In Siberia, Russia, I teach blind and low vision people how to use a computer, so they can continue with their education. We have many different educational challenges for people with disabilities in my country. I know this situation very well because I have been blind since birth. I studied in a boarding school, and earned two higher education degrees.
Professional exchanges, such as internships and fellowships, provide opportunities for international visitors to gain career experience or to share their knowledge or skills while living in the United States. These exchanges can last from a few weeks to a few years. Many people with disabilities have traveled to the U.S. to gain career experience or to share their expertise in a variety of professional fields.
A Hendrix College graduate in English Literature, Laura Podd traveled for a year to Guatemala, Ireland, Thailand, and Ukraine. And she had $25,000 on a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to do it. Laura didn’t speak the local languages, but she took some Spanish courses and found local volunteers who translated into English. Those she met who spoke with heavy English accents took repetition to understand. Laura, who describes herself as having a mild hearing impairment, uses hearing aids and lip-reading well enough that most people do not immediately know that she has a disability unless she tells them.
You’re probably thinking, “Wait, I have to pay to volunteer or work abroad?” It may seem counterintuitive, but keep in mind that there are significant costs for programs to send, train, and support participants abroad. Typically, U.S. sending organizations, participants, and host country partners work together to share these costs.
Visa fees, airfare, health insurance, tuition, test fees, housing... International exchange expenses to the U.S. can add up quickly! Are you prepared?
Check out funded programs that give you the chance to build incredible academic and professional skills!
Reflecting on her Mandela Washington Fellowship, the flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Hilda Bih Muluh says it starts with public policy.
“If we can change the national policy, then it will change a lot for people with disabilities both now and even those in the future; not just one person or one part of the country, but the nation together.”
Megan Smith began her involvement with MIUSA when she was just 15. “Staff helped advise me on going abroad on a volunteer program in Costa Rica and Peru,” says Megan, who is a power wheelchair user. “Then, while at university, I spoke at MIUSA conferences and wrote some pieces about my international experiences.” Now, after three years working in the MIUSA office and leading MIUSA leadership exchanges, Megan will head to her next big adventure at the year's end.
Be an ambassador for peace, master a foreign language, give back through services…and do it all in another country! These ten scholarship opportunities can help make it happen. Although each one has its own eligibility requirements, all of them are open to U.S. citizens with disabilities.
Apply for a program that will cover your expenses to the U.S. as you advance your professional or academic goals.
We know you have many questions about how to fund international exchange: Does MIUSA provide scholarships? Are there scholarships for people with disabilities? What's the difference between scholarships and fellowships? We answer your burning funding questions.
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"We believe that if we come together, we can do great things," says Muluh Hilda Bih, a journalist and disability rights advocate from Cameroon who is positioning herself as a leader to motivate young Africans with and without disabilities to tackle some of the world's greatest challenges together.
Whether you're interested in leadership experience, disability issues, or other topics, consider applying for one of these competitive programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and other organizations. Most programs include full or partial funding!
Americans with disabilities are becoming international explorers through exchange opportunities that include both people with and without disabilities. All U.S.-based international exchange organizations are required to make their programs inclusive of people with disabilities.
Focus on programs that best fit your interests, academic goals, and professional aspirations. These include academic study abroad programs, fellowships, professional development programs, internships, and volunteer opportunities abroad.
You know professional development is valuable for individuals and organizations, but how do you fit skill building into your organization’s already tight budget and work load? Consider using these five strategies to start making connections and securing funding to build staff skills and increase organizational impact.