A World Awaits You: Community Colleges Issue

Purple notebook labeled "AWAY: Community Colleges" on a desk scattered with traveler photos and school supplies
Community colleges offer study abroad opportunities for U.S. students and international students with disabilities

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Where Inclusion and Innovation Make a Global Impact!

“As president of Lane Community College, I believe that international exchange is an important component of higher education for all students, including students with disabilities. We are committed to developing a global culture of inclusivity and respect through dialogue, outreach education and equitable policies and practices.” - Margaret Hamilton, President of Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon

Community colleges around the United States are increasingly demonstrating the impact of innovation and inclusion on both U.S. students and international students through international exchange. A historically under-valued resource, these agile higher education institutions offer a compelling proposition to both U.S. and non-U.S. students with disabilities to gain skills for a global workplace as well as a solid academic base and a smooth transfer process for students going on to a four-year college or university. They frequently offer the benefits of a small and supportive campus community, and cost-effective educational experience.

In this edition of A World Awaits You (AWAY), we invite you to read about the impact and inclusive practices community colleges have offered U.S. and international students with disabilities, who choose to pursue their academic journey and global experiences at a U.S. community college.

Community colleges can offer programs that one might not find at a traditional university. Shea Megale, a student at Northern Virginia Community College who uses a power wheelchair, had the chance to write and produce an original film script in a historical town in the Czech Republic. Anna Ringstrom, a Swedish student with Down syndrome, expanded her independence, improved her English skills, and built friendships that will last a lifetime on Montgomery College's Graduate Transition Program in Maryland.

Community colleges also build partnerships with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), and the beneficiaries are students like Abdul Salam Mehsood from Pakistan who participated in the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (Global UGRAD) at Snow College in Utah, and Katelyn Parker, a woman with cerebral palsy and learning disabilities who travelled from Kirkwood Community College in Iowa to Singapore to learn about the hospitality industry with the support of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program.

Though institutional size and budgets vary, that does not stop community colleges from providing all the supports that one would expect. Chynna McNair, from Madison Area Technical Community College in Wisconsin, was accompanied by a team of American Sign Language interpreters during a two-week study abroad program around Ireland where she learned about business practices from local organizations.

Not only do community colleges offer opportunities that students might not find elsewhere, they also make it possible to pursue career paths that might otherwise have seemed out of reach. When he took the entrance exam to get into the University of Hong Kong and was not able to pass, it seemed that Justin Chan was out of options in his native China. He wanted to pursue environmental science and math, but he just needed extra support. His chance came when he was accepted for admission at Madison Area Technical Community College in Wisconsin.

Ready to start your international exchange at a U.S. Community College? Do you still have questions? The National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange (NCDE) has gathered practices and testimonials from both students with disabilities and professionals for an inclusive international exchange program and are eager to share what we have learned.

We hope that this publication will provide insight into the hidden gem of U.S. community colleges for U.S. and international students on how to access academic opportunity and international exchange, at a community college. Our goal is to facilitate people with disabilities taking advantage of international exchange opportunities like everyone else, navigating any access barriers along the way. For more than two decades, the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange has provided free services and resources to help make this happen. 

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Copyright © 2019 Mobility International USA, All rights reserved. This publication may be printed for educational purposes only. Editor: Monica Malhotra. Author: Justin Harford

Information provided throughout the A World Awaits You (AWAY) publication has been compiled by the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange. The National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange is project of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, designed to increase the participation of people with disabilities in international exchange between the United States and other countries, and is supported in its implementation by Mobility International USA.