The experience of traveling to a different country can result in “culture shock” for anyone, disability or not! You might also experience an additional layer of cultural adjustment related to attitudes around disability. As an American traveler with a disability, you may experience positive and negative cultural disability differences.
As my fellow disabled travelers may know, total equipment failure can happen anywhere. While most people were reading the stories of Camilo José Cela on a warm bench surrounded by freesia, I spent the majority of my time getting down and dirty in the mechanic shops of Seville, Spain, where I was studying abroad for 8 months.
Use these at-a-glance tips for going abroad with specific chronic health or systemic health conditions, such as chronic fatigue to environmental sensitivities and more. Don't forget to browse our resource library for more detailed advice on many of these topics!
Whatever your disability, know that it is possible to travel abroad to study, volunteer, intern, or explore your professional interests.
From health care coverage to stress-busters, prepare for issues that might arise when traveling with a chronic health condition.
"Being disabled doesn't mean I have to give up on my dreams," explains Emily Block, who studied abroad in over a dozen countries on the Semester at Sea program, all while managing a rare chronic health condition.
As a person with a chronic or acute health condition, also known as systemic disability, you have the right to apply for the same kinds of life-changing experiences overseas as everyone else!
Check out funded programs that give you the chance to build incredible academic and professional skills!
Professional exchanges, such as internships and fellowships, provide opportunities for international visitors to gain career experience or to share their knowledge or skills while living in a particular country. These exchanges can last from a few weeks to a few years.
Just as access is not perfect in the U.S., access won't be perfect when you are abroad. Laws similar to the U.S. may or may not exist in the countries you are considering for your international exchange experience. It is important to do your research and begin preparing for environmental and cultural differences in how disability is addressed in the country (or countries) you plan to visit. You might be surprised to find that some countries with less protective laws have very open and progressive attitudes toward people with disabilities.
Three ways you can help make a smooth transition into your international exchange experience are disclosing your disability, being your own advocate, and determining disability accommodations for access.
Americans with disabilities are becoming international explorers through exchange opportunities that include both people with and without disabilities. All U.S.-based international exchange organizations are required to make their programs inclusive of people with disabilities.
Focus on programs that best fit your interests, academic goals, and professional aspirations. These include academic study abroad programs, fellowships, professional development programs, internships, and volunteer opportunities abroad.
Let's get started by building a list of potential expenses you may have when participating in an international exchange experience. From general fees to disability-related expenses. These expenses might be paid for in a number of ways, including through your own expenses, a school, an exchange program, vocational rehabilitation funding, scholarships, and more.
"How can I afford to go abroad?” is likely a big question on your mind. While MIUSA does not directly provide financial resources for international exchange, we can point you in the right direction. To get started, think about the international exchange opportunities you are most interested in.
Have you ever felt like an anthropologist, having to figure out the social habits of those around you? Have you ever had to find new ways to communicate with other people, or had to interpret the slang or figures of speech used by other people? These can be common experiences for people on the autism spectrum, but they are also very common experiences for international exchange travelers! Why not be both?
Going to college was not optional — I had to go. I knew I was smart, and being Deaf couldn’t be an excuse to not go.
Once in college, I realized that I had not yet taken that bigger step — making choices for myself. Looking over things I could try, I came upon the idea of studying abroad. I thought it was an excellent opportunity provided by my university, not to mention a great chance to get a reality check.