“Yeah…that sounds interesting. Let’s do it.” I had just committed myself to spending a semester at University of California – Berkeley teaching English to Guatemalan refugees with a friend. She had found a local Bay Area-based nonprofit that helps to connect refugees from Central America with services and resources, and one of the things that they offered was English as a second language, taught by volunteers in refugee's homes.
Even though U.S. law protects all students from discrimination when Applying to ESL Programs, students are getting turned away or discouraged if a program states they are “not prepared” to best serve these students. Often the students are not digging deeper because they want to attend a program that is prepared and can offer accessible teaching methods.
Before I worked at MIUSA on the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange project, I advised hundreds of international students coming to the U.S. to learn English at a major university. Although I also managed the admissions process, I rarely saw students with disabilities come through. I was waiting for them to reach me.
As the largest organization for English language educators, TESOL International Association hosts more than 6,500 people annually from around the world at its convention. Educators at all levels attend to exchange ideas and connect with a dynamic professional community.
The NCDE has launched the #AccessLanguages campaign to encourage more people with disabilities to learn and teach a foreign language abroad, including ESL/EFL.
Being able to communicate in English is a basic requirement for successful study in the United States. If English is not your native language, U.S. colleges and universities, as well as some professional visitor programs, will ask you to take an English language proficiency test before admission to determine your English language ability and appropriate placement level.
Common English language proficiency tests for entering an academic or professional program include:
Practice your English before you arrive in the United States by using these free ESL resources.
“Do international students get extra time? Is being a non-native English speaker a disability?” This question comes up frequently from international students and disability service offices. At first thought, many offices would easily say “no” and “no." Should it be that easy?
Many academic departments and student service offices may initially assume that issues arise solely from being a non-native English speaker, but it may also mean that a disability is not recognized, and a second look should be given to these students.
What motivates YOU to learn English? Whether it's to get a better job or to meet people around the world, take the first step to reach your goal. Join an English as a Second Language (ESL) program in the U.S. or online.
During the second semester of an English as a Second Language (ESL) course, a faculty member finds one of the students from Saudi Arabia, Mohammed (not his real name), is doing fine in all his courses, except for those related to reading.
The instructor approaches Monica Malhotra, the ESL international student advisor at University of Texas in Austin about the concern that Mohammed doesn’t seem to progress, and questions if it’s his struggles with English or something else.
Karen M. Bauer is the EducationUSA Regional Educational Advising Coordinator (REAC) for Middle East and North Africa, based out of the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. She has a passion for international travel and cross-cultural exchange and wants to make sure everyone has the same opportunities she did.
“Growing up, my family always encouraged learning about different people from around the world and fostering cross cultural communication.”
Applying to study, learn English, or get professional experience in the U.S.? You may be required to provide test scores as part of your application. Find out what kinds of disability-accommodations you may be able to receive when you take the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, and other tests.
Refusing to accept a participant with a disability on a program because that program "can't guarantee accessibility" closes a lot of doors, not only to the disabled applicant, but also to the program and to the host community or classroom. The problem with this can be likened to the chicken and the egg paradox.
If people with disabilities simply waited around for international exchange experiences – volunteer abroad, study abroad, ESL classrooms, and more - to become accessible to them, well… they might find themselves waiting for a long time. Until they start infiltrating these programs and put a little pressure on them, then what incentive do the programs have to design, plan, or budget for access and inclusion? The more that people with disabilities pursue international exchange programs, the more exchange organizations will recognize the importance of ensuring accessibility into their programs from the start.
The NCDE, a project sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and administered by MIUSA, launches a campaign to encourage more people with disabilities to learn and teach a foreign language abroad, including English as a Second or Foreign Language (ESL/EFL)!
Most international students fund their U.S. studies through personal or family savings. The more scholarship money you receive, the less you and your family will have to pay using savings or loans. Learn the basic facts about scholarships, then browse examples of popular scholarship opportunities.
Welcome to the online A World Awaits You (AWAY) journal on people with disabilities traveling with a purpose.
This issue introduces you to people with non-apparent disabilities who have successfully gone on international exchanges and the strategies that were influential in their success.
To get started, click on the stories in our Table of Contents, or download the fully designed, accessible PDF Document to read or share. A text-only accessible Word Document can also be downloaded.