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Personal Stories
A girl in library looks down at a book in her lap

Hitting the Books in Lithuania

Thanks to her self-advocacy prior to and during her travels, the potential pitfalls Paula experienced while studying abroad were manageable. She points to two challenges in particular:

One was that her Lithuanian professors would provide a list of 15 books as suggested reading and pull information from those books for tests.

"It was impossible to do all of that reading, because I’m such a slow reader. It was difficult knowing what they expected."

Personal Stories
WILD Bangladesh delegates group holding banner

Empowering Women with Disabilities in Bangladesh

Bringing together 21 women with diverse disabilities in the capital of Bangladesh, Ms. Desai shared leadership principles and practical skills to empower women with disabilities and build a network for disability advocacy. Each participant was selected based on her commitment to pursuing higher education and leadership positions in the community.  

In Bangladesh, the belief still remains that women with disabilities should stay sheltered in their homes and many young women therefore have limited access to and awareness of educational and community resources.

Personal Stories
South Sudan women, including one in a wheelchair and one with crutches, come outside from a conference room

Women's Empowerment through Reproductive Rights Education

"The right to health for women with disabilities must be respected and taken as a priority by the community and the government!"
WILD-South Sudan participant

In South Sudan, like many parts of the developing world, women and girls with disabilities have historically been denied their right to sexual and reproductive health. 

Personal Stories
Seated at a kitchen table, exchange student Pinar holds a bouquet of flowers in one hand while supporting a sign that reads "Welcome" with her other. She is smiling and wearing a bright yellow tank top.

Last Minute Decision Leads to Unforgettable Hosting Experience

Melissa Gulledge, CIEE Regional Director from South Carolina, has years of experience placing international exchange students from all over the world with American families, but a last minute decision to host a teenager with a disability led to one of her own family’s most meaningful hosting experiences.

The clock was ticking to match Pinar, a young woman from Turkey who is blind, with a host family and school.

Personal Stories
young woman sits on the bridge of a canal, with bicycle and canal visible behind her

Empathy as Employability

With the busiest season just behind her, Shannon Kelly reflects on the role she and her colleagues played in the experiences of over 2000 students from around the world who arrived in the U.S. this summer through Spirit Cultural Exchange, where Shannon works as an intern:

"These students are thousands of miles away from their families and friends; we're here to be advocates for them."

Personal Stories
Noah wearing skis standing next to ski instructor in front of mountains.

Access to All Fields of Study

People who are blind often are funneled  to certain fields of study, such as the arts, while the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields are frequently seen as not viable options. This was the reality that Noah Al Hadidi was not going to accept.

“When I was a little kid, I used to play with electronic devices and I loved how they helped people. Later I moved to computers, and that’s how it all started.”

Personal Stories
Mohammed playing the drums wearing a traditional hat.

On the Go Globally

The World Bank, Fulbright Program, and the World Blind Union are a few opportunities that has Mohammed Ali Loutfy moving across the world map. There could be no better fit for someone fascinated about international studies, different cultures, and learning about disability inclusion across the world.

Personal Stories
Gabriela at the CLE office smiling with mentor

A Circle of Support

Gabriela knew with this support that she wanted to challenge herself to achieve more. With her family photos, favorite music, and favorite yucca breads packed, Gabriela was ready to pursue her studies at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale in Florida.

Personal Stories
Hilda in middle of streets in Cameroon speaking with children with disabilities

Affecting Change on a Continental Level

Reflecting on her Mandela Washington Fellowship, the flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Hilda Bih Muluh says it starts with public policy.

“If we can change the national policy, then it will change a lot for people with disabilities both now and even those in the future; not just one person or one part of the country, but the nation together.”

Personal Stories
Elana with a green hillside behind

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: An Internship in Australia

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.

Personal Stories
Wheelchair user on path to white stucco church in Mexico

Access on a High School Tour in Mexico

The humidity in Mexico's night air wrapped itself around Robin Sutherby as she joined her teacher and classmates to stroll slowly down the road. In town, they headed into a piano club tucked away under the brewing clouds. Having visited the beaches of Acapulco and browsed the silver crafts in the city of Taxco by day, this break in their two week Spanish class tour abroad seemed just right.

“There was a musician playing a fast, hot sound. It started thundering and lightning outside, and rain poured down as we were sitting listening to this piano music playing.”

Personal Stories
Melissa overlooking Italy landscape

Exploring Italy One Step At a Time

Melissa DiVietri is a young social media strategist living in Detroit, Michigan. Art is her passion; but marketing is where she excels as owner of “DI Designs Studios”. While previously attending Ferris State University, Melissa came across a flyer about a summer study abroad program on art history and wine fermentation in Italy. As someone who had not yet traveled abroad, she thought, “Wow, I can gain college credits by traveling to Italy?"

Personal Stories
Linea (right) with a group of Indian community mental health workers

Real World Experiences in Mental Health

Most recently, Linea spent a week in Kerala, India, observing a local community mental health team, which was coordinated through Linea’s mental health advocacy mentor.

“I had never been to a developing nation before, and I went in with my American mindset that perhaps there was something that I could teach them. Perhaps there was, but I learned so much from them.”

Personal Stories
Callie in center of a group of Cameroonian women

Sit Beside Me, Go Forward Together

“‘How is a black person’s life in America?’ They asked me a lot of questions about that. I said my life is different than it is for white Americans, but I’m successful, I’m motivated, and I’m enthusiastic in how I’ve gone through my life.”

Personal Stories
vegetables at a market

Compelled to Do More in a Complex World

Sean didn’t know what to expect on his first journey abroad, so he focused on the usual.

“I wondered how easy it would be to get around, what people’s reactions would be to me, and how different it would be from what I’m used to in the United States.”

What he discovered in Nicaragua was the travel concerns ended up being much less of an issue, for which he now admits he may have over prepared. Instead, he found himself grappling more with the cultural contradictions he discovered there.

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