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### Empowering First-Generation Students: First Abroad Fellows Breaking Barriers

First Abroad Fellows in the Dominican Republic, which integrates service with studying during a one-week excursion, caters to first-generation students seeking to broaden their horizons. The initiative, established in 2018, aims to facilitate global engagement for first-generation students at Baylor University.

Holly Joyner, the associate director of global engagement and marketing at the Center for Global Engagement, emphasized the program’s mission to assist students who have never traveled abroad but demonstrate a keen interest in doing so. First Abroad Fellows selects 40 freshmen annually to participate in the program until they embark on their overseas journey. Beyond offering a study abroad scholarship, the program provides specialized advisors who address various needs beyond the typical study abroad requirements.

According to Joyner, the program’s advisors play a crucial role in supporting first-generation students, acknowledging the unique challenges they face compared to students with familial experience in higher education. By offering personalized guidance and assistance, including addressing concerns related to parental inexperience with international travel and financial constraints, the program aims to level the playing field for these students.

Raphael Abayateye, the assistant director for global engagement, highlighted the significance of mentorship for first-generation students navigating unfamiliar territory abroad. The program focuses on imparting cultural insights and fostering humility in diverse settings, ensuring students are well-prepared and equipped with realistic expectations for their travels.

In addition to advisory support, First Abroad Fellows facilitates passport acquisition by hosting information sessions and providing financial assistance through a “mini scholarship” to cover passport expenses. This initiative aims to streamline the logistical aspects of international travel for participating students.

Two freshmen, Scarlett Foxhoven and Carly Murphy from Dripping Springs, shared their positive experiences with the program. Foxhoven expressed gratitude for the tailored resources provided to first-generation students, emphasizing how the program has made studying abroad more accessible and feasible for her. Murphy, also a first-generation college student, highlighted the program’s financial support as a significant relief, enabling students who may not afford studying abroad otherwise to seize this opportunity.

Recognizing the financial and time constraints faced by first-generation students, First Abroad Fellows collaborated with BU Missions to introduce a unique one-week trip that blends academic study with service. This initiative, fully funded by the program’s scholarship, caters to students who may have familial or work obligations, offering them a condensed yet enriching international experience.

Joyner reiterated the program’s commitment to dismantling the barriers that often hinder first-generation students from pursuing international opportunities. By providing unwavering support and resources, First Abroad Fellows strives to empower students to overcome obstacles and fulfill their aspirations of studying abroad.