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Getting Unstuck: Study Abroad in Dublin with Hydrocephalus Leads to Career in International Education

Lindsey wears sweater and knit hat, sits on a rocky shore next to the sea and cloudy sky

Lindsey Pamlanye, former NCDE Program Coordinator, had never considered a career in international exchange. She had worked hard to become a certified teacher and was mainly getting another degree as a requirement to keep that certification. Deciding to go abroad for the next step of her academic career changed everything.

Throughout her undergraduate career, Lindsey Pamlanye was convinced that she could never study abroad. Pamlanye has hydrocephalus, a neurological condition caused by an abnormal buildup of fluid deep in the brain. While her health is often stable for years, when something does go wrong, it can go wrong quickly. “It’s quite unpredictable,” she notes. “The only intervention is a device that comes through brain surgery.”

It was a chance encounter in a Bronx pub after she had graduated college that made her realize that she could study abroad. She was chatting with someone from Ireland and mentioned how much she had always wanted to spend time there, but her medical condition had held her back. He responded dryly, “Oh, well, in Ireland, it’s not like we have hospitals.”

That sly remark made her stop and think. “You get stuck in all the things you can’t do,” she says. She consulted with her doctor, who quickly gave her the OK to study abroad.

As it turns out, studying abroad in Ireland was the perfect solution for Pamlanye, who needed a master’s degree for her teacher’s certification. Besides good medical care, Dublin had multiple direct flights to New York City, so her parents could quickly travel to her in the event of a medical emergency. (Pamlanye did end up having emergency surgery while in Ireland.)

When she arrived in Dublin in 2018, Pamlanye discovered firsthand that being a disabled student studying abroad was hard work. “It became a full-time job,” she says. She spent time establishing relationships with the local hydrocephalus community so she knew what resources would be available to her.

The work that she put into being able to pursue the study opportunity in Ireland changed her focus from service learning in the classroom to the barriers facing international students studying in Ireland. “It turned into my master’s thesis,” says Pamlanye.

Pamlanye says that her experience has made her realize that study abroad programs need to be more inclusive in addressing the needs of disabled students.

“Students need to understand the opportunities that are available to them,” she says. Helping disabled students isn’t a question of going the extra mile. “It’s not about being nice; it’s about doing what’s necessary. That’s the floor. The floor is being inclusive.”

About Lindsey Pamlanye

Home state: New York
Institution: Manhattan College, BA, Secondary Education; BA, English
Study abroad: University College Dublin, MS, equality studies
Latest position through April 2024: Program Coordinator, Mobility International USA

“As someone who was born chronically ill, the impact of my disability wasn’t new to me. But navigating the immigration processes, a foreign school system, and doing it all without the immediate proximity of family and friends was an experience I could have never anticipated. It didn’t take long for me to find a passion for the international exchange field, and a drive to make it as inclusive as possible.” – Lindsey Pamlanye

This article was originally published in NAFSA’s International Educator magazine as part of its March 2024 article “Eight Women, Eight Life-Changing Experiences”.

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