Youth Exchange Programs
Parents, teachers and youth can learn about the benefits, types, and experiences of youth with disabilities on international exchange programs.
In This Tipsheet:
- Benefits of Starting Early on Youth Exchange Programs
- Finding a Program
- Experiences from Exchange Alumni
International exchange experiences are extremely valuable for cultivating educational interests. Many benefits are gained from participating in an international exchange experience, such as:
- A more open and accepting attitude toward cultural and diversity issues;
- An increased investment in developing second language skills;
- An increased interest in active community involvement;
- The development of leadership skills;
- An increase in self-confidence;
- An increase in independent-thinking skills; and
- A greater understanding of oneself and other cultures.
For youth with disabilities to learn about these benefits, information about international exchange programs need to reach them.
Denise DiNoto, current Coordinator of a New York Disability and Health Program
Youth with disabilities, early in their academic careers, need to learn about possibilities for study abroad and international careers, and to develop self-concepts as participatory global citizens. Physical and attitudinal barriers do exist all over the world, sometimes making international travel to study or volunteer a challenging but growth experience for youth with disabilities. It is vital to individual development that people with disabilities have the right to choose adventure and reasonable risk and work with others to make the best conditions when abroad. By opening these opportunities youth with disabilities can reap the many benefits that can be obtained in the cross-cultural process.
Parents, educators and people who work with youth are in the most direct positions to give youth with disabilities the information and encouragement that they need to pursue international opportunities. These same families and professionals can assist exchange organizations in finding homestay families or understanding disability resources in communities where youth with disabilities from other countries are placed. Hosting an international student with or without a disability can provide the host siblings an entry point in learning about the broader world's cultures without leaving home.
Youth may have opportunities to participate in short-term exchanges with their foreign language classes, music groups, sports teams, and more. They can also participate in summer, semester and year long programs as individuals placed at local schools and families in the host country. To find an exchange program that places or recruits high school exchange students in your area:
- Look in your local paper for advertisements by youth exchange organizations and contact them directly to express your interest in learning more about their overseas opportunities or hosting a youth exchange participant from abroad.
- Ask local schools in your area if they will be accepting any international students in the coming year, and express that you'd like to be put in touch with the program coordinators they work with because of your interest in hosting a participant or gathering information for a teen that would like to go abroad.
- Begin contacting some of the
headquarters of the high school exchange programs and ask that you be
put on their homestay contact list or recruitment presentation schedule.
These organizations are listed at www.csiet.org in the online advisory guide or in the NCDE database. Some
of the largest programs include: AFS, ASPECT, ASSE, AYUSA, ERDT SHARE,
Nacel Open Door, PAX, Rotary and Youth for Understanding.
Youth with disabilities have successfully participated in exchanges to and from the United States. Their stories, and the people and families who supported them, are shared in several online publications, videos and stories:
- A World Awaits You - Volunteering Abroad with a Disability
- Teleconference: International Travel- Journey to a New Beginning
Although efforts have been made to ensure accuracy, MIUSA/NCDE cannot be held liable for inaccuracy, misinterpretation or complaints arising from these listings. Mention of an organization, company, service or resource should not be construed as an endorsement by MIUSA/NCDE. Please advise NCDE of any inaccuracies you may find.