For six weeks this summer, I’ll be interning at a media organization in Accra, Ghana. By night I will share a house with fourteen fellow students from the University of Oregon. By day I will likely travel solo to and from work in a densely populated African city. This will also be my first time traveling internationally by myself. Eek!
As I navigated my way through piles of paperwork and broke the news to my family, I was rather amused at others’ reactions to my summer internship.
MIUSA: What was your experience living in the host country?
Tony: This was the first time I traveled on an educational exchange that wasn't disability-related. I wondered whether my learning differences would present a problem in the classes at Yonsei University.
I learn best by seeing and experiencing, and discovered that I was able to comprehend a huge amount at the lectures and on the cultural tours.
Kathleen Coleman dreams of returning to Spain and would like others to know that having a travel companion with Asperger's can enhance an already-unique experience.
In some cases, international exchange programs who are supporting Deaf/Hard of Hearing U.S. citizens abroad may decide to hire sign language interpreters in the destination country. Benefits may include reduced costs and the use of interpreters who have a familiar knowledge of the local language, culture, and Deaf community. However, be aware that most in-country sign language interpreters are trained only in the sign language of that country.
The following resources may be useful to you in locating a sign language interpreter in a non-U.S. country.
Ask detailed questions that help you understand the full nature of the program and the resources you need to fully participate. While international exchange staff may know more about the programmatic details and international contexts, disability-related staff may have more ideas about alternative accommodation possibilities that could add insight to the discussion.
"I'll be away from family, away from the doctors, away from the security of my own surroundings. I truly have to find a way to 'survive' and know that I can do this alone," blogged Tracy Cherba in the time leading up to her departure for Peru, where she would soon be traveling with a group of her professional colleagues to volunteer in a Cross-Cultural Solutions program.
Given that I have a hard enough time locating my own shoes, I'm not quite sure how I convinced the Study Abroad offices to drop me off halfway around the world to study in Melbourne, Australia. Nonetheless, it turned out to be a great decision, so, as an Aussie might say, "Good on them for that."
A hard of hearing student and her friends watch history unfold before them as they attempt to study in a region amid revolution.
It might be going abroad for a high school field trip, volunteering on a church mission trip, or participating in a State Department-sponsored program. You can find a lot of fun programs to see the world and gain new experiences!
Youth with disabilities use these international experiences to help build important skills that make them more competitive for post-secondary employment and education opportunities.
Additionally, participation in international exchange can lead to:
I always thought that in order to travel to another country, I would have to live abroad for a long time, or that I would have to have a lot of friends go with me. After visiting my university's Global Center, I learned that there are many different programs to choose from. The group trip to teach in Jamaica over spring break seemed like the best fit for me because it wouldn't interrupt my schoolwork, and the idea of traveling with a group of people was much more comfortable than traveling alone.
University student Emily Block has circumvented the globe, hiked in the Amazon, touched a wild cheetah, and danced through Ghana.
Years earlier, when Emily was first diagnosed with a rare chronic illness, such experiences seemed out of reach. Today, it's impossible for Emily to imagine a life without international travel.
"Fourteen countries later, I know that being disabled doesn't mean I have to give up on my dreams."
In many ways, Christy Smith is the ultimate survivor.
She was born premature and weighed just two pounds at birth. When she pulled her breathing tube out as a baby, she became deaf. Later, she became the first Deaf person on reality TV when she starred on the Amazon edition of CBS’ popular reality TV show Survivor. She lasted thirty-three out of thirty-nine days before she was ousted and finished sixth.
Christy is more than just a survivor. She’s also an adventurer, a world traveler, and an advocate for Deaf communities everywhere.
Hannah Mann describes herself as independent, a go-getter and a risk-taker. She is also a deaf cochlear implant user who is fluent in Cued Speech and American Sign Language.
She has traveled to China three times, including a semester abroad studying Mandarin at Peking University in Beijing. Her Mandarin studies began when she signed up for a summer class at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
As a Harris Wofford Global Service Fellow, Teresa Pichardo was selected to participate in a Cross-Cultural Solutions volunteer program in Ghana. At the school where she worked, Teresa had a chance to work with students who are Deaf like her and open their world.
To escape Michigan's cold winter, Juanita Lillie, who is blind, sought Spanish immersion in Central America, where she found warmth not only from the sunshine, but from classmates, professors, and the community.