Quick Tips for Personal Assistant Services Abroad

Collage of photos showing Shea interacting with fellow students on the set of a movie
When Shea (pictured above, seated in wheelchair) studied abroad in the Czech Republic, fellow students stepped in when her hired PA wasn't available.
Will you need assistance during your travels with things like eating, dressing, or using the bathroom? Start here!

Get funding

There are a variety of methods to cover the costs of a personal assistant. Disabled travelers may save up money through work-study. A community fundraiser using an online tool like GoFundMe can also be a good way to find funding.

Showing that the international exchange is part of an Individualized Employment Plan (IEP), an exchange participant might get funding from The Department of Vocational Rehabilitation for a personal assistant.

For any sponsored programs or scholarships, check if funding for a personal assistant can be provided. Many colleges will likely not provide funding, but scholarship programs have supported cost for personal assistant services in the past, so it’s worth checking on!

Begin the search

Enlist support from staff in the host country who can publish an ad in the local newspaper or ask around their networks for personal assistant services. Consider if a friend or classmate would be willing to come along as a personal assistant (PA).

Check disability services/organizations, independent living centers, for staff looking for chances to work and assist an enthusiastic student with a disability.

Figure out communication

Learn a few key terms in the local language to provide guidance to locals on lifting, guiding, reaching or other support that the individual with a disability might need. Google translate can bridge the gap where language skills fall short.

Identify backups

Sometimes the person with a disability and the personal assistant’s schedules will not be the same, and at other times they may need a break from one another. Check to see if a local care home has other staff on hand that could serve as backups. Don’t underestimate the ability of peers to step in if needed.

Be courageous

"I'd like to personally emphasize that attitude is a huge part of making the non-accessible accessible," says Shea Megale, a student who worked with a personal assistant while studying abroad. "Your attitude and sense of wonder towards the challenge makes the difference between people wanting to make it work beyond all odds, or not. Having a positive, indomitable spirit about you, even when it's a little scary, is the magic element in making this possible."

This article is part of the AWAY Journal - Community College Issue.