From the beginning of her studies at Boston University, Elana knew she wanted field experience helping children with and without disabilities to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.
“I thought it would be cool to do an internship overseas because it would give me a unique perspective from another culture for my future career.”
So she looked into all her options, and took an active role in getting necessary accommodations for an internship while studying abroad in Australia for a semester.
“I worked at Lucas Gardens Schools with students ranging from ages 5-18 who had all types of disabilities and complex medical needs.”
As a woman who is hard of hearing, when she was preparing for her program, she worried about communication. Would she be able to understand people’s accents? Would she be able to follow her classes? Would she meet friends?
Nevertheless, as she began her preparations with staff in the host country, she was pleased to find that people were supportive and open-minded. The internship advisor offered accommodations such as interacting with her over email, but without making her feel like her options were limited. She was able to receive CART services remotely from the United States. The staff at Lucas Gardens were patient and helpful. She also found a group of friends that included her.
Elana learned that experiences abroad offer many other valuable takeaways in addition to all of the people that one meets.
“In truth, I had to be patient and realize traveling is not just about communicating with people. It’s also about observing and appreciating the beauty and diversity of the earth.”
One of those takeaways, inspired from the laid-back nature of the people she met in Australia, included Elana’s newfound ability to take the social challenges with her disability in stride. Whether answering questions from curious children about the way she talks, or feeling embarrassed when she has trouble understanding strangers, Elana has learned not to worry so much about how she will communicate, and no longer sweats the small stuff.
Elana believes it is good to keep an open mind, and accept that not everyone is going to understand your disability. She says, you’re not there to please other people; you’re there to explore and learn about an amazing country. Elana is now an Inclusive Counselor at Brookline Recreation in Boston.