Story Map

Pins are displayed on a world map with the titles of stories from each region. Press enter on the pin to open a pop up box and read a summary of the story. Jump to the top of the box using the second level heading and back to the top of the map using the first level heading. You can also view the stories listed below the map at the fourth level heading organized based on origin country at the third level heading.

United States

Black and white photo of author, Megan Smith
Megan Smith shares her top tips when encountering attitudinal barriers abroad.
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Guida Leicester in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
What can people with disabilities do to make sure they are included in the conversation?
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Sarah Leslie giving two thumbs up with Egytian pyramids in the background
Sarah Leslie and her friends watched history unfold before them as they attempted to study in a region amid revolution.
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Shannon in wheelchair spreads her arms near a mountain vista.
A study abroad program designed to include all students meant that Shannon Kelly, who uses a wheelchair, spent less time worrying about accommodations and more time exploring South Africa.
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Hands of people around a table full of bread and other food and drink
There is a huge water-filled elephant in the room that travel guides don’t speak much about. Megan Smith broaches the subject of toilets abroad.
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Connie takes a moment to pose with a Brazilian man in front of a historic structure.
As an undergraduate student with cerebral palsy, Connie Rivera knew that traveling to the developing world might present accessibility barriers and accepted the challenge - and a Gilman scholarship - with gusto.
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Shonda McLaughlin with her head covered sits before a sand dune
Once the seed for international travel was planted, Dr. Shonda McLaughlin marveled at the many new possibilities that opened up to her.
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Sheila sitting in front of large fountain and classical sculptures in the daytime.
Your friends are sitting around a dinner table, each speaking their own language. One person speaks Italian, another English, another American Sign Language (ASL) and still another Lingua dei Segni Italiana (LIS), which is Italy’s sign language. Now imagine that you get to facilitate communication between all of you.
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The Parliament buliding in Hungary Photo by: www.all-free-photos.com, Creative Commons License
"I'm blind - so what? I have a lot to give, and I want to do it in the Peace Corps."
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Stephanie stands at the Great Wall of China path holding her white cane.
Early on in Stephanie Collins’ stay in Dalian, China, she had coffee with her language partner, the person assigned to help her practice Chinese. Having had few opportunities to meet blind individuals, the language partner asked Stephanie about her vision, how she studied and how she navigated through the world. Stephanie explained to her partner about using her cane and even let her try it out.
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Close up of Keilah, holding a rugby ball, looking away and smiling
As a student, volunteer, teammate, and friend, Gilman Scholar Keilah Allen fulfilled many roles while living in Ghana - and realized her strength along the way.
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Old European building
To turn her health around, Allegra Johnson embraced the three tenets of a healthy lifestyle: diet, exercise, and international travel.
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Japanese temple
Megan Smith shares her insights into accessible travel in Japan.
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American Volunteer with two other men in Thailand
For its inaugural overseas volunteer project, Volunteer Positive assembled a team of people living with HIV to serve as international volunteers in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
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Person reaching up over stone wall to wheelchair user above
When Robin Sutherby was in high school, she took part in the Spanish language class trip to Mexico and learned how important it can be to plan ahead for access related to her cerebral palsy.
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Author, Annie Keenon, with young girl in Ghana
Annie Keenon, who is hard of hearing, writes about her preparations for an internship in Accra, Ghana and the reactions of her friends, family, and program directors.
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Dwight Richardson Kelly peers in wooden door to Oxford's inner courtyard
One of the Big Challenges is Finding the LD Services
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Elise Read climbing a mountain
It was a mix of good and bad news that led Elise Read to not only study Chinese in Beijing, but to also return home with a new sense of purpose.
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India temple in the fog
A true Gilman scholar, Christena Weatherspoon represented multiple kinds of American diversity while studying in India.
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Michele in wheelchair (left) with Colombian partners Esteban in wheelchair (right) and Andrea standing in center
For some, riding the bus is just a way to get from point A to point B, but for many people with disabilities whom Michelle Garcia meets, it’s a vehicle for empowerment.
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Hannah Mann sitting in a large Chinese lion statue
After observing China through the lens of landscape paintings, history books, and Jackie Chan movies, a deaf student immerses herself in the "China of today."
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Christine and a young girl take a photo of themselves together
For Christine Bélanger and her fellow volunteers, living with, working alongside, and learning from the local people and leaders of the host community in Guatemala elevated their experience from travel to citizen diplomacy exchange.
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Tony Ive squatting by young South Korean boy
A visit to South Korea sparked a learning disabled student's passion for studying the region's complex history.
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Antonia sits on a bench with Chilean flag draped over her shoulders
With rain coming down hard outside and pooling from poor drainage systems under faint streetlights, Antonia DeMichiel starts her day. To stay warm she wears sweaters and wool socks, and catches a taxi to work.
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Haben stands in front of the U.S. Capitol
Growing up, Haben Girma knew that international exchange was bound to be in her future. She had visited Eritrea and Ethiopia, places her parents called home before immigrating to the United States.
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Black and white photo of author, Megan Smith
From her firsthand experience, Megan Smith sees there's more dimensions to what it means to travel the world in her power wheelchair.
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Esha Mehta carries her cane and stops to pose with group of children on streets of India
Most mornings of her Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program in India, Esha Mehta would wake early and catch a rickshaw with her roommate to her Hindi classes. The morning she remembers most, however, happened at sunrise while on an excursion to Pushkar in Rajasthan, India.
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Emily Block in a small wooden boat
For Semester at Sea students like Emily Block, time is measured in countries visited.
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Travis Gunn
Away From Home, I Managed to Find My Voice
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Boarding pass that says Nicaragua and snapshot of Sean Whalen
Catching a wave in the Caribbean. Cruising down the slopes of a volcano. Zipping through rainforests along a cable. Reading a textbook. When you think of extreme adventure, one of these is not like the other. Yet what Sean Whalen discovered while traveling is that, for blind people in Nicaragua, accessing one of these activities is perceived to be a near-impossible challenge – and it’s not the one you’d expect.
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Young Zambian students in a classroom
Just one day of surfing the internet for a career shift, led Frank Lester to the Peace Corps. He taught English and HIV/AIDS prevention to youth at a Deaf School in Zambia and Kenya.
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Reveca Torres
Whether as an artist, traveler, or non-profit founder, MIUSA alumna Reveca Torres is dedicated to changing the lives of people with spinal cord injuries.
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Loren Ashton headshot
With an interest in learning about the cultural, political, and food differences between France and the United States, Loren Ashton embarked on semester-long study abroad to Aix-en-Provence, France, where she attended the Institute for American Universities.
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Alex, a young man, gives thumbs up
Arriving in Cape Town during a pivotal time for people with disabilities in Africa, Alex Stone - along with his canine companion Fraser - found that his internship abroad was more auspicious than he had initially predicted.
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Kathryn Carroll outside Norweigan building
Meet Kathryn Carroll, who studied business and politics in Norway and France. She has low vision and uses a white cane, ZoomText software, and a scanner to access her studies.
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Christie showing use of assistive technology
Christie Gilson, who is blind, spent eleven months in Hong Kong on a Fulbright grant. She later became a professor and part of the Fulbright Board.
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Elena underwater snorkeling
Although Elana Lowell, who is deaf, did face some challenges along the way, she learned that there are many ways to grow from being out of her comfort zone and to enjoy study and interning abroad.
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Sarah and a friend during the Costa Rica program.
Sarah Franz, who is Deaf and has chronic health-related conditions, participated in a summer study abroad program in Florence, Italy and a MIUSA summer exchange to Costa Rica. Though communication challenges were to be expected, Sarah shares how her experiences as a person with a disability helped her adjust to the new environment more readily.
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Shannon with long light brown hair
As part of her internship supporting inbound exchange students, University of Illinois graduate Shannon Kelly draws from her four - yes, four! - study abroad experiences to make her students feel at home and to show colleagues what's possible.
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Juanita Lillie prepares to zip line through trees
To escape Michigan's cold winter, Juanita Lillie sought Spanish immersion in Central America, where she found warmth not only from the sunshine, but from classmates, professors, and the community.
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Close up of Bushra with glasses and headscarf
Ever since studying in the Middle East, Bushra Khaliq has become even more curious about the world around her. As a Pakistani-American with spina bifida, she wants to share her international travel tips and encourage more people with disabilities to get curious.
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Anne stops for a photo on an Italian bridge.
Anne Reuss, who is Deaf, studied abroad in Italy, where she gained the confidence and skills to launch a career in social media.
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Close up of Justice, wearing sunglasses and wide smile
Genuine connections with local people. Hands-on learning alongside peers. A shared appreciation of the area's history. For Justice Shorter, these experiences are what characterized her time in Uganda and Rwanda as a true "exchange."
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Alexandra Futty
Alexandra Futty has always been determined to not lead a “small life.” As a senior in high school she raised $10,000 and convinced her parents and Catholic school to allow her take a half year to go on a cultural exchange to India.
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Melissa smiles inside Roman colseium with arches behind
Melissa DiVietri tested the limits to learn the ins and outs of traveling to another country with a physical disability. She was born with sacral agenesis which is a spinal deformity that limits mobility below the hips, and traveled to Italy while using loft arm crutches as her mobility.
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Nicholas Hoekstra on a trail with a large backpack on
Nicholas Hoekstra, who is blind, describes the tactics he used to assert his independence while teaching English in Japan and the moves required to spar with a Judo sensei.
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Emma in front of Arc d'Triomphe
Emma Verrill considered herself lucky to be teaching high school in France. Though she thought about how the students would perceive their young, American teacher using a wheelchair.
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Building in Peru
Volunteering at a health clinic in Lima, Peru offered Tracy Cherba an opportunity to share her strategies for managing diabetes with the community.
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close up of Rebecca Berman with short brown hair and glasses
A young professional and disability inclusion advocate uses a series of strategies to maintain balance in the exciting but ever-shifting field of international education.
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Crowd waving Spanish flags
As someone with a learning disability, Kristin Hoobler Morgan found that the secret to mastering the Spanish language was to envelop herself in all things "Granadina."
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Alicia with her cane in front of Vasa ship in Stockholm
Alicia Nyblade, who has low vision, has always been oriented to travel but her study abroad experience in Sweden gave her a close up experience with the culture.
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Leslie with guide dog, Cammy, at a statue in Germany
Leslie Weilbacher, an American of German descent, studied German in an international language school in Berlin, while accompanied by her guide dog, Cammy.
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Jessica in the Philippines
Jessica Chesbro, who has a mobility disability, has studied abroad in the Netherlands and France and was also a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines. She is now a Foreign Service Officer for the U.S. Department of State.
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Christy Smith stands on a balcony with a white building behind her.
For Christy Smith, Costa Rica is the site that sparked, and continues to recharge, her connection with international deaf communities.
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Blue sky behind a double layer of many stone arches next to each other
Talking through her concerns with others helped study abroad student Amanda let go of her anxieties over the summer she spent in Florence, Italy.
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Alahna Keil
When Alahna Keil, who has cerebral palsy, enrolled in Luther College in Iowa, located an hour away from her home in Wisconsin, the idea of studying abroad seemed far from her mind. She was apprehensive about the possibility of study abroad both for academic and physical reasons.
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Paul Monroe graduating from University of Cambridge
Removing Barriers and Researching Solutions
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Paula knew that life abroad in Lithuania would differ from Bethel College, her home institution in Minnesota. As a student with ADD, she had the foresight to find out how to prepare for those differences.
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Houses along a canal in France
By confiding in people who are understanding of Asperger's, Chris Tidmarsh opened himself up to personal growth in France and beyond.
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boys writing at a desk in Japanese classroom
What do you do if the professors in your host country don't understand your disability? Jonathon, a student with ADHD, identifies the pitfalls he faced abroad so others can travel feeling more prepared.
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Denise stands with her guide dog, Wonder, in front of a cherry blossom tree in DC.
Meet Dr. Denise Decker, a Federal Legislative Specialist who has advanced her career through participation in a variety of international exchange opportunities, all with her Seeing Eye dog by her side.
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Steven Mayers headshot
Steven Mayers is an American Sign Language teacher who enjoys learning about the sign languages and deaf cultures of Europe straight from the source.
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Close up of Juanita smiling. She holds a cane, and there are chairs in the background
Now a graduate student, Juanita Lillie reunites with the organization that first sent her abroad. This time around, she joins them not as a participant, but as a colleague to share and expand knowledge around diversity in international education.
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Sign of kangaroo crossings by an open road in Australia
Through his "high-strength lens," Kevin Cosgrove recounts the struggles and successes of navigating Australia independently, plus his encounters with the local blind community, cheeky surf instructors, and Aussie slang along the way.
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Sydney Opera House Closeup HDR Sydney Australia -liscensed under creative commons by Linh_rOm - modified from flickr photos86765221@N002270171257
Just Because it’s Uncomfortable, it Doesn’t Make it Bad
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Onion domes of St. Basil's Cathedral
While distributing wheelchairs in Russia, Shanda Grubb gained a new appreciation for what it means to be independent.
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Samson smiles with trees in the background.
Q&A with U.S. scholar Samson "Sam" Lim, who has dystonia, and proclaims travel is part of his DNA. Most recently, he spent a year researching Education Sciences through the U.S. Department of State's Fulbright Program.
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Mallory signs "Ready!" as she stands on the grounds of the Teotihuacan pyramid.
When she began pursuing her Master’s degree in Deaf Education at the University of Arizona, Mallory Watts sought an opportunity to expand her professional knowledge by teaching abroad.
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Jack Godwin sits next to two lifesize bronze statues
People Who Do International Exchange Feel More Alive
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Henna designs painted red on the palm of the hand
The humid heat in Malaysia, lack of air conditioning, and cold showers made adjusting to the first four days of her study abroad program difficult for Stephanie, a student from University of South Florida.
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Melissa and young monks in front of mural
When Melissa Jensen made the decision to go abroad for the first time, she took charge of her own plans.
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Carla Valpeoz in Yemen
Carla Valpeoz studied abroad in Spain, Egypt, Tunisia and then accepted a volunteer position teaching English to blind students in Yemen as part of her six-month practicum. Carla is blind and uses a cane for mobility. She later worked for an Arab-American nonprofit organization in Detroit.
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Zach sits on the ground with Ugandan child with a disability
Reflecting on his journeys to Rwanda, Argentina, Peru, China and Uganda, a world-traveler named Zach explains how he managed the cultural differences related to social anxiety and depression while abroad.
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Two African giraffes
In a village five hours outside of Nairobi, Kenya, with no electricity or running water, Tara Wickey, who has muscular dystrophy, was studying abroad for her graduate degree in Public Service Management at DePaul University.
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Dancers
John Winn, an American musician of short stature, shared music and culture in Cambodia, Mexico, Russia and South Korea through the Jazz Ambassadors Program, now known as American Music Abroad.
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Jeremiah Swisher speaking with a class
The discovery that international exchange is not "one-size-fits-all" led Jeremiah Swisher to find a program that felt right for him.
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Sarah is smiling as she stands by a scenic overlook during her exchange experience.
Once Sarah Beauchamp made the decision to study abroad in Scotland, she set forth on a mission to ensure communication access - even through heavy Scottish accents!
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Jameyanne speaking with a priest in front of the arch of an old cathedral with her guide dog by her side.
Early on in her 9-month stay in Assisi, Italy, Jameyanne Fuller went to the supermarket to buy groceries, accompanied by the married couple who were her landlords, and her guide dog, Mopsy. When they got to the entrance, a worker blocked Jameyanne from entering. To avoid a scene, her landlords offered to get the items she needed, but she would have none of it.
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Perseus with a white hat and sunglasses on in the streets of Florence
To plan for study abroad in Italy, Perseus McDaniel found that arranging and funding accommodations can take time, and if at first you don’t succeed…try again!
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Chris standing on cobblestone pavement with hand in the pocket of his traditional Cuban shirt.
The best thing about language study is that it never ends. The best thing about a road trip on a makeshift bus for 13 hours across Cuba, is that it does.
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People with and without disabilities flex their arms to show their strength.
Five U.S. professionals traveled to Armenia for U.S.-led adaptive sports demonstrations with local Armenians with disabilities, cultural excursions, and visits with diplomats, athletes, and coaches.
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Antonia smiles as she signs a document during an event in Argentina.
For Antonia DeMichiel, a student who has cerebral palsy and uses crutches, catching her next dream meant catching the next flight to Argentina.
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Teresa Pichardo teaching a young boy sign language in Ghana
At the school in Ghana where she volunteered, Wofford Global Service Fellow Teresa Pichardo, worked with students who are Deaf like her to "open their world."
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Nathan with Chinese friend on boat
Want to know more about Nathan? Play his video presentation about his study abroad trip, recorded during an #AccessTheWorld Virtual Meetup.
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Linea in front of Indian domed building
Linea Johnson knows what it is to live with mental health conditions, but it wasn’t until she sought out volunteer and internship opportunities abroad that she discovered how varied life with a mental health condition can be in other parts of the world.
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South Korean Flag
Roy Burkholder, a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language, has been living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) for many years and shares his experiences and strategies for enjoying the journey abroad.
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Headshot of Rachel smiling.
In spending time with local people in Tanzania, Rachel Garaghty found countless opportunities for mutual learning and understanding.
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Nick standing in front of mountains with backpack on.
"Don't let anyone tell you can't study abroad or that you can't travel abroad...It's totally possible."
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Nick standing in front of a bridge over a river in Japan.
"If you can leave a positive impact on people, you know that it is going to benefit everyone else who comes after you."
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Juanita hanging on zip-line in the middle of trees with staff member.
Surfing, zip-lining, canyoning, volcano-boarding...there are no limits!
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Christie sitting in Chinese classroom, holding white cane, with 4 Chinese students.
"...I want you to understand that in the United States because disability is a part of our diversity, if you have a disability when you apply it is a positive...it is not a negative."
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Erinn sitting with guitar in her arms sitting next to her guitar instructor also holding a guitar.
"...don’t let someone tell you that you can’t go because there are always accommodations so just go and enjoy life..."
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Serena stanidng on the red carpet with traditional Kyrgz dress holding her white cane.
"...she can now dream big and achieve bigger and I think we really achieved that goal...", Serena Olsen, Peace Corps Volunteer, Kyrgyzstan
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Emily smiling while standing in front of large waterfall holding her white cane.
"I would have missed that opportunity if I had let people tell me what I can and can’t do."
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green welcome mat that reads "Welcome"
By sharing her home with guests from around the world, Regenia Huffman opens herself up to unique cultural experiences. Regenia is paraplegic and uses a wheelchair.
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headshot of Sarah Amin wearing thick coat
Out of the box thinkers and thought leaders see possibility where others don't. To be on the cutting edge of international exchange, Sarah Amin challenges her colleagues, her international visitors, and herself to achieve full access in their programs.
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Seth (center) in batik shirt
When IBM employee Seth Bravin learned about opportunities for international service offered through his employer’s IBM Corporate Service Corps Program, he was intrigued despite reservations about being away from his responsibilities as a parent.
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Franz in Udaipur Rajasthan
After fearing how others will react to his disability, international travel writer Franz Knupfer confronts some assumptions of his own.
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Callie teaches in front of a blackboard
In Cameroon, Callie Frye noticed how Deaf and hearing people often sat side by side on the streets selling food, clothes, jewelry, and other items that they made. Whatever their skills were, and regardless of disability status, they had created individual businesses and lived off of them. This impressed her in much the same way that the locals came to understand the opportunities that Callie had in her life in the United States.
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Maegan Shanks headshot
Maegan's first experience abroad opened up her eyes to international disability advocacy, a field that she’s dedicated herself to ever since.
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Kathleen Coleman in Spain
Kathleen Coleman dreams of returning to Spain and would like others to know that having a travel companion with Asperger's can enhance an already-unique experience.
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Chinese dumplings at the market
"Why not?" was the simple question that led UC Berkeley student Vicky Chen, who has low vision, to participate in a six-week Chinese language program in Taiwan.
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Beth sits in the sun
Beth Ocrant, who is blind, studied Special Education and used her VR funds as a student in England. The skills she learned abroad have served her well in a decade of work as a case manager for the Easter Seals Society in Chicago.
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Erikson writes at his desk by lamplight
Erikson Young shares what it was like to teach abroad and, in doing so, become a role model to other Deaf people.
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A person who uses a wheelchair working in a garden
Megan Smith talks about how volunteering abroad and ‘working holidays’ have become increasingly popular ways to travel and explore foreign cultures and lands.
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Actors in a dramatic action pose
If you’ve ever traveled to another country without knowing the language, chances are you’ve entered into an impromptu game of charades with local people at some point, using colorful gestures to find your way back to the hostel or to seek out the best fruit stand.
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Danny at the London Eye overlooking the London skyline under the rain.
Danny Vang, a blind student from California State University in Fresno, studied abroad in London and shares his #BlindAbroad tips.
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Erinn smiling in front of the mountains in Spain.
Erinn Snoeyink, a blind woman, speaks about her experience on two separate trips to Spain, and how she made the decision to have personal assistants.
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Two orange butterflies on a red flower
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.
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Molly Rogers, a wheelchair user, under trees in Taiwan
A business traveler stands her ground to build networks in the face of language, culture, and access barriers.
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Laurent Clerc Headshot
Rebecca Epple shares how she developed an educational exchange for her students to France, the birthplace of Laurent Clerc.
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Tyler Clark
Tyler Clark’s interest was piqued when he visited Valparaiso University in Indiana for the first time, and the campus tour guide mentioned the university’s study abroad programs. “Would I be able to study abroad?” he asked the study abroad office that day to which the reply came, “Well, when would you like to?”
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Tory Sampson on an archeological dig in Israel
In one of the remaining Arabic fishing villages on the coast of Israel, Jisr Az’Zarqa, Tory Sampson and her best friend found themselves in a rundown, corrugated steel restaurant. It had “the most amazing” fish dishes. Afterwards, they wandered into a shisha (hookah) bar, and ended up watching a soccer game between Barcelona and Real Madrid with the locals.
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Ming sitting on ground with group of Chinese students with white sticks around them.
Studying Chinese on a David L. Boren scholarship, Ming Canaday connected with her roots.
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Asya with the youngest Russian goalball national team player
As a blind Paralympic athlete and coach, Asya Miller is no stranger to international travel. And yet her journey to Russia as part of the U.S. Embassy Moscow and U.S. Department of State’s SportsUnited exchange program would be different.
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Xuan Troung
What if your major is International Studies or your degree requires you to take classes overseas? How can you study abroad during your college experience, and pay for your personal assistant while traveling?
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Anjali with Indian girl on her lap and two pushing her wheelchair
World-class athlete Anjali Forber-Pratt taps into disability communities worldwide through sports diplomacy.
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Alison smiles during her interview in a cafe.
"I've been to Italy and back!" declares Alison Ecker, a graduate of the University of Oregon, where she studied abroad. "I can do anything!"
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Allen displays a chameleon on his shoulder to students in Kenya
Whether Deaf or hearing, "you always have something to contribute," as Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Allen Neece will tell you.
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Robert Thompson with young India girl he sponsors
We Can Impact Somebody
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Two people lay down looking over a cliff edge at the Irish sea
Linea Johnson, a student with bipolar disorder, traded the rain of Seattle for the rain of Dublin while studying English and Creative Writing in Ireland.
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Courtney Thompson smiles
Growing Globally Without Leaving Home
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Carly on camel
Two ambassadors for athletics share lessons on and off the court about the importance of education, inclusion, and respect for diversity.
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The She family
When Michelle She started her first year of college in Tennessee far from her home in Maryland, her parents weren’t concerned about the distance or her year delay in starting. At least not in comparison to where she went the year before, and what she gained in return.
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Jake Robinson in red wheelchair slaps hands with Ghanian child
After a five hour ride in a clunky van over dirt roads, Jake Robinson and his fellow study abroad students arrived in the remote, densely forested interior of Ghana to visit a medical clinic.
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United Kingdom

Portia near the river
As a visitor from England to the U.S., Portia recalls striking differences in U.S. culture and the academic accommodations she received for depression.
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Albania

Portrait of Teuta Photo Credit: www.kiefelphotography.com
Teuta Halilaj, an alumna of MIUSA’s Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability (WILD), shares the story of her journey as a disability rights activist in Albania.
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Armenia

Photo of Karine. Photo by Darcy Kiefel
In the Spotlight: Agate Center for Women with Disabilities with Special Needs, a Disabled People’s Organization (DPO) located in Gyumri, Armenia
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Portrait of Karine photo credit: www.kiefelphotography.com
Disability Rights Leader and 2006 WILD alumna from Armenia, Karine Grigoryan, shares her WILD impact story and how it led her to found her own organization for young women and girls.
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Aram and Karine at lunch
Armenian Disability Rights Leader Reflects on the Importance of Exchange Programs
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A young woman using a bright red wheelchair smiles at the camera.
How one woman in Armenia is using her professional exchange experience to bring change to her country by advancing disability rights through the power of sports.
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tandem bike riding
MIUSA's exchange partner in Armenia shares the motivation behind his work and the status of disability in his country.
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Australia

Close-up of Jeanette smiling. Seated in her wheelchair indoors.
Jeanette Lee lives for advocating, singing, and traveling – and manages to intertwine each of them in her focus on disability rights and accessibility for everyone.
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Bangladesh

WILD Bangladesh delegates group photo with banner
Lisi Desai and participants of the Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability - Bangladesh training program proudly hold a banner stating, “Lets change the World!” This intensive one day training aimed to do just that.
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Bosnia and Herzegovina

Jenny (right) with another exchange student
Following an eventful year at a U.S. high school, Dzenana "Jenny" Brkic wrote an open letter to other exchange students with disabilities all over the world. Jenny, who is blind, came to Indiana from Bosnia as a YES student.
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Brazil

Lucas with the UofM golden gopher mascot statue
Lucas Nadólskis, a blind student in computer science at the University of Minnesota, shares how he became interested in study in the United States and how the process has been for him in taking admission exams, learning contracted and nemeth braille, navigating the campus and interacting with roommates.
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Cambodia

Kanika Portrait photo credit:www.kiefelphotography.com
Disability Rights Leader and 2003 WILD alumna from Cambodia, Kanika Nguon, shares her WILD impact story and how she is transforming her community through education.
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Cameroon

Hilda in traditional dress smiling
“There I was, near the Ed Roberts Campus at the University of California (UC), Berkeley, where the independent living movement all began and I was telling myself it could happen in my country too.”
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Patricia sits in front of a banner describing the goals of her alumni project.
Patricia Meche Tamgno, a young woman with albinism from Cameroon, lived with a host family and attended high school in Coos Bay, Oregon, as part of the U.S. Department of State-sponsored Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program.
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An African woman in a pink dress and power wheelchair strolls with her assistant.
Together with fellow African youth, a woman with a disability will leverage leadership opportunities in the U.S. to inspire change throughout Africa.
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Canada

People pose for a group photo outside the White House during their tour of the East Wing.
Audrey Kobayashi, a geography professor from Canada and a wheelchair user, conducted research in Washington, DC, USA, as a Fulbright Visiting Scholar.
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China

Cheng praying as he stands on a bridge with waterfalls coming down in front of him.
Studying English as a Second Language (ESL) creates opportunities. Cheng Yu, a Deaf alumnus of the University of Oregon (UO) American English Institute (AEI), can count quite a few that came to him as a result of his language learning.
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Well Zhao in business attire in D.C.
To better serve disabled students in China, visiting professional Well Zhao toured organizations working towards disability inclusion across the U.S.
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Wei after a day of skiing
It really taught me how to be strong. And to try, and to throw my ideas out there and to encourage myself to develop and be more productive. Being here at American University gave me more confidence in myself.
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Colombia

Adriana standing next to 2 students holding University of Florida orientation bags.
"Studying abroad lets you see the world"
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Ecuador

Gabriela standing over a scenic bridge that is over a river surrounded by colored old houses.
Life was easy for Gabriela Cordovez back home in Ecuador. She has a very supportive family that taught her many life skills and pushed her to always achieve her dreams.
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France

Floriane with friends in New York City.
Growing up in a French military family, Floriane traveled internationally from a very young age, including the diverse landscapes and people of America. Her next trip to the United States, however, would be on her own terms.
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Georgia

Gumberidze rides a tandem bicycle with another student.
Esma Gumberidze, a blind student from Tbilisi, Georgia, lived with a host family and attended a mainstream public high school in Ocala, Florida as part of the U.S. Department of State sponsored FLEX program.
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Ghana

close up of smiling boy, Tijani
A strong sense of curiosity about the world led exchange student Tijani Bukari from Ghana to a school for Deaf students in Maryland.
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Group photo of participants holding their certificates at the end of the training.
How women leaders with disabilities are advocating for inclusive health services in Ghana.
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Greece

Argiroula receives her diploma
Argiroula Zangana, a Deaf student from Greece, studied at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York as a Fulbright Student. There, she experienced a transformation as she learned about two new cultures – American culture and Deaf culture.
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Guatemala

AEI Oral Skills Professor
Kindness and support from others were among the resources that helped Reina Estrada, who is blind, navigate the hurdles of studying English in the U.S.
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Hungary

Ambassador Kounalakis with Fulbright grantees Rita Hoffmann and Maria Flamich (Embassy photo by Attila Németh)
Staged in “the cradle of the disability rights movement," Maria Magdolna Flamich and Maria Rita Hoffmann set the scene to capture the theatrical and dramatic sweep of their intensive learning immersion in "The Story of Gershwin and Kodály."
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India

Rosy speaking to a resource person
With the momentum of WILD energizing her, a disabled leader set to work in making change happen for women and girls in India.
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Shivangi with the Oregon state mascot, Benny the Beaver.
Growing up in New Delhi with physical disabilities, Shivangi Agrawal lived life to the fullest. Yet, something was missing. Upon completing her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and Bio Cultural Anthropology from Oregon State University, she discovered what that was.
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Indonesia

Lintang sitsin her wheelchair at a baseball game with her fist in the air
Lintang Kirana, a university student from Indonesia who has spina bifida, lived with a host family and attended high school in Kansasville, Wisconsin, as part of the U.S. Department of State-sponsored Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program.
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Israel

Shmuel Kanner smiles
We Must Learn Our Duties, Not Just Our Rights
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Japan

Shuhei in power wheelchair outdoors
While attending community college in Hawaii, international student Shuhei Onishi committed himself to meeting and helping people from all over the world.
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Yasushi headshot
Yasushi Miyazaki, an autistic student from Japan, explains how patience and effort paid off when studying in the U.S.
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Manako Headshot
With encouragement from her Deaf role models, Manako Yabe enrolled in a Deaf Studies program and researched Deaf American, Jamaican and Japanese students' access to higher education.
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Mayuko in science lab putting liquids from a syringe into a tube.
Arriving to Temple University in Philadelphia confused and excited like many other international students, Mayuko Abe attended the orientations, walked across the large campus, got lost many times, but easily asked for help to get from one building to the next.
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Kenya

Stella, a young exchange student and wheelchair user, on a beach
With encouragement from host friends and family, a Kenyan teenager "thrives" in her American school.
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Lizzie laughing. Photo by Darcy Kiefel
How do short term international exchanges advance equal rights for people with disabilities? It starts with an individual taking action.
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Kyrgyzstan

Azat Toroev
Azat Toroev, a U.S. Department of State-funded Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) participant from Kyrgyzstan who has a physical disability, came to the United States driven by his interests in film, volunteering, and journalism.
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Azat Toroev is part of the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) program that has been including students with disabilities among its exchange scholarship recipients.
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Lebanon

Mohammed playing the drums wearing a traditional hat.
“Universities in the U.S. work a lot to encourage self-expression, character, and confidence.”
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Macedonia

Jagoda on balcony close-up
Visiting professional Jagoda Risteska will use her experiences in the U.S. to empower women with disabilities in Macedonia.
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Moldova

Ana steering a boat
The old proverb, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” certainly applies to Ana, an ambitious teenager from the European country of Moldova.
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Mongolia

portrait of Dulamsuren, photo credit: www.kiefelphotography.com
Disability Rights Leader and 2008 WILD alumna from Mongolia, Dulamsuren Jigjid, shares her WILD impact story and how she is advancing disability rights through the arts in her country.
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Morocco

Mounir outside
Mounir Kheirallah, a Legislative Fellow from Morocco, visited Casablanca's sister city of Chicago to observe how NGOs advocate for people with disabilities. Mounir is visually impaired and serves as Vice Deputy Secretary for the Casablanca Lighthouse.
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Nepal

Photo of Ganga Rayamajhi. Photo by Darcy Kiefel
Ganga is among the many MIUSA alumni who are taking their rightful place as respected leaders in communities throughout the world.
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Badri at an ice skating rink holding a sign that says "UGrad Grand Valley State University".
“It was wonderful. I had never had that experience before, being in an environment surrounded by so many people who were hearing. It was a great education for me.”
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Nigeria

Close up of Lois, smiling widely
As part of the first-ever cohort of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Lois Auta didn't have to wait long before she saw how the experience opened more doors for her - and other people with disabilities - in her country.
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portrait of Ekaete Umoh
Disability Rights Leader and 1997 WILD alumna from Nigeria, Ekaete Umoh, shares her WILD impact story and how it ignited her passion for promoting the right to sexual and reproductive health.
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Sheriff at his desk in a plaid shirt.
Sheriff came from Nigeria to the United States to get his Master's Degree in Special Education. He was looking for the amazing opportunities and resources available to people with disabilities like himself, but he found so much more.
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Oman

Noah going up ski lift with friends.
Blind international students from certain world regions never had access to math learning beyond primary school because their teachers did not have the tools, such as alternative teaching methods, assistive technology, and/or tactile graphics.
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Pakistan

Muhammad
A Deaf Pakistani Student’s Exchange Experience
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Safira rides on the back of a tadem bike
While attending her host schools in Kentucky, high school exchange student Safira Bibi cultivated talents for sports and public speaking.
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Palestine, State of

Sameh standing on a beach with the ocean in the background.
After struggling to learn English in Palestine, Sameh decided that he wanted to smooth out the path for other blind students. Thanks to a scholarship from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), he is closer than ever to achieving his goal.
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Peru

Portrait of Madezha, www.kiefelphotography.com
Disability Rights Leader and 2003 WILD alumna from Peru, Madezha Cepeda, shares her WILD impact story and how she is mentoring the next generation of women leaders with disabilities.
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Philippines

Marlon smiles for a photo as he is seated in a car.
Marlon Celso, a student of short stature from the Philippines, studied at a high school in the U.S. under the Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program. He shares his experiences transitioning from the Philippines to the U.S. as a person with a disability.
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Russia

Female exchange student sits in accessible cart at U.S. Capitol
From her host community of Spokane, Washington, Polina beams as she recalls the highlights of her academic year on the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) program.
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Pepper harvest
Experiencing two cultures - hearing and Deaf - opens a Russian teen to new friendships in the U.S.
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FLEX student, Ivan
Chuck and Chris Pamperin have been hosting international students in their home for decades, including students with disabilities. In their eyes, hosting benefits everyone involved, sometimes in unexpected ways, and often for years after students return to their home countries.
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Andrey with white cane and flower garden
As a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant at Michigan State University, Andrey Tikhonov picked up some new techniques for teaching - as well as for independent living.
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Two Humphrey recipients, Svetlana and Brigette, with their white canes.
Starting change by experiencing accessibility, Svetlana Vasilyeva speaks about her experience on the Humphrey Fellowship Program from Russia to the U.S.
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Yulia holds a laptop computer, smiles at the camera
Yulia Simonova, founder of the non-profit organization Perspektiva in Russia, still uses the skills she once developed as a high school exchange student.
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Rwanda

Samson smiles during a visit to the Hollywood walk of fame.
By demonstrating his passion for science and education, Samson Ndindiriyimana earned a scholarship to continue his studies in the United States. His sights are now set on creating education access for others.
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Saudi Arabia

Ahmed sitting at desk working on a tablet.
Set goals to turn your dreams into reality, and then complete them one step at a time.
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Mona and six male colleagues gather in front of an academic building.
One of the joys of being a Humphrey Fellow, discovered Dr. Mona Al-Sawwaf, is having the support of people from around the world.
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Serbia

Senka Mekic
At first glance, Senka Mekic is polite and soft-spoken. But, spend just a few minutes talking with this U.S. Department of State-funded American Serbia and Montenegro Youth Leadership Exchange (A-SMYLE) student and you’ll realize first impressions aren’t meant to last.
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Senka and fellow student
After studying for a year in the U.S. on the A-SMYLE program, Senka Mekic who has cerebral palsy, talks about how her exchange experience impacted her.
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South Africa

close up of Magteld, a smiling woman with chin resting on folded hands
As a leader in her field, South Africa's Dr. Magteld Smith braved the harsh winters of Minneapolis to advance in her professional development.
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Spain

Ingrid stands with a street in Portland in the background.
Ingrid Sala-Bars wanted to strengthen her academic research, and international exchange allowed her to do just that. Ingrid is from Spain, has a hearing loss and wears hearing aids.
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Sergio in his graduation cap and gown.
Can you imagine a scholarship that focuses on networking and social justice issues? That was just one of the pleasant surprises that Sergio found on his Fulbright program at Boston University.
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South Sudan

WILD-South Sudan participants outside the meeting space
Embracing a new call to action, twenty-four South Sudanese women with disabilities are committed to accelerating progress on reproductive rights.
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Thailand

Chart in graduation regalia
To increase opportunities for the blind community in Thailand, Surachart Ratchajanda, a.k.a. Chart, had to start with accessing opportunities for himself first.
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Turkey

Abidin headshot
Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program exchange alumni Abidin Karademir from Turkey shares his exchange experience and its impact. The YES program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
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Pinar and two other students smile for the camera holding golf clubs by their side.
When Melissa Gulledge hosted a blind high school student on the U.S. Department of State sponsored Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study (YES) program, she learned it wasn't so different than hosting other students.
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Pinar smiling in front of the New York City skyline
After being nominated by a teacher in Turkey, 15-year-old Pinar followed in the footsteps of other students with disabilities to fulfill her dream of studying in the U.S. She traded her home in the Mediterranean Sea city of Izmir for the southern hospitality of South Carolina.
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Erdem standing at the top of the Grand Canyon with white cane in one hand and his other arm in the air..
"In the US, on the contrary, you should ask if you need help. In Turkey, you should ask if you don’t need help."
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Ukraine

Halyna Kurylo looks out train window
It’s One Thing to Know You Need Support for Anorexia and Another to Ask for It
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United Arab Emirates

Young man wearing sunglasses and polo shirt
For 25 years, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has made it possible for people with disabilities in the U.S. to go to school, work and virtually anyplace else. Follow one international student through his accessible U.S. campus and community.
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Vietnam

Loan (center) listens to a workshop presenter
As a disabled woman growing up in Vietnam, WILD alumna Luu Thi Anh Loan sought to expand opportunities for others like her.
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Zambia

Francis Phiri with friends in front of a computer at the library.
Meeting a Deaf Peace Corps volunteer convinced Francis Phiri, a young Deaf man from Zambia, that international exchange was a possibility for him too.
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