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Studying abroad is an eye opening experience that should be accessible to everyone, but for people with disabilities, studying abroad might seem impossible. If you fear that you might not have access to all the resources you need in the new land or on campus abroad, we have some good news for you. There are people who did it before you, and there will be people who do it after you. So why shouldn't you too, step on this journey and enrich your life? According to The Institute of International Education, there is a rise in interest in study abroad programs among people with disabilities. Today, it's becoming easier for the prospective scholar with a long term disability, to make this dream come true.
Here are some tips on how to go about doing this:
First: find the right program
Finding the right program can be a difficult task for anyone. Here are some tips to find the one that best fits your needs:
There are a number of resources that can be used to find information on accessibility services. Abroad With Disabilities is one of them. It is a nonprofit organization, that aims to provide information on how students can study abroad with their disabilities and is an excellent resource to begin research.
It was co-founded by Juanita Lillie, who is visually impaired and faced challenges while on a three month study program in Costa Rica. That didn't stop her from traveling, zip-lining, horseback riding and experiencing the place to the fullest.
2. Contact schools directly:
If you’re interested in a specific program but are unsure whether or not you will be able to get the right accommodations, it's best to get in touch with the school's staff directly.
Have an honest conversation about what accommodations you need. Make sure to contact both the program’s study abroad faculty and disabilities faculty to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
3. Make a list of programs:
You find a school that has responded well to your needs and has made you feel comfortable, add it to your list of potential programs to apply to. Don’t settle on a program just because it can accommodate you. It may take some time and effort, but at the end of it, you will find a study program that suits your needs.
If a school responds unfavorably to your needs, don't get offended. Some schools don't have enough resources to provide certain accommodations. On the positive side, there are other schools which will be more than happy to meet your expectations and provide you with an incredible experience.
Once you’ve found a program that you’re excited about and feel comfortable with in regard to accommodations, you may find that your mind is still not at ease. This is a normal reaction for anyone going abroad. Know that you’ve done your research and that you are ready to take the next step: actually going.
1. Make sure you have all you need:
If you take any specific medication, don't forget to bring a supply along. Also, be sure to bring a copy of the prescriptions and get medical health insurance before you start your travels.
2. While abroad talk to the school staff:
Maintaining an open dialogue with disabilities staff is key. If your needs are not being met, they will be able to do something about it.
Have a good relationship with your teachers, they should be aware of your needs so they can help you if needed.
It’s also important to not take on too many tasks. Everyone has their limits and in order to minimize stress its better to have a comfortable amount to do rather than more than you can handle. Fortunately having too little to do will never be an issue while abroad.
Lastly, studying abroad is a great opportunity to try new things, learn about new cultures, and experience the world from new perspectives while being in an academic setting. It’s an opportunity that everyone should be able to take advantage of regardless of a disability.
Here are some other resources regarding health and studying abroad provided by GradTrain:
1. How to Calculate the Living Expenses and Tuition of Studying Abroad in the United States. This is helpful because many of these can include treatment for a disability or health insurance. These costs should be taken into consideration when looking at programs.
2. Packing tips for international students. This is relevant because some disabilities require packing specific items such as medicine or prosthetic equipment.