The costs of international travel for just one person – whether for airfare, housing, or all the tasty local food – are harrowing enough. So if you’re someone who will require the services of a personal assistant during your international exchange experience, the idea of doubling or even tripling these expenses can make it seem like international travel is out of reach.
Not so! For affordable PAS abroad, look for creative ways to reduce or share costs, raise funds, or negotiate with your exchange program provider to help defray the costs.
Government-Assisted Disability Benefits
If you receive funding or benefits in your home country that cover PAS costs, research whether those benefits will remain available to you when you travel internationally. Also consider the currency exchange rates and different costs of living, when estimating how those benefits will cover what’s needed abroad.
If you are a U.S. citizen who receives PAS funds through Medicaid or Medicare, for example, you won’t be able to use those funds outside of the United States. However, if the trip will be of educational or vocational benefit, you may be eligible to apply for VR funding or to use your current Social Security funds to cover PAS costs. For more information see Fund Your International Exchange Experience.
Prior to the program, approach the hosting or sending program to negotiate the costs of housing, transportation, food, and/or admissions prices for your PA. Some university-based disability or international offices may provide low cost loans or scholarships for students needing to find money to cover personal assistant costs.
Some exchange programs offer to pay for or locate a volunteer to assist with program access due to architectural barriers or other obstacles that participants with disabilities would not encounter at home.
Work Study or Internship
Some participants have obtained PAS through working with the exchange program or home university to use work-study, internship, or scholarship options for another student who will provide personal assistance during the exchange.
Students majoring in fields such as Nursing, Social Services, Physical Therapy, Rehabilitation, Counseling, Adaptive Recreation and others may have an opportunity get an international experience while gaining experience relevant to their future careers.
Save Money in the Host Country
In some cities, public transportation and popular attractions such as public museums or parks will offer reduced or waived admissions fees to PAs who are actively accompanying a person with a disability. Contact some of the specific sites you plan to visit or transportation you plan to use to ask about their policies on this. Accessible tourism websites or disability organizations in the city may also provide this information.
From online crowdfunding campaigns to reaching out to local service clubs such as local Lions, Rotary or Kiwanis Clubs in the home or host country are options to raise funds. See our fundraising and scholarships page for more creative ideas.