When Jenny Lin ’21 started at Lehigh, she expected to work hard in class, get good grades, graduate and get a job. As a first-generation college student, she says she didn’t know about all the things she could do in college besides academics. Something like studying abroad seemed impossible to her. That is, until she joined the Passport to Success program.

Passport to Success helps first-generation or low-income students succeed in college and beyond by connecting them to high-impact learning opportunities like study abroad, international internships, global experiences in the United States, research opportunities, community engagement and service learning. Each student in the program is sponsored for a new or renewed passport, and thanks to gifts from Trevor P. and Laura R. Bond '83 and Salome Michell '89 and Neil Golding, they can apply for scholarships to help defray the costs of studying abroad. The program is a partnership between the Office of International Affairs and the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity.

“The step-by-step mentoring through the program helped me go from just thinking about possibly studying abroad to actually getting ready to leave for my program,” says Lin.

She chose Lehigh in Shanghai, a six-week summer program led by Oliver Yao, George N. Beckwith ’32 Professor of Management. Lin, a finance and accounting major, liked that the program includes an internship and is open to students in all colleges, not just the College of Business. She took Chinese language classes with local instructors and interned in the marketing department of a major corporation.

The experience has inspired her to continue studying both Chinese and marketing at Lehigh, and she’s now pursuing the 12-credit International Business Certificate. Eventually, she hopes to work internationally, something she didn’t know was an option before working in a multinational office. She keeps in touch with her internship supervisor, discussing possible career paths in marketing.

Beyond the academic impact, the six weeks Lin spent living and working in Shanghai affected her personally. “I had a cultural disconnect,” she says. “I’m Chinese – my parents are from China – but I was raised in the United States. Through this program, I was able to experience my culture and see where my parents came from.”

And it taught her that she can explore new opportunities and succeed in new environments. “For first-generation students, studying abroad is your bridge,” Lin says. “You know you could do that, so you can do anything. Now that I’ve explored within my comfort zone in China, I want to go abroad again and go somewhere totally new.”