Anyone concerned with promoting wider participation in study abroad by students with disabilities, or anyone who just needs some encouragement to keep facing hard challenges head-on, should rush to read Susan Sygall's terrific personal memoir, "No Ordinary Days: A Journey of Activism, Globe-Trotting, and Unexpected Pleasures." The co-founder of Mobility International USA (MIUSA), Susan and her organization already have made available a wide range of resources online and in print and offer workshops and conference panels to help all of us do a better job of expanding access to study abroad. But having just downloaded and sped through her new book, I was inspired all over again by her words, and her life story.
No Ordinary Days is a highly personal memoir that discusses not only on how she learned to embrace her disability but also how study abroad changed her life. As an enthusiastic and athletic freshman in Boulder, CO, she was transformed in an instant by a reckless driver into a paraplegic. With grit and humor, she recounts how she adjusted to her new life, and how a Rotary scholarship to study in Australia changed her perspective and goals. Her ongoing adventures around the globe, and the friendships she made along the way, led to the co-founding of MIUSA and its amazing work going forward.
Susan Sygall has written a book that is impossible to put down, a gripping personal history with a universal message. Her repeated triumph over physical challenges, and her ongoing work to empower women with disabilities all around the world, will leave readers awestruck and motivated to face their own fears head on. Unlike other memoirs, this author shares not just her successes but also her many fears and disappointments, helping readers understand and appreciate their own potential to change their lives.
"Proud, loud and passionate," the rallying cry developed at MIUSA's annual workshops for women leaders with disabilities, are also just the right words to describe the author, and the organization she created. This short, compelling memoir is a testimony not only to her personal courage, and the power of family and friends to make the impossible possible, but also to the transformative impact of study abroad on every one who is open to new experiences and willing to take risks, big or small.
We at IIE are so grateful to MIUSA for its partnership in our Generation Study Abroad initiative, and for so many years of collaboration in publications and conferences, including a highly successful enrichment seminar for Fulbright students recently held at Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley, CA. We look forward to MIUSA's participation in the upcoming IIE Summit on Generation Study Abroad in Washington, DC, this coming October and hope their message can inspire students and parents as well as study abroad professionals, just as Susan Sygall's story inspires readers.
Pick up a copy of Susan’s memoir No Ordinary Days online, or read it in Kindle (screen reader accessible).
Peggy Blumenthal is Senior Counselor to the President at the Institute of International Education (IIE). This post originally appeared on IIE's blog, "Opening Minds," and was reposted with permission. View the original post on IIE's website.