become able to call Merida home," she says.
Junior Lily Brooks, who like Wells, Cook, and Green was reimbursed for her passport during her freshman year, says that the program not only encourages students to study abroad but, by making it easier for students to do so, "challenges them to think beyond borders about various issues."
While abroad, she says, "I learned a lot about Mexico, but I also learned a lot about the U.S. It challenged my way of thinking about so many things."
The benfits of studying abroad, the students agree, are endless, and with the Centre's Your Passport program in place, students have no excuse not to participate in an international program.
"Studying abroad completes your experience at Centre," Wells says. "It allows you to experience both the close-knit world of the campus and the massive world beyond it. You don't just see the world in a textbook or YouTube video—you are directly interacting with the world and making your own impressions on it in turn."
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Centre College, founded in 1819, is a nationally ranked liberal arts college in Danville, Ky. Centre will host its second Vice Presidential Debate on 10.11.12, and remains the smallest college in the smallest town ever to host a general election debate. For more, click here.